RADIO'S LOST GENERATIONS
By Jeffrey Yorke
LOS ANGELES — Advertisers and ad agencies are missing the boat on a great source of cash flow: the baby boomers. Particularly people 56 and older, who are left out of ad buys because they are perceived as being stuck in their buying habits. But that's a big mistake, agreed all the panelists at the opening roundtable session at R&R Talk Radio Seminar 2007 in Los Angeles.
"Fifty-six and older are lonely, waiting to die, and no one is providing entertainment for us," cracked Joint Communications' John Parikhal, drawing laughter from the audience.
"Agencies are just as lost as anyone in radio" on that age category, added Mary Beth Garber of the Southern California Broadcasters Association. "But we are also new media, and we have to look at ourselves differently. We need to look at radio as a multidistribution system." She added that 40-to-60-year-olds spend more money, go to more movies and "do more things than any other demo."
When an audience member suggested that older listeners tend not to try new products but buy what they know, Parikhal quickly attempted to set the record straight.
"Older people are not set in their buying ways," he said. He pointed to boomers' love of buying computers, cars and gizmos, all the way down to getting different toothpastes for the newest whitening additive. He said the audience member's sentiment is "really unfair and biased and one that keeps radio stuck."
But there was also great concern about the youngest generation — the generation plugged into iPods, MySpace and things other than radio. ABC's John McConnell asked, "How are you going to get our kids to come along for the ride?"
It's no wonder why record companies and terrestrial radio stations have been in decline. They can't reach the young... and now it appears they can't reach the generation that fueled their growth either - Baby Boomers.
I find it amazing that companies choose to just give up on or not even bother to think about so-called niche markets that are in no way niche, but are actually huge slices of the demographic pie chart. Women and Baby Boomers (and Women Baby Boomers) are not groups that deserve to be abandoned or to be denoted as "minority" or "niche" demographics.
One of my favorite business authors is Marti Barletta of Trendsight Group - here's her blog - I encourage you to read her religiously. Her book "Marketing to Women" is an epiphany for anyone looking to market any product - because women control 80% of purchasing power in this country. I think that bears repeating: women control 80% of purchasing power in this country. READ IT!
Now, obviously there are products catering to women, and even record labels are smart enough to realize how much spending women control. I remember having a conversation with a Nashville label exec on how all of their artists were targeted towards women because that's who country radio listeners are. Country music, like most genres, isn't perfect, but at the least the lyrics seem to reflect real-life, adult concerns, rarely catering to the teenage fantasies you hear on urban or Top 40 radio. In other words, it's focusing in on the audience that matters: adult women 25-54 (although as Marti or anyone else marketing any product or service these days will tell you 54+ or 56+ is the demographic we should all be chasing - that's where the BIG $$$ is).
And music is such a huge part of the Baby Boomer generation's raison d'etre. They are the generation that caused the music industry boom. They are the folks dishing out $200+ to see their favorite rock legends out on tour (you know, the artists filling arenas and stadiums while most younger acts can hardly graduate to playing theaters).
So ask yourself this as a consumer marketer: "if this demographic is key to my bottom line, and this generation uses music as a genuine touchstone, why am I not using music to the degree I should in my marketing and merchandising mix?" You don't think PBS is selling all those Doo-Wop and Motown box sets to teenagers, do you? And while Motown songs have been used moreso than a lot of other types of music in advertising also think "Gee, there's an underlying logic to using Motown - or classic rock or even jazz - to hit that demographic."
I think the interesting deals by icons of and artists of the Baby Boomer generation are the ones that put them in front of where their fans are now... and it isn't records stores. Hallmark does a series of holiday CDs each year that are exclusive to the chain. Artists such as George Strait, James Taylor, and Vince Gill have all participated. Sting and the uber-icon of Baby Boomer culture, Bob Dylan, have both done exclusives for Victoria's Secret (one can decry the creative thrust of Dylan's past involvement with this brand, but even Dylan knows that Baby Boomer women aren't heading off to retirement homes just because they are getting older - they buy sexy underwear too). Paul McCartney had his tour sponsored by Fidelity Investments. Elton John and The Rolling Stones both did exclusive DVD releases for Best Buy (the sole exception to my non-record store set of examples).
I think the proven appetite for music by the Baby Boomer demographic represents a still-ripe opportunity to develop campaigns/products for brands who need to reach this demographic successfully. Record companies making great records with proven artists - not just gimmick records - have a ready-made fan base to be marketed to.