The educational travel industry focuses mostly on older adults who have time, money and propensity to participate in higher-end travel adventures emphasizing learning experiences. The industry consists of tour operators, such as World Leaders Travel; planners, such as executives with Yale University alumni association; and suppliers, such as Menlo Consulting Group, Inc., a respected travel industry research company.
I was a keynote speaker for the Educational Travel Conference in Providence, RI, during the week before Super Bowl Sunday, where I spoke about marketing to Baby Boomer men. About 450 attended the conference.
Until recently, the industry has primarily marketed to members of the Silent Generation, or those born in the U.S. between 1925 and 1945. But the industry is gearing up for Boomers who represent the next big marketing opportunity.
One entrenched myth in the industry is that women make most travel decisions, so I had my work cut out for me. But I was able to put forward several persuasive arguments (backed by recent consumer research) that support targeting Boomer men as a significant and burgeoning niche segment.
About halfway through my speech, I presented a cartoon from The New Yorker magazine. It’s a simple idea that you can easily imagine.
From stage left you’re looking down on four old rock musicians with balding heads and stooped bodies. A sell-out audience before them appears jubilant and celebratory. The lead singer speaks: “This next tune is a hard-rocking, kick-ass, take-no-prisoners tune we wrote about turning sixty.”
As expected, the audience laughed at this irony. And I asked them what Tom Petty, Bruce Springsteen, Mick Jagger and Paul McCartney have in common recently. The answer: They have all been entertainers during halftime for the annual Super Bowl extravaganza.
Then I asked who would be providing halftime entertainment during Super Bowl XLIV. Several from the audience shouted out, “The Who!” Sure enough, vocalist Roger Daltry and guitarist Pete Townsend — the only surviving artists from the original band — rocked out to laser lights as if they are among today’s hottest artists — which, of course, they’re not.
Mission accomplished: cartoon irony mirrors human reality. Lead acts for the last six Super Bowl games have been classic rock artists, with most over the age of 60. (Petty will be the final artist among this elite group to become 60 — in October 2010.)
I pointed out that these 60-plus men retain broad appeal across generations, but certainly among Baby Boomers, and most certainly among Boomer men. Men of this generation who grew up on a steady auditory diet of Petty-Springsteen-Jagger-McCartney-Daltry also have the money and moxie that most major advertisers savor.
In tune with the The Who and for one of the showcase commercials, contemporary rap artist will.i.am covered the English rock band’s “My Generation.” This song is one of the group’s defining statements, where Daltry famously asserts: “I hope I die before I get old (Talkin’ ‘bout my generation).”
This Super Bowl commercial, produced for upstart marketer Flo TV, stood apart from the others — a quick-cutting nostalgic montage of television news and cultural ephemera from the sixties through the present. Further, will.i.am took some serious license with The Who's legendary lyrics: “I don't wanna die young; I wanna get old (Talkin’ ‘bout my generation).”
Last year, will.i.am covered Bob Dylan’s “Forever Young” for a Pepsi commercial, which I discussed in a blog post last February. If you compare carefully, the new ad contains some of the same archival television footage included in the Pepsi “Forever Young” Super Bowl commercial.
Stuart Elliott, a prolific advertising critic and columnist for The New York Times dedicated his column on the Monday following Super Bowl Sunday to a theme of nostalgia, the common creative characteristic he spotted in most of the ads that ran during the 2010 Super Bowl. I found it curious that he discovered nostalgic twists in every other TV commercial BUT the one spot that was unabashedly nostalgic — at least from a Baby Boomer perspective. He didn’t even mention the will.i.am cover for Flo TV. However, he did perceptively identify a plethora of brands relying on classic rock as fundamental to their Super Bowl pitches:
Among the old-school rock acts heard were Cheap Trick, for Audi; the Electric Light Orchestra, for Select 55 beer; Kiss, for Dr Pepper Cherry; Kool and the Gang, for the Honda Accord Crosstour; and Bill Withers, for the Dante’s Inferno video game sold by Electronic Arts.
History, it seems, does repeat itself: with classic-rock men bands dominating the nation’s largest stage today and with nostalgic ads tapping into our halcyon memories from the past.