31 August 2010

Alzheimer's: No Magic Bullet

image In January, NostraChuckus predicted that this would be the year of the Baby Boomer Brain. He’s certainly done a miraculous job so far. Everywhere you turn there are new studies, new theories, new books about that super-charged soggy stuff stuffed in our noggins.

It’s not all good news.

Years Later, No Magic Bullet Against Alzheimer’s Disease
By Gina Kolata
New York Times
So far, nothing has been found to prevent or delay this devastating disease, which ceaselessly kills brain cells, eventually leaving people mute, incontinent, unable to feed themselves, unaware of who they are or who their family and friends are.

“Currently,” the panel wrote, “no evidence of even moderate scientific quality exists to support the association of any modifiable factor (such as nutritional supplements, herbal preparations, dietary factors, prescription or nonprescription drugs, social or economic factors, medical conditions, toxins or environmental exposures) with reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease.”

…There is only poor evidence, for example, that keeping your brain active, having a high level of education or exercising has a protective effect.

What does this have to do with advertising?  It’s time to cease referencing Alzheimer’s when marketing products and services. There are plenty of valid reasons for eating healthy foods, exercising, or challenging yourself with new mind and body activities. Stop flashing the false hope of staving off a perplexing disease that frightens every Baby Boomer.

Slippery copy even invades respectable sites:







My advice has always been to take the high road with the 50+ Market.  They’ve been around long enough to recognize most B.S. – and when they feel they’ve been fooled, say goodbye to them.

Laurie Orlov’s take on it all: Alzheimer's hype, hope, oops...reality.

24 August 2010

A pretty piss-poor advertising medium.

This’ll be a mish-mash follow-up to a few posts:

image Foretellings
NostraChuckus, that uncannily somewhat accurate prognosticator who mostly deals with predicting common sense, is at it again…

Spending goes where the eyeballs are.
New Media technology is getting smaller, not bigger. Eyeballs are squinting…

image Digital Advertising Natives and Immigrants
Baby Boomers have been inundated with technology all their lives. We were the first generation of television natives.

Wired Magazine’s nail in the coffin:

image The Web Is Dead. Long Live the Internet
By Chris Anderson and Michael Wolff
Two decades after its birth, the World Wide Web is in decline…

Dick Stroud’s take on it.

Well … Wired is supposed to be provocative.  But it has a point – one I was hammering on in those posts above.

And the article mirrors other points I’ve made through the years:

image The Web was built by engineers, not editors. So nobody paid much attention to the fact that HTML-constructed Web sites — the most advanced form of online media and design — turned out to be a pretty piss-poor advertising medium …

The ineffectual banner ad, created (indeed by the founders of this magazine) in 1994 — and never much liked by anyone in the marketing world — still remains the foundation of display advertising on the Web.

Consumers weren’t motivated by display ads, as evidenced by the share of the online audience that bothered to click on them. (According to a 2009 comScore study, only 16 percent of users ever click on an ad, and 8 percent of users accounted for 85 percent of all clicks.)

Finally, after years of experimentation, content companies came to a disturbing conclusion: The Web did not work. It would never bring in the bucks.

There are dissenting views in the piece(s) – and the Web defenders make good points.  I have my own views.

But this blog is only interested in advertising – and Baby Boomers.  From Foretellings:

  1. The visual power of the web will fade as more people use handheld devices.  Goodbye, fancy-schmancy web sites. People will get bored sifting through it all when they can find what they need with their smartphones.
  2. image How this will play out, I don’t know – but the ‘web’ needs to be rethought.  Accessing a page on a desktop or laptop is not the same as accessing it on a smartphone.  There will have to be two separate ‘webs’ for large screens, small screens. People will get very tired very fast clumsily negotiating bulky pages on handheld devices. Usability cannot be ignored.  Laptops and Desktops will only be utilized for deep research or visual treats. 
  3. That silly retronym “traditional advertising” will remain the premiere force for introducing people to a product or service, along with sustaining its shelf life. Television, print, radio, and billboard ads will continue to have the visceral power they’ve always had – if only for their sheer size, simplicity, and cutting-edge audio/visual qualities.  Advertising on smartphones will be considered an annoyance, invasive, and rather dinky – while marketing (coupons on steroids, and more) will flourish and dominate.

