Not their target demographic

There comes a point in your thirties where you start answering survey questions, and you realize that you are (more or less) telling marketers to ignore your feedback. When you have to pick the “34 – 45” option instead of the “25 – 33” option… your preferences and ideas have just become a whole lot less interesting.

One of the great moments in one of the great video games of all time

I was having dinner with a friend who helps create computer games the other day. This is a guy who actually has some decision making ability about which video games get made. I was telling him what computer games I loved, and what I desperately wished his company would make. And over the lobster mac and cheese at Lucky’s he looked at me and said, “Yeah, those were great games. But you’re just not our target demographic. To be successful, a game has to be a hit with 15 – 25 year old males. We can’t afford to make games they don’t like.” So not only am I not a video game designer’s target demographic, I never was one. If they made a game (I’m thinking of YOU “Black and White”) that I loved… well it was practically by accident. Later versions of games I loved almost always emphasized my less favorite parts of the game and entirely scrapped the cheerful world building I loved.

That got me thinking about how often I am not the target demographic. The truth is that in most media, I’m not the target demographic. I don’t like violence. Right there, I’ve made myself not the target demographic for 80% of movies. I don’t like meanness. That rules out all the remainder but a handful of Pixar films. Although there are definitely movies I could like, I’m not the target demographic. The movies I would enjoy are rarely being made. And if they are, I’ve already tuned out and don’t watch them.

They don’t want to impress me

Or when you’re standing on the street, and a guy drives by who is *so selling his image*. He’s in a low-riding car with a custom exhaust and a sound system that can deafen you at 20 feet. He’s got tinted windows (rolled down) and is slouching in a seat, not wearing a seatbelt and looking at the world with a jaded eye. My thirty-four year old Protestant-white self clucks and tongue and thinks, “Who are you impressing? You’re not impressing me!” Then I remember: I’m not his target demographic.

I used to work in the same building as Cambridge College

I’m not the target demographic for most bus ads (I already have a degree, thanks.) I’m not the target demographic of our local Red Sox radio station, which seems to find it impossible to avoid misogyny with even ONE of its talk show hosts. I’m not the target demographic for the salons that dot my town offering increasingly esoteric forms of hair removal and supplementation. I’m not who they’re talking to, or who they’re trying to reach.

It can almost be depressing sometimes. So few things – or people – are really designed to please and entice me. How can you be important if no one is even trying to sell you something?

When I get it that mood (usually after a trip to Gamestop trying to find something I want to play – where I am also NOT THE TARGET DEMOGRAPHIC) I remind myself of the delightful flip side.

They’re not MY target demographic, either.

These handsome guys are MY target demographic!

That guy in the car? He doesn’t impress me, but I don’t feel the need to impress him either. No platform shoes or tight dresses for me, thanks! That judgmental person I run into who has something bad to say about everyone? They’re not my target demographic. Those beauty magazines that tell me that I need an expensive and time consuming regime in order to be acceptable? I’m not their target demographic either. My husband loves me the way I am. I look better than I “have” to in order to be promotable at work. My church family will not look down on me if I wear last season’s styles. My neighbors will invite me over after bedtime to hang out even if I have a mis-allocation of hair, according to the latest trends.

So although it can be sad that so little is made to suit me, I am more than compensated by my liberation from having to impress those elements of society that are most oppressive!

Who is your target demographic? And which group do you wish would pander just a little more to what you want?

People I never thought I’d be

I spent the first part of this week in Tampa for work. I had not yet unpacked my suitcase from the LAST business trip I was on (Minnesota) before I had to pack for this one. It was my third business trip in about 8 weeks. I felt – as I went through the well practiced shoes-laptop-liquids process – like a jaded road warrior.

Tampa did have some advantages over Minnesota
Tampa did have some advantages over Minnesota

I remember my first few times flying – Boston to Seattle in college – when I stared horrified a the people blowing off the whole “in case of emergency, your seat cushion may be used as a flotation device” speech. Didn’t these people care about their lives? I pitied them their calcified ways – eyes on the Harvard Business Review as this remarkable patchwork of humanity is exposed below them. Do they not know that their flight represents the wildest fantasy – never to be obtained – of generations of humanity? How can they so casually close the window and catnap?

