Marketing in 2014: Crisis or Breakthrough?


Jeanniey Mullen

This past year saw many changes in the world of marketing. Should it be viewed as a time of crisis or a time of innovation?

I started out in the world of marketing more than 20 years ago. Back then, things like a “Johnson Box” were the hot topic of the day. Everyone who was anyone knew to use them for high impact. Columbia Records and Publishers Clearing House were all the rage, and things like “email” were just coming into fashion.

Fast-forward 20 years to marketing mediums that seem so much more sophisticated. Social platforms likeWhisper and Snapchat are the rage. Wearables like Google Glass and Trellie are in vogue. Content marketing and omnichannel analysis are all the rage in messaging and analytics, and using email can often make you feel like the “old guy” in the room.

Many marketers of today would tell you that a Johnson Box is the box that “that guy” Mr. Johnson has on his desk. Yet, the core elements that made direct marketing what it is today remain in tact. Understanding your audience, personal messaging, one-to-one marketing, and relationship building are all still key. But there is one exception that turns today’s marketing upside down: the Baby Boomer.

Today’s top marketing target is the affluent over-50 person, who has the trifecta of marketing attraction: time, disposable income, and technology. In fact, those older than 55 control more than three-quarters ofAmerica’s wealth.

If this is the case, it leads to the question: What if the key to marketing in today’s world is not about the hottest new technology to break through, but finding a way to reach the Baby Boomer population?

I see this as a breakthrough time for marketing.

Think about it. Baby Boomers outspend other generations by an estimated $400 billion each year on consumer goods and services, according to the U.S. Government Consumer Expenditure Survey. This generation is not reading BuzzFeed, Mashable, or The Onion for the latest news. Instead they are still looking at and opening their snail mail. They still watch TV (even the commercials). They listen to the recommendation of friends, catch up with phone calls to others, and even send and read email.

To make the most of your marketing in today’s world, consider some breakthrough moves that take you back to your breakdancing days, including:

  • Consider direct mail (with a Johnson Box)
  • Experiment with call center services
  • Send a personal looking email
  • Kick off a friend get a friend campaign
  • Advertise on general news sites and on TV
  • Invest in radio

By going retro, you might just find yourself navigating through into open territory that, while once crowded, is now your runway to success.