19 June 2007

No longer hip

One year can be the difference between being hot -- or not. As writer Jay Dyckman nears the end of the coveted 18-to-34 age demographic, he ponders his future as one of the many whom advertisers tell, "We're just not that into you."
By Jay Dyckman
USA Weekend
I get it. It's over. At this point, I am not going to be Punk'd, and my ride will not be Pimp'd.

In the world of marketing, there are persons between the ages of 18 and 34, and then there are the comatose. The 18-to-34 demographic, unfailingly described as the "coveted" market, is fickle, elusive and, most important, open to playing the field when it comes to brand loyalty. They are sought after with an obsession that would embarrass Captain Ahab. They are tastemakers, they are trendy, they are cool.

And, soon enough, they will no longer be me. I am aging out of this demographic. As life milestones go, this one is not so fun. I suppose it could be seen as a sign that my tastes have become so sophisticated that I am beyond manipulative advertising campaigns. But it feels a lot more like the day you realize that you qualify for the senior discount. A Pyrrhic victory if there ever was one.

I made this depressing discovery recently after reading about the new TV shows this season and realizing that I won't be part of the target audience for much longer. Marketers, who will spend millions of dollars on advertisements during these shows, are desperately trying to capture those urbane twentysomething consumers and not, say, my father, who, if given a bottle of Axe body spray, most likely would use it to lubricate a squeaky door or to de-flea the cat. OK, so I might not want to spritz myself with artfully packaged room freshener, but I do want them to think that I do. I want to still be coveted.

The tragedy of demographic marketing is that when you age out, it's like getting dumped by all of corporate America. It's like Colonel Sanders called to say, "Sorry, I'm just not that into you anymore." Or, as if Xbox sent a note explaining, "It's not me -- it's you." And, although I don't really have any loyalty to these brands, I'd prefer that they not give up on me. Who is Mountain Dew to say that I'm no longer a catch?

Even worse, though, is that I'm positive many of these brands would prefer that I not even purchase their products. Abercrombie and Fitch certainly doesn't want a couple of high school seniors whispering, "Ew, check out that old guy wearing the A&F sleeveless T-shirt."

These brands have moved on to someone else, someone who is younger. At this point, I'm just the stalker ex-boyfriend who can't let go. I'm almost afraid I'll be watching TV one day and a message alert will pop up: "Oh, no, Mr. Dyckman, Laguna Beach really isn't for you. Have you checked out Lou Dobbs, though?" I am no longer considered hip. Instead, I'm supposed to worry about breaking one.

So, I relent. I get it. It's over. At this point, I am not going to be Punk'd, and my ride will not be Pimp'd. I'll move on and start tuning in to the Golf Channel. Does anyone know who's on Larry King tonight?

Old. Halfway to death. Not even manipulative by marketers. But smrt? Maybe the marketers know that I now see through their thin facades.

How old am I? Old enough to know I am not allowed to wear A&F tank tops in public anymore!

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