Sunday, January 1, 2012

Young Males, age 16-35

Wars are fought by young men for the same reason marketers market toward them.

In Vance Packard's The Hidden Persuaders he talks about how young people can be programmed by marketers to "march off in lock-step" to the tune of the advertising jingle.  And it is true, that marketers love to target the young audience, particularly men, ages 16-35, particularly lower middle-class and below, for their marketing messages.

Why?  Because you can sell this group anything you want to.  Tell them they look sexy and powerful in a Camaro, and they will buy it - and pay twice the price they would have, for the underlying Nova that lurks beneath its surface.  Tell them a brand of beer makes them more manly and attractive to women, and they will buy it by the case.  Tell them a brand of soap will cause women to crave their zit-faced awkward teen bodies, and they will buy it (hence, the entire Axe line of products).

Tell them it is their patriotic duty to march off to war - through a mine field - and they will do that, too.  They are very impressionable.  Wars are not fought by 50-year-olds, and not just because we are all old, fat, and slovenly.  No, the real reason is, a middle-aged man will question things more, and wonder, "Gee, is the assassination of the Archduke of Austria really worth killing a few million people over?" And of course, their answer is "Hell, No!" which is why 50-year-olds make great Generals and lousy Privates.

You may think, as a young person, that you have your own ideas and thoughts and beliefs - and are not just a tool for marketing people.  But you'd be wrong about that.  Think about it.  In just eight weeks, the U.S. Army can mold you into the kind of person, who, on command, will march right into withering machine-gun fire.  It isn't hard to program people - particularly young people.

Getting you to buy a Camaro, on the other hand, is a far easier sell-job than jumping on land mines or marching into machine-gun fire, although both involve elements of using death as a sales instrument.  And both, perhaps, play toward the male ego, in terms of power, prestige, testosterone, and what-not.  Although, as I have pointed out before, it takes no real heroics to sign the loan papers on a car - and yet so many people view what car they own as some sort of personal statement or worse, accomplishment.

Once you are over 35 (let's hope) the marketers are largely through with you.  They realize that you likely have family obligations, or are saving for retirement, or are too busy with a job or career to watch a lot of TeeVee and spend a lot of time at the Mall.  They still market to you, of course.  It just isn't quite as effective.  You've wised up, hopefully, by now - at least a bit - after being bitten by one or two raw deals designed to appeal to your ego and get at your pocketbook.  And maybe, by this time, you've come to grips with the fact that there are raw deals out there, and there is no one to blame but yourself, for jumping on them.

Granted, we need armies to protect ourselves.  And sometimes wars are inevitable.  And we need to consume and buy things for our daily lives.  But in many cases, wars are horribly unnecessary and avoidable - lives wasted for nothing.  And the same is true for consumerism - people squander their financial lives on a whim - goaded into it by clever marketers.