Marketers are obsessed with youth but it’s the not so young who have more money to spend on expensive goods.

We are a nation obsessed with everything young. A quick glance at our movies, possibly the most accurate barometer of the mood of the nation, will prove this.

Our heroes don’t grow old. They just develop six packs and eight packs as the years roll on. We don’t raise eyebrows when someone in his forties turns up as a fresher in an engineering college. We just tell ourselves that this is the magical world of movies, let us just suspend logic for a couple of hours. Probably it also satiates our desire to remain young forever.

This ‘youth obsession’ has found its way into the world of marketing and brands as well. Most brands irrespective of category speak almost exclusively to the young. Single malts, luxury cars, hair dyes, financial products and even anti-aging creams reach out to the young.

Keeping his brand young or youthful is part of every marketer’s agenda. It makes sense, we are a young nation, about 70 per cent of us are below 30.

But is this obsession coming at the expense of ignoring the not so young? For marketers and advertising agencies it seems as if those above 35 do not matter. As if life itself comes to grinding halt when you hit the mid-thirties. Much like our politicians who have made an art of ignoring the middle-class Indian. Should the not so young be the marketing and advertising untouchables?

Not so. And there is good reason for this. The not so young have the money. More importantly, they have the time to spend it on what they are passionate about, unlike the young who are starting off on their careers.

There is a deeper cultural reason why the 35-plus are impulsive and don’t act their age when it comes to spending. We grew up in the pre-liberalisation era where we had access to very little.

Our toy cars were all red in colour and made of tin and ran grudgingly for a week or so. Our bikes were 100 cc and never touched the 3-figure speed mark. Our shoes were mostly Bata. Our watches were either HMT or Titan. Our video games were those silly handheld contraptions where you played tennis with Snoopy or did some such silly stuff, all in glorious black-and-white graphics.

We never realised it back then but now when we look around us we feel cheated. We cannot turn the clock back but we can compensate for the fun and action that we missed out on for all those years. And we do believe that now is the time to do just that.

The not so young have brought to life the old adage of “Boys don’t grow up, their toys just get more expensive” in India. We have become born-again bikers, we have developed a huge gadget fetish, we love our cars yet want to change them every three years. We lead second lives where our newfound hobbies take over completely.

The launch and the relative success of Harley has a message for all marketers and advertising agencies. It is that the moneyed 35-plus is a market waiting to be tapped. We may not be a large demographic. But we are a powerful niche for all those makers of expensive toys. We would love to lay our hands on a red Mustang or to spin the wheels of a Golf GTI or to drive down Khardung La in an open-top Jeep Wrangler. After all, we are busy dealing with our own little midlife crisis.

So don’t ignore us. Give us our toys. Because we want to play.

(Suresh Mohankumar is National Planning Head, Dentsu Communication.)

(This article was published on July 26, 2012)
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