18 September 2011

Ameriprise: Psychedelic Peace Signs Now White Picket Fences

What a long, strange trip it’s been…” watching Ameriprise pander to Baby Boomers.  Originally (well, make that 2005 when it split off from American Express for reasons I’ll leave to legal experts to comment on), the company burst on the scene with all sorts of silliness:

Invoking "The Sixties" (2005)
Ameriprise's campaign slinks around and takes the low road — invoking 'The Sixties' for no reason other than to unctuously 'brand' their service.

The two spots I've seen open up with a montage (make that a sloppy collage) of standard-issue 'Love-In' stock footage and clips of home movies. There may be some recently shot computer-played-with video mixed into the mess. At some point, a bunch of kids pop out of a VW Bus — and magically morph into fiftysomethings.

Ameriprise vs. Fidelity Financial Redux
The 1960s were about cultural change and political activism. But in Ameriprise's new commercials, the era's touchstones are evoked in the name of money, money, money.

Dennis Hopper for Ameriprise

Advertising Has Removed Music's Soul

A big chunk of the campaign’s subtext was “We’re this brand-new financial planning company just for you groovy Baby Boomers!”

A few years later, Ameriprise calmed down a bit:

Meet Us Today (The spot has vanished, but you’ll get the message.)

imageNow it seems Aunt Polly made Tom whitewash that fence.  No more peace signs or psychedelic graffiti. 

Ameriprise's new face of retirement
The new campaign features two spots. In the one titled "Generations," Tommy Lee Jones leans on a white picket fence as iconic images of farmers, a small-town diner and college students walking through a picturesque campus fill the screen.

imageAmeriprise Speaks With a New Voice

The initial commercials feature Mr. Jones outdoors, leaning on a fence, and speaking to the camera in his characteristic plain-talk tones.

Here’s my favorite part:

Mr. Jones … describes how Ameriprise has worked hard for its customers since 1894, “never taking a bailout.”

So all of a sudden Ameriprise is not a new, shake’em up, dazzling  company – but a stodgy, conservative one that’s 115 years old, “never taking a bailout.”

Hmmm.  Very admirable.  But … how many ‘bailouts’ have been offered to Ameriprise over the last 115 years?  One?

While using television or movie stars as spokespeople usually isn’t a good idea…


…Tommy Lee Jones is a likable fellow – and brilliant actor.  Not a bad choice if you think your product/service needs a face:


05 September 2011

The Obligatory Follow-Up iPad (and Smartphone and QR Codes) Post

I have a handful of zombie posts – ones that keep getting oodles of hits year after year.  Over the last three months, one from April 2010 has crawled out of the grave, haunting  the internet.  It’s more popular now than when first published.

Why? I guess NostraChuckus has been divining the future behind my back:

The Obligatory iPad Post (April 2010)
Used in relaxed mode…” (Dick Stroud) That reflects a lot of what I said way back in April ‘07 about the strength of magazines and why they’re not going away…

imageI use the word iPad as a generic term referring to all tablets, sort of like “Have you googled anything on Bing lately?”  Droid, Mac OS, Windows 7 – don’t ask me about that stuff.  I’m more interested in the concept and how it impacts advertising and marketing to Baby Boomers.

A handful of news stories:

As PCs Wane, Companies Look to Tablets
…Computer makers are expected to ship only about 4 percent more PCs this year than last year, according to IDC, a research firm. Tablets, in contrast, are flying off store shelves.

Sounds familiar.  At least to NostraChuckus:

Foretellings (2010)
…With the exception of the workplace, smartphones (along with iPads and Kindles or something like them) might just make desktops and laptops and the web as we know it obsolete.  If ‘being connected’ mostly means communicating with friends, doing simple search, reading the news - then all that’s really needed is a smartphone. 

Ad Campaign Effectiveness Dives
by Steve McClellan
ertain segments in the online space were more sharply impacted during the reported period. Display ads and sponsorships were down 26% and 35%, respectively, in customer engagement.

Online ads generally were 25% less effective than traditional ads for "incremental customer demand generation," per the report.

What a surprise:

Click this ad. 0.051% do.
… a tiny fraction of people ever click on an ad. In fact, 99% of stable cookies examined never click on an ad … optimization of campaigns to achieve higher CTR may in fact be reducing brand ROI.