More reading:

Is 500 million a big number? (Nigel Hollis)

Word-of-mouth may not translate to loyalty (eMarketer)

20 August 2010

Baby Boomers & Universal Design

I received an interview request the other day from a fellow putting together a piece for a Hanley Wood pub.  At the last minute there was an emergency on his end and we didn’t get to chat.

I’d already thought about his email, dusted off some digital ether, and was prepared for:

I was hoping to get your perspective on what Baby Boomers are looking for in a home and why some shun the term "universal design."

On that same day Louis Tenenbaum emailed me out of the blue:

imageI  have not talked to you for a while but I referred to you in this blog:

Marketing Universal Design

Instead of “Look! It has this and this and this,” we’ll be sniffing around for friendly, useful spaces. You’ll want us to say, “Look! There’s a perfect place for my pottery wheel,” or “There are plenty of windows and sunlight. My house plants and indoor herb garden will do fine in here,” or “Good. I can put up big, deep shelves for my books and CDs,” or “Here’s the perfect room for our side business on Ebay,” or “Here’s a place where I can soundproof a recording studio or  entertainment center,” or “This oversized back door is great because I can roll my bicycle in and out without squeezing and jerking it around – and the extra-wide hallway means there’s plenty of room so I can just lean it against the wall and we won’t bang into it every time we walk past it.”

Chuck has it. It is not what you show a boomer, it is what the boomer sees in their own mind’s eye. It is about creating a canvas for the art of their lives. Chuck turns the undifferentiated opportunities inherent in Universal Design into the aspirational opportunity of the boomer shopper.

image I have to admit – it’s nice to have nice things said about me by a gentleman who’s actually out there designing and building stuff.  The last thing I built was with Lincoln Logs.

Also to prepare for the didn’t-happen trade mag interview, I reread this post and linked NYT piece:

A House Not for Mere Mortals
imageIts architecture makes people use their bodies in unexpected ways to maintain equilibrium, and that, she said, will stimulate their immune systems.

… I’m still sticking with UD meaning Universal Design – not Undulating Danger.

image But there are lessons to be learned from this wacky adult funhouse. Flipside: You don’t want Baby Boomers wandering around a UD model home and feeling as if every room is a padded cell where you couldn’t hurt yourself even if you tried.

There is a possibility of UD homes becoming places where you turn to mush. This is the current juicing the popularity of Brain Games – along with exercise routines that value balance and elasticity more than strength and endurance.

The ‘No Mush’ perception factor will be a challenging balancing act for UD communities, Aging-in-Place designers, builders – and advertising/marketing folks.

More reading:

Universal Design As A Beginning, Not An End

Selling Universal Design and Aging In Place (PDF)

Update 9/9/10: Finessing Universal Design for Boomers by Scott Rains

16 August 2010

AARP Global Network

There’s a chapter in my book about AARP – although I never mention the organization.  I goof a bit on their B2B campaigns circa 2004-5.  Some of what I said:

AARP Targets Media Planners
image … The advertising campaign has one ad with ashen-faced Baby Boomers in body bags ("These days, doctors don't pronounce you dead. Marketers do."). Another shows Baby Boomers acting like testosteroned teenagers ("Outta the way, punks: older racers are the hot-rod kings!").Yet another has one of a middle-aged lady dead in a powder room (probably from overdoing it on the dance floor) with police chalk outlining her body. I don't know what the copy is because I haven't seen it. It's probably something like, "Give me wrinkle cream, or give me death!"

And I wasn’t enamored with their food fights, balloons and dancing gorillas.

I admired their Chicken Coop campaign, but a new print ad is a visual and conceptual mess.  It looks much better on a computer monitor (no big surprise since it was designed on one) than it does when grainy and washed out in a recent issue of Smithsonian Magazine:

Why is it a mess?  I can only guess.

So now it’s time to be nice to AARP.  Here goes:

The AARP Global Network is one great resource.

image Global aging is a defining phenomenon of the 21st century. Does your organization have what it needs to creatively and efficiently achieve its social mission in this rapidly changing demographic landscape?

