Monday, 19 November 2007

"Age Ain't Nothing But a Number..."

It was my birthday at the weekend, and it was a significant one. No, not the Big 40… and I wasn’t 21 again either, although I’d quite like that. No, it was significant in distinctive radio programming way, as I officially moved into a new demo!

“Hello Nik… let me welcome you to 35-44’s! Take a look around… you’ll be here for quite a while" ... the voice inside my head said, as I woke up on Sunday morning.

But hang on. I don’t feel any different. I don’t have the urge to rush out and buy Celine Dion’s Greatest Hits or start smoking a pipe… or buy a Volvo. I’m just the same as I was last week!

Radio has for many years grouped its audience via age demos. And for a long time, this was a pretty decent way of segmenting and targeting appropriate demographics. It was done primarily so advertisers could understand radio’s audience easily. 15-24 year olds are unlikely to need a mortgage product or ‘Stannah Stairlift’, whilst traditionally 35-44 year olds weren’t falling over themselves to get a copy of “Ministry of Sound; The Definitive Annual”.

But the world has changed. There’s an expression in the marketing world about the phenomenon of marketing to younger and younger kids, as they develop tastes and preferences increasingly quickly. It’s called “Growing Older Younger”. I think the reverse is also true. Keeping in the spirit of the phrase, I’m going to call it “Growing Younger Older”.

Sure, I have kids, a mortgage, a lawnmower, and occasionally watch something on BBC Four… but that doesn’t mean I don’t want to listen to the Mark Ronson album, or I think The Hoosiers aren’t brilliant (coz they are!).

Technology has allowed a whole generation of older people to feel connected and remain ‘young at heart’ or to have ‘grown younger older’. BBC Radio 2 was one of the first stations in the UK to really understand that you could be say, 50, and enjoy both Frank Sinatra and Coldplay… and want to hear them in the same radio show!

So where does it leave radio programmers in being able to understand our audiences. We’ll for starters, we shouldn’t abandon the good old fashioned demos just yet. It’s fair to say that there’s still a lot in common for many 25-34 year olds. However, their age is not the one thing we should focus on.

Programmers need to take a more lifestyle approach to analysis of their audience. What is the lifestyle of your main demo? What kind of people are they? What unifies them? Once you get over the ‘tyranny of the age demo’ you find it’s far easier to star segmenting your audience and deciding on what content you need to deliver for these people.

And the one thing that makes the biggest difference to your audience?


But more about programming for adults with kids another day I think. Anyhow… gotta rush. The garden centre is closing in 30 mins!!

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