Smartphones & Usability
There is no way anybody, no matter what age, will put up with graphic gizmo advertising on smartphones.  Simple Fact: The real estate isn’t there.

New Study Reveals Generational Differences in Mobile Device Usage
Boomers are the most likely buyers of eReaders…  More than 9 out of 10 Boomers (92%) use the device at home, 13% at work, and 36% power up their eReaders while on the go.

Baby Boomers Up-to-Date on Smartphone Technology, Study Finds
image"It is a common misconception that smartphones are complicated or hard to operate," Marick said. "But as we see in this survey, an overwhelming majority of current smartphone owners ages 40-plus were able to teach themselves the functions of their device."

Wow.  What a shock.  From my book, first published in 2005:

Shock redux:

Snake Oil In Cyberspace (February 2009)
A recent report from Forrester Research indicates that while it might be tempting to categorize all aging Americans as techno-dinosaurs and Luddites, more than 60 percent of baby boomers are avid consumers of social media like blogs, forums, podcasts and online videos…

Perhaps … it is simply a case of older users being a bit more savvy about marketing ploys, social networking, and the intermixing of the two.

QR Codes are beginning to play a big part in it all:

Foretellings II
How revolutionary!  How clever we are in this modern day and age!  Imagine! Using your phone to order from a grocery store and having your items delivered!  What’ll they think of next?

But …

QR Code Scanners Skew Male, Young, Wealthy

However, the numbers aren’t shoddy for Baby Boomers.  And add this into the equation:

Home Most Popular QR Code Location
The most popular source of a scanned QR code was a printed magazine or newspaper, with nearly half (49.4%) scanning QR codes from this source…

Among mobile users who scanned a QR code on their mobile devices in June, 58% did so from their home…

And that brings me to my mantra, repeated so many times by yours truly that I’m even sick of hearing it.  Update it a bit with QR codes:

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.

What can be gleaned from this meandering, bloated post? 

  • Smartphones are used to scan QR codes while reading newspapers and magazines at home.
  • The perfect tablet (someday) for Baby Boomers will be big, thin, light, unbreakable – and while you’ll be able to use it for search, email, Facebooky things, etc. – it will mostly be for curling up on a couch and reading your favorite magazines, newspapers, books, watching short videos, etc.  I think we used to call this ‘alone time’.


  • Television, Magazines, Radio, Outdoor: Advertising 
  • Smartphones: Some Marketing on steroids, no advertising
  • Tablets: Advertising, maybe some marketing – but you’d better be careful.  Remember – most  Baby Boomers will be in ‘relaxed mode’ when using tablets. 

If you don’t know what ‘relaxed mode’ is:

Positioning Magazines for Baby Boomers April 2007

29 August 2011

Virginia Ironside: You're Old, I'm Old . . . Get Used to It!

Writing about getting older, especially after you’ve hit fifty or thereabouts, has become quite an industry.  The subject now rivals books on Gardening, Beauty, Sex, Yoga, Health, Religion, Cable-TV Inspired Politics, and Self Help. You could blanket Yasgur’s Farm with books about Sixty being the new Forty, Sixty being the new Sixty, or Sixty simply being Sixty.

imageThere are silly ones, serious ones, worrisome ones, fascinating ones, funny ones

Sometimes I think we should have another cultural revolution like we did in The Sixties.  Instead of burning draft cards and bras, we should burn these books.  You can even toss mine into the fire if you want.

Although there is one I happily devoured recently that pretty much summed it up for me – along with being humorous, serious, full of pungent truisms, and wildly entertaining.  You should flip through it before setting it aflame:

imageYou're Old, I'm Old . . . Get Used to It! Twenty Reasons Why Growing Old Is Great
by Virginia Ironside
No matter what they say, sixty will never be the new forty. But sixty- five-year-old British writer Virginia Ironside is determined to convince people that getting old is not so bad-even for a Baby Boomer who interviewed the Rolling Stones and Jimi Hendrix early in her career.

imageAmong scores of other concerns, Ms. Ironside nails digestion and death.  She gives only lip service to one of my favorite subjects – drooling.  But I’ve covered that topic in its entirety.

