An email winged its way to my inbox last month inviting me to fill in one of those anonymous online surveys, with the promise that if I complied, I’d be in the draw to win $1,000.
Immediately I hit the ‘begin survey’ button (the lure of a possible easy grand had nothing to do with it – I just love doing surveys. I’m odd that way...).
Coincidentally, the survey email arrived on my birthday, and after answering the gender question, the next category was age group. Turns out that my new age had, for the first time, kicked me into a new demographic - but one which was evidently of no interest to the company carrying out the survey.
No sooner had I clicked on the “Next Page” box, a message flashed on my screen which read “Thanks for your interest but you do not match our survey criteria”.
Huh? So I’d suddenly become old? Old, and apparently to this survey organisation, useless.
Apart from thinking “there goes my chance at $1,000”, I wondered whether I was wrong to take offence at this apparent ageism. My (old) journalistic curiosity got the better of me and I forwarded the survey to my partner, who, being in a younger – desirable - demographic, was able to fill out the questionnaire in full. I still don’t know who was carrying out the survey – it could have been a telco, a financial services organisation, or maybe a tech company developing software or designing hardware.
At any rate it was obvious the questions were chosen to probe respondents for their social media, tablet and smartphone usage habits.
Now I don’t mind if said company was only seriously interested in how many minutes a day your average hipster manages to tear their eyes away from a mobile screen. What did stick in my craw was the message that seemed to say that I, as a dude of a certain age, am not digitally savvy enough to warrant being asked about what brand of tablet I use, how often I check my Twitter feed and what apps I have on my phone.
Any company that makes the assumption that we of Generation 50 Something are not heavy users of social media and the latest digital devices (to say nothing of being cashed up enough to afford them) is making a huge mistake.
Don’t just take it from me. Earlier this year my “baby” sister turned 50 (now that’s a way to make anyone feel old...) and went on a cruise with her family. Some of the stereotypes about the general age group on a cruise proved true but, she noted, on any day the busiest place on the ship aside from bars and pools wasn’t the bingo room, the trivia lounge or the library. It was the computer room, where gangs of grey groovers queued up for their turn on one of the PCs, so they could check their emails, post on Twitter and, probably, check up on their kids and grandkids on Facebook.
We live in a youth-focused society where image and perception are everything. But the reality is that in the digital age, marketers need to remember that being over 50 doesn’t mean we don’t know how to take a damn good selfie, filter it on our phone, post it on Instagram, tweet it, share it on Facebook and plonk it into a Google+ circle. Now, you’ll have to excuse me – I have to pop online and buy tickets to Dolly Parton. I suffer from acute FOMO because, OMFG, YOLO!