Sustainability: the buzzword for the new century
Sustainability is the 21st century automotive buzzword – code for electric mobility, the dream of futurists for over a hundred years.
Despite gasoline prices at a 40-year low adjusted for inflation, and some 250 million U.S. passenger vehicles running on fossil fuel, the auto industry is looking toward an electron based future.
In the short run, um, “encouraged” by government automakers offer a few battery-only electric (BEV) and plug-in hybrid (PHEV) models for PR value and to mollify pressure groups. In the long run, of course, the world will never run out of fossil fuel – it will, far in the future simply become prohibitively expensive to extract. Still, planning now for a clean EV destiny is the official stance.
EVs and hybrids trigger both pro and con rational and emotional reactions.
The main rational barriers are price, battery life, replacement cost, the environmental impact of disposal and, for pure EVs, range anxiety.
The jury is still out re disposal issues and price premiums can be steep, but Tesla and Chevy Bolt are softening range concerns. And, according to Automotive News, the longevity issue is subsiding. In Why hybrids should be the standard, reporter Richard Truett quotes impressive data on real-world hybrid battery life.
- 300,000 miles … Toyota Prius fleet / Michigan Green Cabs
- 500,000 miles … Ford Escape Hybrid fleet /New York City cabs
- 200,000+ miles … 2016 Chevy Volt / GM engineering team tests
Impressive, huh? The science is, as they say, proven.
However, resolving rational objections is only half the battle; emotions are more difficult to overcome. Way more difficult.
Real men don’t eat quiche or drive electric
There may be more diplomatic ways to state the emotional barriers, but, for many rejecters it boils down to some version of wimpy and preachy. Among PC-challenged consumers, it’s a version of real men don’t eat quiche or drive electric.
Sure, we know EVs can blow the doors off anything else at the stoplight and London’s Big Ben will soon be a lighthouse guiding trans-Arctic shipping on its way to a new deep-water port up in Hobbit Country.
But you know how consumers are.
Despite the space age allure of electricity, buyers strike critics as just a little too smug.
Drilling deeper into the id, electrics simply lack the bad-boy machismo of good ol’ gasoline – in other words, category imagery leans feminine. And as automakers know, women will buy guy vehicles if they make sense, but men – we simplistic knuckle-draggers – cringe at the thought of being seen in a chick car.
A chart from a proprietary in-house study makes the point.
Boomer women: the overlooked engine of consumer spending
Adequate sustainable energy resources may still be over the horizon, but when it comes to sustainable economic resource decision making the future is already here. And, like electric mobility, it leans feminine: it’s Boomer women.
Of the almost 110 million Americans over age fifty, around 58 million are women who, according to Pamela Lockard, CEO of marketing agency DMN3, control or share nearly 75% of U.S. personal wealth.
That tracks with our own estimates; Americans over fifty control 80% of U.S. household net assets, and only 11% of them are divorced or never-married men.
Countering the meme that Boomers are set-in-their-ways and tech-dunces, Ms. Lockard also provides 5 Facts About Boomer Women and E-commerce …
- She’s a “Digital Diva” … 30+ million women over 50 are online
- She’s an avid online shopper
- She outspends young adults online
- The Internet is the best way to reach her
- She’s social – 20-25% of all Facebook and Twitter users and 40% of Pinterest users
Despite this stack of evidence, Boomer women are rarely depicted as real people in advertising. More sexist than a 1960s account director emboldened by a three martini lunch, Madison Avenue routinely disses women outside the 18-49 demographic. And when they do appear, all too often, it’s as stereotypes.
The standard excuse for excluding women – and men – over fifty from mainstream brand targeting is that they are no longer adaptable or open to switching.
Let’s dispel this lazy thinking.
Before there was Google, Yahoo or Yelp there were moms, giving advice, guiding choices and molding brand experiences. You know, the hand that rocks the cradle is the hand that rules the world.
And since 80+% of American women have at least one child by age 45, that’s a lot of brand influencers rocking a lot of cradles.
Almost before they know it, those Boomer moms are grandparents. And on call again – back to giving advice, guiding choices and molding brand experiences. Rocking new cradles, too.
As Lori Bitter, principal of The Business of Aging and author of The Grandparent Economy: How Baby Boomers Are Bridging the Generation Gap, points out, becoming a grandparent actually boosts adaptability. Overnight, she says, there is “an openness to trying new products and services that they may have not considered in the past.”
A few brands are finally liberating their thinking, but are also realizing they don’t understand socio-cultural dynamics of the 50+ arena and are clumsy – to but it mildly – when it comes to authentic Boomer-speak. We can help but be warned, we don’t do baby-talk.