Wake Up Madison Avenue, Older Folks Have More Cash

By Bonnie Erbe, Thomas Jefferson Street blog.

The Wall Street Journal posted a fascinating article offering insight on the rather limited thinking of Madison Avenue executives. It profiles a fashion sales website launched by a former Fox TV executive seeking to target 18-to-34-year-old consumers. The man is asked why he's targeting this demographic and he says, essentially, because he always has.

So does Madison Avenue. Younger is better in ad executives' eyes and I have never understood why. The over-35 crowd is more affluent and more intelligent.

I've often assumed that ad execs believe young consumers form buying patterns and loyalties they never change. Not true: I drank Tab in my teens and now switch regularly between Diet Pepsi and Diet Coke. My first few cars were all foreign-made. I just bought two Fords (a used pickup truck to tow a horse trailer and a new Escape Hybrid). Where and when, exactly, was my brand loyalty formed? Never, is the answer. And certainly not in my teens or twenties.

Here's the most interesting part of the WSJ.com article:

In fact, 65% of online apparel sales go to women over age 35, according to market researcher NPD Group. Among these, the fastest-growing sales are to women between 55 and 64 years old -- a boomer population that has always been known for its willingness to indulge.

"It's so stupid," says David Wolfe, creative director of Doneger Group, fashion industry consultants. "The people doing the programming are still deluding themselves that the 18-to-34-year-old market is going to save them."

In fact, it's grandmothers who may save them. Online sales to women aged 25-34 fell 8% in the year ended in March, but sales to 55-to-64-year-olds rose 11% -- recession be damned.

Wake up and read, Madison Avenue! It's grandmas, not grandkids, you should be targeting.

Check out our political cartoons.

Become a political insider: Subscribe to U.S. News Weekly, our new digital magazine.

By Bonnie Erbe