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The Origins of Ageless Marketing

My friend and mentor David B. Wolfe passed away December 3, 2011, after a long illness. David’s special interest was mature markets. He wrote Serving the Ageless Market and (co-authored) Ageless Marketing, Firms of Endearment and his last book, Brave New Worldviewwas completed just before his death and will be published in the near future. He will be missed very much.More than twenty years ago our firm Coming of Age, Incorporated was created based upon David’s research and the principles of Developmental Relationship Marketing (DRM) also known as Ageless Marketing. This is a summary of the foundation/principles of Ageless Marketing.

The origins of Ageless Marketing stem from the five basic premises of DRM that define the origins of behavior, and its general path across the lifespan. They increase marketers’ effectiveness in linking product messages to the hidden (unconscious) drivers of consumers’ marketplace behavior by revealing behavior predispositions in various periods across the lifespan.

The five premises contain benchmarks for testing the validity of what people report about their attitudes, needs and motivations. This is critical given that recent brain research indicates that all motivations are rooted outside the realms of consciousness. We can only speculate about the foundations of our behavior; thus overly relying on the literal meanings of consumers’ testimonies doubtlessly accounts for many marketing failures.

First Premise: Origins of behavior

A person’s worldviews, needs, motivations and general approaches to needs satisfaction are predisposed – not predetermined — by her/his current season of life, and originate in five systems of motivating underlying values (MUV Values).  MUV systems, from which all behavior emerges, are biologically innate and constitute the basic building blocks of behavior. In effect, the five MUV systems are the DNA of behavior:

MUV Systems      Source of Needs and Motivations

  • Identity Values – Sense of Self, and differentiation, maximization and perpetuation of  Self
  • Relationship Values – Connections for orientation, grounding, validation of Self, and resources for help in meeting needs; includes institutions and belief systems.
  • Purpose Values – Commanding focus of Self’s energy output and efforts
  • Adaptation Values – Skills, knowledge, for fulfillment of the Self’s potential
  • Energy Values – Health and well-being of the Self in the physical, psychological domains

Second Premise: Origins of motivations

Urges to satisfy needs arise from root motivations that are activated by tensions between five sets of bipolar forces. The first force (objective force) in each set dominates behavior in the first half of life; the second force (subjective force) in each set dominates behavior in the second half of life.

MUV Values      First half of life Second half of life

                          Objective force (1st Half)        Subjective force (2nd Half)

  • Identity                dependence              vs.         autonomy
  • Relationships      materialism              vs.         experiential
  • Purpose               egocentrism              vs.         altruism
  • Adaptation           novelty                      vs.         habit
  • Energy                 disengagement/escape   vs.         engagement/involvement

Third Premise: Domains of personal development

Personal development evolves in two domains of the self. These domains contain the roots of all developmental potential. The two developmental domains are:

  1. Physical domain – the organic Self, which encompasses all body systems. Primary development is completed in adolescence.  Secondary development continues throughout life in order to keep body systems and functions in healthy states.
  2. Psychological domain – the inorganic Self which encompasses the conscious and unconscious mind.   Broadly speaking, following infancy, the mental Self develops through three cognitive styles across the lifespan as follows:
    • Subjective style: the primary cognitive style in childhood causing children to experience frequently the products of their imagination as reality.
    • Objective style: the primary cognitive style in adolescence and young adulthood when Self is experienced as an extension of the world.  They do not experience reality as an integrated scheme of the whole.  Reality to them is unambiguous, with truth being absolute or independent of context.
    • Integrated style the primary cognitive style of people in midlife or older.  This style reflects a complex integration of subjective and objective styles. We see reality in terms of relationships whose elements are in constant flux.  Meanings depend on context.  This nullifies absolutism and renders reality in “shades of gray.”

Fourth Premise: Keeping information flow to levels the conscious mind can manage

The brain resolves this problem by conducting information triage. The criterion the brain uses to determine what information will be sent to the conscious mind is the relevance of information to a person’s survival scenario, a matrix of needs whose satisfaction is vital to a person’s comfort and pleasure and avoidance of discomfort and pain.

Fifth Premise: Seasons of life – stages of personal development

There are four seasons of personal development. The first two are dominated by social (psychosocial) development needs; the last two by inner (psychospiritual) development needs.

Season Developmental Focus Years Survival Focus
Spring: Initial development 0   – 22+ Play (learning) Comedic mode: “everything will generally break in my favor.”
Summer: Vocational development 18+ – 40+ Work (becoming somebody) Romantic mode: heroic – “I can do anything I set out to do.”
Fall: Shift to inner development 38+ – 60+ Work-play (search for meaning) Tragic mode: “I can’t do as much as I once thought; who am I really?”
Winter: Integration of life experiences 58+– ? Reconciliation (making sense of life) Ironic mode: “There’s good in most every bad, bad in most every good – c’est la vie!”

David’s book Ageless Marketing is an excellent primer on connecting more effectively with boomers and older adults and further exploring DRM summarized above. Knowledge gained should result in a better understanding of whole brain, true-to-life models of customer behavior and consequently more effective connections with targeted populations.

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