Age groups can also be analyzed as subcultures because they often have distinctive values and behaviors. However, marketers must be cautious about segmenting consumers based on their actual age. Many adult American consumers think of themselves as 10 to 15 years younger than they really are. 11 Thus, their behaviors, affect, and cognitions are more related to their psychological age than to their chronological age. Consider this statement from an 89-year-old woman: “I might be 89 years old, but I feel good. I feel like I could fly the coop. I do. I feel younger, like I’m 45 or 50. I want to doll up, and I like to fuss. . . . I don’t know I’m old. I feel like I’m going to live a long time.” This suggests marketers should analyze subjective or “cognitive age” (the age one thinks of oneself as being) rather than chronological or actual age. Many different age subcultures can be identified and analyzed, but we will discuss only three here: teens, baby boomers, and the mature market.
The Teen Market. The American teenage population has been gaining affluence while fluctuating in size. In the mid 1980s, there were about 26 million people in the United States ages 12 to 19. This number decreased to about 25 million in the mid 1990s and increased to about 30 million by 2008. Teens are important not only because they have a major influence on household purchases but also because of their own discretionary purchasing power. Teenagers spent more than $115 billion in 2000.
Several studies have found that teenagers do a large portion of the grocery shopping for the family: Estimates are that from 49 to 61 percent of teenage girls and 26 to 33 percent of teenage boys frequently perform this task. In addition, about 60 percent of teens help make the supermarket shopping list, and 40 percent select some of the brands to be purchased. It is no wonder that brand-name food marketers advertise in magazines such as Seventeen.
Brand loyalty has also been found to form early among teenage shoppers. In a survey of women ages 20 to 34, at least 30 percent said they made a brand decision as a teenager and continued to use the brand to the present. Sixty-four percent said they looked for specific brands when they were teenagers. Thus, a final reason this market is so important for many products and services is the potential to develop brand loyalty that may last a lifetime. However, marketing certain products to teens, such as R-rated films, is highly controversial, as Consumer Insight 13.2 describes. Consumer Insight 13.3 describes the importance of the Internet for teenagers.
Baby Boomers. Baby boomers are people born between 1946 and 1964. In 2000, there were about 80 million people in this group—roughly a third of the U.S. population. Boomers are in their late 40s to mid 60s and in their prime earning and spending years. The baby boomer market is the largest and most affluent in history and will have a major economic impact for the next 30 years. 13 Over the next decade or so, baby boomers will account for about half of all discretionary spending.
Although the baby boomer subculture is extremely diverse, some general characteristics have been identified. The group is characterized as having a blend of “me-generation” and old-fashioned family values and as strongly influencing the values of other groups. 15 A study by the Cadwell Davis Partners ad agency found that many people who aren’t baby boomers feel as if they are. Baby boomers emphasize health and exercise, and have reduced their consumption of cigarettes, coffee, and strong alcoholic beverages. Forty-six percent of this market has completed college and two-thirds of baby boomer wives work, compared with about half the wives in the rest of the population. In terms of products, this group emphasizes quality and is far less concerned with bargain hunting than their parents were.
Baby boomers have a strong impact on markets for housing, cars, food, clothing, cosmetics, and financial services. For instance, nearly one-fourth of boomers are single, creating strong markets for vacations and convenience packaged goods. In addition, although they had fewer children per household, the sheer size of the boomer group led to an increase in births in the 1990s—a “baby boom echo.” Boomers who were new parents were especially attractive to marketers. Given the large incomes and small family sizes of this group, spending per child was the largest in history. Markets for children’s products expanded accordingly. Toy sales, for example, are increased more than twice as fast as the population of children for whom they are intended. Other markets, such as child care services and computer software for tots, grew dramatically.
The baby boomer market, then, is the most lucrative and challenging marketers have ever seen. Many firms have designed new products and redesigned and repositioned old ones for this market. Wheaties used to appeal to kids as “the breakfast of champions”; now it is promoted to adults with such slogans as “what the big boys eat.”
Commercials for Snickers candy bars show adults rather than children eating this candy for a snack. Crest and other brands have introduced toothpaste formulas to fight plaque, an adult problem. Levi Strauss has redesigned its jeans to give a little extra room in the seat to accommodate “booming boomer bodies.” Even Clearasil, traditionally an antiacne medication for teenagers, developed Clearasil Adult Care to appeal to the growing number of baby boomer adults with skin problems.