Yeah. During the safety notification, I check to see which is my nearest exit. I wonder if there is anyone, anywhere who doesn’t know how to buckle their seatbelt. Then I open Harvard Business Review (ok, actually it’s usually a fashion magazine for a Technically Pretty fashion magazine review). I still like the window seat, and I still try to spot my house/college/guess-the-big-city as I fly, but the magic is indeed gone.

The training I took was on Pragmatic Marketing. Why I needed this training was a story for another day. It was excellent training – well delivered, thought-provoking, very educational. But there were a lot of identity-crisis moments for me in it. Here was I: liberal arts major, lover of medieval literature, classical musician, backpacker, mother, role-playing-gamer-who-wishes-she-could-talk-her-gaming-group-into-dungeons-and-dragons, baseball-lover, programmer, technical architect… in a marketing class. The word marchitecture was extensively and non-ironically used.

I learned a lot of extremely interesting things I had never previously imagined knowing, but wondered to find myself in such a place under such circumstances.

I am – at this moment – sitting at Chuck E Cheese. I know – I’m breaking form. Usually my now-weekly posts are written at the YMCA during basketball practice. But today Grey and Lincoln have a video game playdate, which would not be nearly as fun if the “little brother” was present. So I told the little brother type person to name his entertainment, and for two hours it would be his. He picked the rathole.

I’m lurking on a local wifi network (seriously, Chuck E, how can you not have wifi). I have a GREAT idea for a new type of business… imagine a big central play area for kids from 3 – 10 years of age. A big, bouncy-housed arcade. Imagine seating around the sides – maybe raised – with great visibility of the play areas. Maybe there would even be closed circuit cameras covering the blind spots. Then imagine this seating around the edge was a mix of 4 – 6 person tables and one to two person locations. There would be a light appetizers and drink service to the grownup section. There would be great wifi, tons of power, comfortable seats, lower noise (low enough that a phone call would be plausible) and someone at the door (like they have at Chuck E’s) to make sure there are no small person escapees.

Work-from-home parents and folks like me would come with our laptops, offer our kids some great exercise/fun (maybe with their friends). We could either catch up on our work/personal digital lives, or come with our friends (who are increasingly the parents of our children’s friends) and catch up on the latest together. It would be awesome. Maybe there could be a per hour (or per day) fee, or you could sign up for a monthly membership. Maybe they’d even mix in some enrichment activities, like sports/activities.

They’d rake it in, I tell you.

I find the process of being no longer young continues to surprise me on a regular basis. My latest “get off my lawn!” moment happened last weekend. I was making some pies. Now, you must understand that I know how to make pie. I was running some quick calculations in my head, and I figure I’ve made between 100 – 120 pies in my lifetime. Every single one of those pies was made with the same recipe, inherited from my grandmother, which is hard to make but deliciously flaky.

Then, a few years ago, Crisco changed its recipe in response to the backlash against transfats. As far as I can tell, Crisco was all trans fats. This pie crust recipe that my grandmother passed down to me is entirely made of Crisco. It took me a while to eat through the old pie starter and Crisco I had. But then I started having trouble. I blamed it on all sorts of things: not enough flour on the pastry crust, too much shortening in the pie starter, not cold enough, too much water, not enough water. Finally though, very tired on a Friday night and working on pie 2 of 6, I finally realized that it just. Wasn’t. Working. For the first time ever, I actually got a pie crust so bad I couldn’t make it work and I had to throw it out. (That was a pie crust that ACTUALLY didn’t have enough water.) Dawning realization hit: it wasn’t me. I wasn’t making a mistake. It was the pie crust. It was unworkable. Crisco ruined my recipe.

Depressed, I turned to America’s Test Kitchen and made a shortening-and-butter crust that came out much, much better. But I had that “Why do they go “improving” perfectly good things and ruining the way I’ve always done them?” I mean, in this case I understood. Transfats = bad for health. But a tie that went back to the early 20th century, and my bright-eyed great-grandmother, was just severed. I mourn its loss. As I move from youth to middle age, I better see the costs – not just the benefits – of the inexorable march of progress. I know how things once were (through the rosy tinted spectacles of youth, of course) and lament their loss. My sons will never learn to roll a pie crust using Grandma Finley’s recipe (unless some enterprising entrepreneur brings back the classic formulation – you never know.)

My grandma’s caramel corn recipe requires corn syrup and brown sugar. Perhaps I’d better make it while I can!