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The Consumer’s Age and Stage of Life

15 January, 2016 - 09:17

You have probably noticed that the things you buy have changed as you age. When you were a child, the last thing you probably wanted as a gift was clothing. As you became a teen, however, cool clothes probably became a bigger priority. Don’t look now, but depending on the stage of life you’re currently in, diapers and wrinkle cream might be just around the corner.

Companies understand that people buy different things based on their ages and life stages. Aging baby boomers are a huge market that companies are trying to tap. Ford and other car companies have created “aging suits” for young employees to wear when they’re designing automobiles. 1 The suit simulates the restricted mobility and vision people experience as they get older. Car designers can then figure out how to configure the automobiles to better meet the needs of these consumers.

Lisa Rudes Sandel, the founder of Not Your Daughter’s Jeans (NYDJ), created a multimillion-dollar business by designing jeans for baby boomers with womanly bodies. Since its launch seven years ago, NYDJ has become the largest domestic manufacturer of women’s jeans under $100. “The truth is,” Rudes Sandel says, “I’ve never forgotten that woman I’ve been aiming for since day one.” Sandel “speaks to” every one of her customers via a note tucked into each pair of jean that reads, “NYDJ (Not Your Daughter’s Jeans) cannot be held responsible for any positive consequence that may arise due to your fabulous appearance when wearing the Tummy Tuck jeans. You can thank me later.” 2

Your chronological age, or actual age in years, is one thing. Your cognitive age, or how old you perceive yourself to be, is another. In other words, how old do you really feel? A person’s cognitive age affects the activities one engages in and sparks interests consistent with the person’s perceived age. 3Cognitive age is a significant predictor of consumer behaviors, including people’s dining out, watching television, going to bars and dance clubs, playing computer games, and shopping. 4How old people “feel” they are has important implications for marketing professionals. For example, companies have found that many “aged” consumers don’t take kindly to products that feature “old folks.” The consumers can’t identify with them because they see themselves as being younger. We will discuss more about the various age groups and how marketing professionals try to target them in Chapter 6 "Market Segmenting, Targeting, and Positioning".