Good articles, good news section – all with juicy global perspectives. 

It’s also fun to follow the member links and visit other organizations that cater to and are concerned with aging issues.

07 August 2010

Digital Advertising Natives and Immigrants

Follow-up to:

Social Media/Word-of-mouth advertising/marketing on the web has been a washout.

Lots of talk over the last few years about computers and digital devices and whether you’re a native or an immigrant:

My Brain, Your Brain, iBrain
image It’s mostly about Digital Natives and Digital Immigrants – terms apparently coined by educational consultant Marc Prensky. In iBrain, Dr. Gary Small and Gigi Vorgan consider the psychological and neurological traits of these evolving archetypes …

How does this affect advertising creative? More fuel for the idea of a diverse workforce. Younger folks ingest and digest the world differently than older folks. So you’d better have the right guts around to trust.  If you don’t believe me, believe Rance Crain.

A parallel take on Digital Natives/Immigrants:

image Baby Boomers have been inundated with technology all their lives. We were the first generation of television natives. I remember the thrill of first seeing an IBM Selectric in action – with that frenetic orb whirling and jabbing every which way like a cartoon character in a boxing ring.  My portable electric Smith-Corona became Stone Age overnight.

image I first had an Apple II in the early 1980s.  A couple of bright Baby Boomers had put a typewriter and a television (monitor) together and called it a personal computer. Typewriters became Stone Age overnight. Then the-powers-that-be hooked up computers with telephone lines ringing up each other - and called it the internet.

We were there for all of it. 

Originally the internet was used for military purposes, then adopted by colleges and universities. When it became available for businesses and the public it was used for  research and communication.

We were there for (almost) all of it. 

In the middle 1990s commercialization was introduced. Not everybody loved this.   

kissing_e0I remember when hyperlinks and animated GIFs were eye-popping, cutting-edge marvels. Before long video, music, and games were everywhere. That ended up as lots of fun.

But technological marvels come and go.  Human nature persists. The importance of being connected, communicating, and seeking out information has been around since the beginning of civilization. 

Being connected but untethered seems to be the next phase, possibly the final one for awhile. It started with cell phones and laptops and Wi-Fi.  Now we have smartphones and portable iPads, Kindles, and who knows what’s next.

Back to advertising/marketing:

Baby Boomers are Commercialization Immigrants.  Television, radio, print, billboards – we grew up with these as advertising entities. Computers were for work, communication, research – not for commercial messages.

Researching products/services?  Oh, yes. Which is why I’ve always said:

The Most Effective Marketing/Advertising Model For Reaching Baby Boomers: What is now called (silly retronym ahead) traditional advertising pushing you to an age-friendly, informative product/services web site.

image Social Networking sites are popular – but are Baby Boomers making friends with advertisers? 

Anecdotal: A few recent posts on my Facebook News Feed:

“FB has too many ads … FB is becoming less interesting to visit. Hearing news from friends, finding new friends and seeing their pictures is what FB was all about. Can we get back to that, hmmmm?”

“Hide all the group posts or drop them from your news feed! That's what I do.”

“I think FaceBook should change its name to ClutterBook or CauseBook.”

“Thank you Lord Jesus Christ for answering my prayer and showing me how to rid my wall of Farmville, Garden World, Fish Life and all similar pieces of life-wasting crap. You have made my home page a heaven.”

So how can these social networks turn a buck?  I don’t know. Here’s how they’re doing it now:

The Web's New Gold Mine: Your Secrets

Facebook Scandal Version 2.0

Doesn’t that make you all warm and gooey inside?

Which brings me back to:

image The visual power of the web will fade as more people use handheld devices.  Goodbye, fancy-schmancy web sites. People will get bored sifting through it all when they can find what they need with their smartphones.

And/or their iPads.  Or whatever gizmos end up as standard issue

Anecdotal: I’ve asked a handful of folks around my age about their smartphones/iPads. Some aggregated responses:

Do you see any advertising on your smartphone?

No. Whatever it is is too small.  And they’re always on top, which makes no sense because if I’m searching for something that’s what I look at first. If there were any marketing messages afterwards, on the bottom, my eyes might continue down and I might read them because I’ve already found what I was searching for. But they’re never there.

