You Can Teach an Old Dog New Tricks: Strategies for Including Older Consumers When Selecting Media Vehicles

Ted D'Amico
SVP, Mediamark Research Inc.


Typically, older consumers are not considered for targeting because most advertising agencies and media buying services assume that older people are less open to change and are more committed to their brands than younger people. They seem to believe the old adage that "you can't teach an old dog new tricks."

In an attempt to determine the validity of this adage, at least as it applies to people, the number of brands used in each of 70 health and beauty categories was analyzed as a function of age. The health and beauty categories cover a wide range of products: from eyeliner to sleeping pills, from dental adhesives to hair lotion.

The rationale for conducting the current analysis was simple-"If young consumers are more amenable to advertising, then they will change brands more often. Consequently, the number of brands that they use in a category within a specific time period should be greater than the number of brands used by older consumers." Or, stated differently, "As people get older and more set in their ways, their brand switching should decrease and, as a consequence, the number of brands in their competitive set should also decrease." Although one may try to refute the above statement by arguing that many (if not most) people maintain specific and large competitive sets over a very long period of time without ever choosing brands outside this set, such an argument is based on a very unlikely assumption. The unlikely assumption is that people who use one or only a few brands within a category for an extended period of time are as likely to switch brands and to be receptive to advertising as people who use multiple brands within this category. That is, in order to refute the above statement, one must conclude that multiple brand usage is not related or inversely related to brand switching and advertising receptivity.