Paco Underhill had an interesting interview on the NewsHour with Jim Lehrer that was re-aired this week.

It struck a cord. I’m still thinking about it 72 hours after the fact. You can read the transcript here.

While there is a lot of good content in there, it was this part that really caught me [my emphasis]:

Marketing to a younger generation

PAUL SOLMAN: Well, let’s say there are some people in our audience who would like to re-inflate the bubble. How do you get consumers to start buying again at this point?

PACO UNDERHILL: Nobody’s going to go back to the old ways. And what we’re seeing here is a time in which our retail world is probably going to contract.

It is going to contract, and that’s because we are over-stored, meaning that most retail entities would be eminently healthier if they were smaller. Sixty percent of discretionary income in North America is held in the hands of people who are 55 and over.

PAUL SOLMAN: And we don’t need stuff?

PACO UNDERHILL: Paul, you and I could live the rest of our lives on fruit, vegetables, pasta, wine, olive oil, and yearly doses of socks and underwear.

I think the other thing that is interesting is that our basic marketing engines are in the hands of people who are 30-something. And they like selling to themselves, and they like selling to a younger generation. They’re not that comfortable selling to gray, bearded, bald, paunchy research wonks like you and I.

Wow. Ouch. And how do we make this better?

Internet Marketing really is dominated by twenty and thirty somethings. It’s an intensely young industry. There are exceptions of course, and I really do respect the older people in our field. I like to think that they make us wiser and that we make them younger. To Paco’s point: he’s right.

We’ve been building a lot of one-size-fits-all experiences for 15 years now. I’d argue that many experiences are built for the market segments / personas that we think are the customers.

I’ve been lucky though. I’ve worked on over fifteen projects aimed at those 55 and older. I know of some people who have gone their entire career without ever marketing to those people. For the majority of us though, he’s right.

I think it’s time to use data to make experiences better for the older generations. For instance, if a user tells us through their behavior or through their preferences that they don’t like drop down menus, then there shouldn’t be drop down menus. (And that’s just the tip of the iceberg of what is doable! See the posts on Website Morphing to get an idea.).

Web Analysts have a tremendous opportunity here over the next five years to really contribute to the solution.

Either that – or start applying for jobs at wine and pasta concerns.