The Mature Market. As America ages (similar trends are occurring in other industrialized countries such as Japan and most European nations), marketers have recognized the economic importance of the mature market, defined as consumers over age 55. 16 Because the mature market is quite diverse, marketers often consider smaller subcultural groups based on narrower age ranges, such as older (55 to 64), elderly (65 to 74), aged (75 to 84), and very old (85 and over). The mature market is one of the most rapidly growing subcultures in American society. In 2000 there were 35 million consumers over 65, up from 30 million in 1987. Nearly 80 percent of the current U.S. population is expected to live until their late 70s. At present, about one in four Americans is older than 50; by 2020, about one-third will be. Between now and 2020, the number of people age 50 or older will increase by 74 percent (as baby boomers continue to age), whereas the number under age 50 will increase by only 1 percent. 17 By 2020, there could be as many as 58 million elderly (over 65) or as few as 48 million, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The exact number of older Americans expected in 2020 is hard to predict; it all depends on the mortality rate, especially gains made against specific diseases such as heart ailments, cancer, and stroke.
The next century will see huge increases in demand for products and services for older consumers, including adult day care; home health care; prescription and overthe- counter drugs; medical care of all types; and foods low in cholesterol, sugar, salt, and calories. Other nonhealth-related products include planned vacation travel, restaurants, recreational vehicles, and hotels and motels. Recognizing that extended families will be larger, theme parks such as Six Flags–Great America created packages for grandparents, parents, and grandkids as a group. Older people are better educated than previous generations, which creates increased demand for educational programs, books, and news.
Traditionally marketers have ignored the mature market, perhaps because it was assumed to have low purchasing power. However, in addition to its sheer size, the economic character of this market deserves careful consideration. Although many members of this group no longer work, they often have considerable discretionary income. Unlike younger groups, members of mature markets are usually free of most of the financial burdens associated with child rearing, mortgages, and furnishing a household. Given these differences, per capita discretionary income is higher for the mature group than for any other age group—about 50 percent of the nation’s total.
It is also important to recognize how the mature market is changing. In 1985, only 9 percent of the elderly had a college degree and only 44 percent had graduated from high school. By 1995, the share of older people with college educations rose to more than 12 percent, and at least one-fourth had some college. The mature market is becoming more educated and thus has greater incomes. Increases in income will also come about because many of those in tomorrow’s mature market will benefit from pension and retirement plans.
Finally, because many people in the mature market subculture are retired, they have more time to enjoy entertainment and leisure activities. Although this market historically has spent more money on food for home consumption than away-fromhome consumption, restaurants now cater to them with senior citizen discounts, earlybird dinners, and menus designed for the tastes and requirements of older people.
The elderly represent a significant market for skin care products, vitamins and minerals, health and beauty aids, and medications that ease pain and promote the performance of everyday activities. In addition, they are a significant market for condominiums in the Sunbelt states, time-share arrangements, travel and vacations, cultural activities, and luxury items given as gifts to their children and grandchildren. Overall, then, the mature market subculture represents an excellent marketing opportunity that will become even better in the future.
Developing marketing strategies that appeal to consumers in the mature market is more difficult than it looks. 20 Few companies are experts at it. Many marketers have inaccurate perceptions of this large and diverse group, including persistent images of frail, stubborn, and indigent people who, if not confined to bed, are tottering around on canes. Yet only 5 percent of Americans over 65 are institutionalized. People are staying healthy and active much later into their lives than ever before.
Some ads are beginning to use themes and models that older consumers can identify with. No longer depicted as weak and doddery, older people are shown doing the things they do in real life: working, playing tennis, falling in love, and buying cars. McDonald’s, for instance, was a forerunner in this style with its “Golden Years” spots that showed an elderly man and woman meeting for lunch at McDonald’s and an elderly man on his first day of work at McDonald’s.
Consumer Insight 13.2
The Movie Industry Targets Kids
For years the Motion Picture Association of America has operated with a rating system designed to protect kids from violent, sexually explicit, or otherwise inappropriate movies. However, some critics say the way in which the industry has marketed its movies has undermined its own rating system.