Virginia’s take on being a modern-day grandparent is the best I’ve read.  There’s an abridged version on the web somewhere, but I’m not linking to it because you really should savor the whole chapter. 

I’ll allow you to read this, however:

Introduction to You’re Old, I’m Old … Get Used to It!

And watch this – culled from her one-woman show The Virginia Monologues:

Virginia Ironside

…I’d deem it an honor to spend ‘a couple of minutes’ with Ms. VI…

So grab the book, step away from the bonfire, just far enough so you’ll have enough light to read, laugh out loud dozens of times – and when you’re done maybe you should save this one from the flames.

Virginia Ironside’s Web Site:

22 August 2011

5-Star Web Reviews Go for $5

I admit it. I love WOMing WOMM.  I’ve been WOMing WOMM since … 2005?

imageThe danger of and possible swan song of WOMM: People will eventually see shills coming, will recognize shill-talk, shill blogs – and ignore it all.

And there have been so many posts I can’t even link to them all.

If you don’t know what WOMM is, here’s a link to a methodical and rigorous explanation:

Where people already aren’t.

Not too long ago there was a piece in the NYT:

imageTime To Duct-Tape WOMM?
A recent ad posted by “Katmoney” … offered to write convincing negative reviews posted to a Yelp page of your choosing.

Now there’s another one:

In a Race to Out-Rave, 5-Star Web Reviews Go for $5
In tens of millions of reviews on Web sites like Amazon.com, Citysearch, TripAdvisor and Yelp, new books are better than Tolstoy, restaurants are undiscovered gems and hotels surpass the Ritz.

And I thought Brand Ambassadors and Citizen Marketers were the bee’s knees.

More from the NYT piece:

Determining the number of fake reviews on the Web is difficult. But it is enough of a problem to attract a team of Cornell researchers, who recently published a paper about creating a computer algorithm for detecting fake reviewers.

And the NYT printed this:

Is That Review a Fake?

As usual, I don’t get it.  I’m not behind the curve, or ahead of it–just simply tumbling helplessly inside it.

Why would you publish and promote the algorithm?  Wouldn’t that tip off all those wonderful Brand Ambassadors and Citizen Marketers?  Doesn’t Google, for imageexample, keep their perpetually morphing search algorithm a secret?  Aren’t there computer geniuses who spend their lives trying to figure it out?

I’d gladly pay anybody a fiver to give this post five stars – but I’m not sure where to put the stars.  Maybe on my forehead.

16 August 2011

This ‘n that, here ‘n there again.

Think of this post as a bunch of beefy tweets.

tbirdActive baby boomers want no part of bingo, hot meals

Well, we know that.  If they don’t want to live in places with silly stuff, they certainly don’t want to frequent senior centers with silly stuff.

tbirdMarketers' Billion-Dollar Problem: Boomers

Interesting for me to wake up in the morning, make some coffee, sit down at my computer, and read exactly what I've been saying since 2003 (actually a bit longer) in a book, this blog, my speaking/consulting here and in Europe.  As if it's all new.

tbirdMeet Ken Osmond
imageFor any card-carrying baby boomer, the mere mention of Eddie Haskell (Ken Osmond) takes us back to our formative years. Growing up, we took St. Joseph low dose aspirin when we were under the weather.

Brent Green unpacks that one.

tbirdConversation With Baby Boomers
imageDeborah L. Jacobs
After 23 years of contributing articles to many different publications, I have decided to make my journalistic home at Forbes.

Okay.  I like Ms. Jacobs.  Let’s talk.

tbirdIs age the most valuable asset in PR?
Many talk about gender discrimination in the workplace, but is age discrimination on the rise? If so, companies and agencies bypassing older applicants for younger ones are making a grave mistake…

I’ll second that.

tbird100-Year-Olds Just as Unhealthy as the Rest of Us

For my whole life I’ve tried everything I could to die young. Nothing has worked so far. Now I know why.

tbirdRita Wilson Introduces Huff/Post 50, Website For Baby Boomers

Originally it was Huff/Post 40.  My suggestion: Huff/Post 60.  In ten years, Huff/Post 70.  In forty years, see previous beefy tweet.