Anyone that watches television has seen an ad at least a thousand times that goes something like this…

Cute kid with serious face sits in an outdoor setting, looks directly into the camera and (basically) says: “Mom…dad…if you really loved me, you’d buy OnStar.”

My brain then immediately pictures Jim Belushi telling his kids that he doesn’t love them as he piles them all into an old beat-up station-wagon that clearly does NOT have OnStar.

My point is that while this type of marketing likely works really well on some soccer moms, I always thought that the whole OnStar idea was kind of lame. Yes, it’s nice that if you have a bad enough accident that you get knocked unconscious, OnStar will be there to save you, the reality is that anyone with a cell phone can pretty much get the same type of service just by making a phone call to a friend or the authorities.

But then I talked to my 75-year old grandmother this past weekend. Grandma just bought a Saturn Ion, the first new car that she’s ever owned. It comes equipped with OnStar and includes a year of free service. I asked her about it expecting her to make some sarcastic comment (Grandma’s from the hills of West Virginia and still has the attitude that goes with that) she surprised me when she said “oh, I’m definitely going to pay for it as soon as the trial runs out.”

When I asked her why, she said that it wasn’t that expensive and it would make her feel a lot better if she’s out driving by herself. See, grandma has no interest in dealing with a cell phone. She thinks they’re silly and she wouldn’t use it enough to justify the cost. That said she understands how handy they can be in a pinch. For her, a service like OnStar gives her all the benefits of a car phone, but without the hassle. All she’ll have to do is push a little button if she needs help.

Granted, I don’t read AARP’s magazine, but as far as I know GM isn’t doing any type of OnStar advertising targeted at the senior crowd. I got to thinking after having that conversation and I wondered if GM might be missing the boat. Soccer moms might seem like the most logical audience when it comes to a service like this, but with a cell phone in every mom’s purse, is it the easiest sell? Would a campaign marketed at seniors, who are often able to afford things like cell phones but rarely the willingness to learn how to use them, be a better idea?

Apparently I’m not the only one wondering about this. Business Week had an article this week about the growing power of the Boomer Generation and how they are shifting advertisers ideas of the ideal target market. While the 18-49 crowd has long served as the key demographic for agencies, attitudes are starting to change. There are now 77 million boomers out there and they have more than $1 trillion in spending power. Traditional ideas of who is worth targeting are being tossed out the window.

That’s an important point to digest for online marketers.

One of the most important ideas behind search engine marketing is understanding who your audience is and how they search. After all, in a direct response medium like the web, you have to be able to get your offer in front of the right buyer at the right point in time. If you aren’t continually reevaluating the types of phrases and offerings that you are putting forth in your search marketing campaigns, you could be missing a potentially lucrative audience segment.

No matter what business you run, or what type of products you sell, there’s always the chance that there’s some niche market out there that you (and your competitors) have failed to capture. This is why testing new messages is an essential part of any online marketing campaign. Even if you don’t plan to run long-term pay-per-click advertising campaigns as part of your search marketing strategy, run short-term ones now and then to test new messages. Offer up your product in a different way and see what the results are. The idea may flop, but it will only have cost you a few days or week’s worth of clicks. On the other hand, the ads may perform beyond your wildest dreams, giving you the knowledge to take your site in a whole new direction.

Discuss this article in the Small Business Ideas forum.
October 17, 2005

Jennifer Laycock is the Editor of Search Engine Guide, the Social Media Faculty Chair for MarketMotive and offers small business social media strategy & consulting. Jennifer enjoys the challenge of finding unique and creative ways to connect with consumers without spending a fortune in marketing dollars. Though she now prefers to work with small businesses, Jennifer’s clients have included companies like Verizon, American Greetings and Highlights for Children.

Search Engine Guide > Jennifer Laycock > Rethinking Who You Market To