Monday, September 08, 2003

The Demographic Shift - 1

A couple of very significant things have happened recently. You probably missed them. Don't worry, this is totally understandable as these significant things only happened to me.

The first significant event happened while visiting a DIY store. This is, of course, a telling fact in itself. I'm still pretty new to the whole world of Homebase and B&Q. Previously, I'd just been one of those people who laughed at their naff ads and had never set foot in a store.

I was on my way out when it happened. Standing in line in a bit of a checkout trance, I was gazing around and there in front of me in one of the checkout bins was a 51-piece set of screwdrivers, which for a moment I was inexplicably attracted to buying. This has never happened to me before -- I own like three old screwdrivers and I have no idea where they came from.

The second, and certainly more earth-shattering, thing was that I am approaching the demographic rubicon and, well to be honest, I'm kind of concerned. That's right, I have turned 34 and have reached the very outer edges of the group most worshipped by marketers and ad men alike -- the 18- to 34-year-olds.

Next year, I will move out completely. I've consoled myself with the fact that what is really happening is that I am moving into a secondary group of 25- to 40-year-olds, but this isn't a real group and it's not one marketers are interested in. It's more of a made-up group. One that was concocted by some flaky academic looking for a new take on the demographic conundrum.

Besides, you can't focus group the 25- to 40-year-olds. One half -- the 25-year-olds -- will be able to tell you that Miss Dynamite was the surprise winner of the Mercury Music Prize, beating out the hotly tipped The Streets. The other group -- the 40-year-olds -- will be pretty much convinced that the Mercury Prize has something to do with astronomy and, besides, they don't have time to talk as the BMW estate has to be picked up from the garage and the kids? Just don't ask about them.

You can see the problem, can't you? It's a case of whether to go gracefully into the dark night (the one that is completely absent of fun youth culture) or to go kicking and screaming, refusing to trade in street and club wear for something more sensible until 40 bears down like a demographic ton of bricks.

There are signs and, as well as the signs, there is research. Young & Rubicam put out a new report recently and it didn't beat about the bush. According to Y&R, at 35 you are getting old, you become set in your ways and you start buying (no, wait for it) compilation CDs.

I couldn't find anything in the research about being inexplicably attracted to a 51-piece screwdriver set, but I'm sure this was just an omission. I didn't buy the screwdrivers. I snapped out of my trance-like state and left as quickly as I could.

Y&R's research was full of lots of indicators and tell-tale signs, which prove you are indeed getting old in the eyes of marketers. Previously, I never thought that I really cared what marketers thought before, but now I'm kind of interested. I thought as I approach this landmark I would put all of these signs to the test on myself and some of my friends. But, in case you were wondering, I don't own any compilation CDs, but more of that next week.