For example, children under 17 cannot attend R-rated films unless accompanied by an adult. Nonetheless, Sony’s Columbia Pictures tried unsuccessfully to advertise the R-rated Bruce Willis film The Fifth Element on the kids’ cable network Nickelodeon. In an attempt to publicize its R-rated science fiction movie Mimic, Disney’s Miramax unit gave away promotional posters to the Boy Scouts and a Boys and Girls Club in the Kansas City area. In addition, a study by the Parents’ Television Council revealed that during a three-week span in 2000, some 83 percent of movie commercials aired on network television between 8 and 9 PM (the prime family viewing hour) were for R-rated films.
Studios have even included kids in their market research. Columbia Tristar sounded out a group of 50 children ages 9 to 11 about their thoughts on a sequel to I Know What You Did Last Summer, a film featuring a serial killer who slashes victims with an ice hook. MGM/ United Artists screened commercials for the R-rated thriller Disturbing Behavior before a group of four hundred 12- to 20-year-olds. The research results showed their favorite scene was one in which a woman smashes her head into a mirror.
Moreover, it isn’t just R-rated films about which critics are upset. A PG-13 rating serves as a warning to parents that a movie may contain violence or language that may be unsuitable for children under 13. However, some studios have created toy tie-ins to promote their PG-13 films. These toy tie-ins reach children as young as 4 years of age.
The studios admit their critics make some valid points, but they argue there are two sides to the story. For instance, the firm that conducted the research for the I Know What You Did Last Summer sequel says that it made economic sense to interview 9-, 10-, and 11-yearolds because kids that age made up a large portion of the audience for the original movie. Furthermore, industry executives maintain it is impossible to make sure young children don’t see any advertising for R-rated films. Plus, they say some films, despite their R-ratings, are quite suitable for young audiences. They point specifically to the World War II movie Saving Private Ryan, starring Tom Hanks, and Amistad, which deals with the brutality of the American slave trade.
Do you believe the movie industry has behaved ethically in the way it has promoted its films to kids? Or are executives overstepping their bounds? Should some kind of mandatory restrictions be in place to protect children from advertising for potentially inappropriate films?
Consumer Insight 13.3
Blogs, Podcasts, and Social Networking Sites Are Changing the Marketing of Movies and Music
The Internet subculture is changing the field of marketing. Young artists with little or no support from the entertainment industry can now reach a widespread audience, determine the depth of connection with their audience, and maintain the attention of their target consumers, all with a minimal budget. This is the opening wave of a new kind of grassroots marketing. More traditional marketers know about the power of grassroots marketing but find it difficult to implement, partly because the audience of mostly teenagers is a notoriously difficult demographic to keep captivated.
Consider this example. Arin Crumley and Susan Buice created the film Four Eyed Monsters with nothing but a vision and a digital camera. Having no credentials and no way to gain distribution, they began building their own fan base with the help of the Internet. Through their MySpace page, Arin and Susan send out flyers and updates to their growing number of fans. Their film’s Web page, www.foureyedmonsters.com , offered a way for their fans to reach them. Fans could e-mail Arin and Susan requesting a screening of the film in their area. If enough people in the area request a screening, Arin and Susan would convince a venue to show their film. They kept their fans intrigued with updates on the behind-thescenes marketing drama through a series of podcasts and blogs. Their podcasts each drew roughly 65,000 downloads via iTunes, YouTube, Google Video, MySpace, and other sites. Knowing and learning about the film and the filmmakers let fans feel they are on the cutting edge of the art scene, gave them a sense of ownership and pride in the film, and made them more likely to talk about the film with their friends. All this worked together to create an extremely powerful buzz.
Here’s another example of unusual marketing tactics. In spite of strict advertising laws for online casinos, the Golden Palace Casino developed a widespread audience through a set of unusual marketing tactics. The company purchased eccentric, nonregulated “ad space” on people’s ankles, foreheads, and even on a pregnant belly. The Golden Palace Casino made weird purchases on eBay, from buying a Cheeto that supposedly looks like Jesus to acquiring a set of popsicle sticks with heads of characters in the Michael Jackson trial, thereby generating media attention and creating interesting conversation starters. All this spurred people to check out their Web site for other news about and from the zany casino.
How do you think the evolving Internet subculture in an increasingly networked world will affect marketing? Are these new forms of communication? How can marketers promote new trends and ideas by tapping into the interconnected consumers on the Internet?