A version of this article appeared in print on April 20, 2009, on page B1 of the New York edition.
A billboard in Times Square for Target features an older woman on a bicycle.
Published: April 19, 2009
When Brian Gordon and his partners started ebeanstalk.com, which sells children’s learning toys online, they expected most of business to come from younger consumers starting families. But a recent customer survey found that up to 40 percent were actually older, mainly grandparents.
The experience of ebeanstalk.com illustrates a growing trend as the recession grinds on: an increasing interest in marketing goods and services to consumers age 50 and older. Among those aiming more at the older demographic are giants like Chrysler, Kraft Foods, L’Oréal, Procter & Gamble and Target.
The interest has also been a boon to media outlets that appeal to older viewers. CBS, home of “60 minutes” and the “CSI” franchise, is first in the network ratings, and while all magazines have had their advertising pages hammered, some titles for more mature readers, including AARP magazine and Family Circle, have suffered smaller downturns.
For decades, older consumers were largely shunned by marketers because they were deemed less wealthy, less likely to try new products and less willing to change brands. Campaigns directed at them were described dismissively as made for the “Geritol generation.” As much as older consumers were to be shunned, young consumers — ages 18 to 34, or 18 to 49 — were desired for what were deemed their free-spending ways, eagerness to sample new products and brand-switching proclivities. The idea that they were starting in life with a proverbial blank slate of marketing wants and needs was catnip to product peddlers.
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