Do you rush home and turn on your computer?

Not much anymore. I find almost everything I need on my smartphone or iPad. And if I’m home, it’s just easier to use one of the portable devices.

This all sounds about right to me. The new pocket-sized web will be friendly to marketing, not advertising.  The desktop or laptop, when not for work, will be used for deep research, visual delights, playing games.

So where will advertising be effective?  Where it’s always been effective:

image Magazine Audiences Increase 8%

Busting the Cord-Cutting Myth

Spending goes where the eyeballs are.

And with those huge screens, surround-sound systems at home and in cars, HD radio, and gloriously glossy layouts - advertising may be more effective than it’s ever been.

Foretellings Redux

Consumers Hesitant To Embrace E-Reader Advertising

Could the Droid X Replace Your Laptop?

Ipad sees success with seniors

Are Smartphones Getting Too Smart?


04 August 2010

Universal Design As A Beginning, Not An End

image I’ve been blogging about MIT AgeLab and Dr. Joseph Coughlin since 2006:

 MIT AgeLab

Bookmarked Brains

Fast Company Names Joseph Coughlin to Top 100 List

An excellent post yesterday:

Fashion, Function & Fun: Product Design Demands of Older Baby Boomer Consumers
imageToo many designers, marketers and concerned observers have declared universal design to be the universal answer to meet the new needs of the growing numbers of older baby boomer consumers. While not altogether incorrect, they are woefully incomplete in their hopes and claims ... Even if an older consumer can easily use a technology, they must value its functionality before investing the money, time to learn, let alone adopt a new way to do tasks that they may already achieve with 'tried and true' methods.

This mirrors a few things I’ve said over the years. The pull quote from the cover of my book, first edition published in early 2005:

coveradvbb“It will be the Baby Boomers who will be the first to pick and choose, to ignore or be seduced by leading-edge technology marketing. There’s a simple reason for this. We have the money to buy this stuff. Experts say we’ll continue to have the money for at least the next twenty years. Write us off at your own peril.

More from Joe Coughlin:

Research suggests that older users critically assess whether a new technology clearly provides greater value than the existing means they use to satisfy a given need before spending money or time. If the value is not appreciably greater than the existing means, then the likelihood of spending the time to learn how to use, let alone adopt, the technology is very low.

From my book (© 2005, 2007):


Apply the above to smart phones and apps, and just about any technology product.  Baby Boomers do want and demand choices, features.  They just won’t be interested in or use them all.

Dr. Coughlin:

Usability, universal or otherwise, is a necessary but not a sufficient condition of product purchase, adoption and use.

The above quote is likewise true when marketing and advertising to the 50+ demo.  Do not assume that Universal Design is a Unique Selling Proposition.

Update, August 7:

Rolling Rains Report – Take It To The Next Level

Boomers Driving and Demanding Innovation by Dr. Joseph Coughlin (CNBC)

Update, August 19:

Marketing Universal Design
by Louis Tenenbaum  August 19, 2010
image I was catching up on some of my colleague’s writing today starting with Laurie Orlov’s blog Aging in Place Technology Watch about Aging in Place as a Crisis of Opportunity for CCRCs . Laurie referred to a piece by MIT Age Lab’s Joe Coughlin in his blog, Disruptive Demographics, called Should I Stay or Should I Go? These are both great pieces, sucking me right in the way the web does, ‘helping’ whole days to slip away unnoticed. This is time well spent.

02 August 2010

New Site Renders Social Media Experts Obsolete

This cracked me up:

New Site Renders Social Media Experts Obsolete
by Jason Kincaid
image PR agencies and social media experts across the web, prepare to meet your match. This week sees the launch of ******.com, a website that can tell startups to “identify relevant and compelling hooks”, “humanise the brand by driving the audience conversations”, and combine a bevy of many other pleonastic words to forge taglines that are utterly and completely devoid of meaning. Free of charge.

In an earlier version of my business web site, I had this ‘pinned’ to the landing page:

post- it
Too bad this valuable service wasn’t available then.  But I’m bookmarking it now - in case I ever need to say nothing somewhere.
Thanks to Peter Himler for pointing me to the TechCrunch article.