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Hi, I’m Kevin Coupe and this is FaceTime with the Content Guy.
One of the things we talk about a lot here is the importance of accumulating actionable data, and then acting on it. Part of accumulating data, it must be said, is knowing how to break it into usable pieces, creating categories and characterizations that allow marketers to make intelligent and even, when they get it right, prescient decisions.
The problem, of course, is that we all don’t fit into neat categories. A lot of us assiduously resist being characterized as one thing or another.
There was a story in the Boston Globe the other day that really got me thinking about this, because it focused on how the term “middle aged” has become for many people a “term is so pejorative it hits like a back spasm when you get off the couch.”
Part of the problem is that the term is both indistinct and relatively new - it only started being used maybe 150 years ago.
“Before that,” the Globe story said, “there were four ages — childhood, youth, adulthood, and old age. Then, we added a fifth, but no one really knows when middle age starts or when it ends. The 40-64 age range is commonly accepted,” though the younger you are the more likely it is that you think that it starts early, just like old age. (When I admit to being middle-aged, my own kids point out that I only fall into that category if I’m going to live to 126. Which I plan to. Which scares the hell out of them. Good.)
The Globe suggested that you can identify middle-aged folks because they’re the ones who “are Botoxing, popping Viagra, covering the gray, chanting mantras like “50 is the new 30,” keeping up with technology, exercising until they need new knees, and bleaching their teeth.” (I’m guilty of a few of these. I’m not telling you which ones.)
Humorist David Sedaris, at 61, seems to be having none of it: “Though there’s an industry built on telling you otherwise, there are few real joys to middle age,” he recently wrote. (Call it middle-aged cranky.)
The Globe argued that middle aged folks - and the people who write about them - need to consider a kind of rebranding. After all, “Dunkin’ is experimenting with shedding ‘Donuts’ from its name. Some vegans are recasting themselves as plant-based. Meditation began calling itself mindfulness and has left the ashram for the boardroom.”
The suggestion put forth from one quarter: “mid-century modern.” The term comes from the decorating industry, which uses it to refer to a style that is self-assured and has a kind of clean simplicity. Which is how some folks think middle-aged folks ought to think and feel … though I must concede that I’m neither as self-assured as I’d like to be. I am, however, often accused of being simple.
The thing is, these are all labels. They may be useful to marketers and demographers, but I think such folks must understand that those of us who are lumped into such groups often don’t think of themselves as fitting neatly into one category or another. And, as I said earlier, some of us are almost militant about it…
Which explains why I’m so hostile when I get a phone call that starts off with a pre-recorded message: “Hello, seniors…!”
My response is to such messages is less than polite.
That’s what’s on my mind this morning. As always, I want to hear what is on your mind.
- KC's View: