BIF and Joseph Coughlin by Walt Mossberg

Joseph Coughlin Director, Age Lab, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Coughlin is founder and Director of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology AgeLab – the first multi-disciplinary research program sponsored by government and business to understand the behavior of the 45+ population as decision-makers, consumers, patients, caregivers, advisors and technology users.

  • WM: you run the age lab.  it’s not trying to solve the process of aging, but is about how society deals with getting older.  I buy things, (new cars, the iphone) so what is wrong with the ad industry that they do target me?
  • JC: aging is quite new,,we have this pop of relatively healthy and wealthy wanting something new and different.  for 100s of years, business, old means poor, sick, old and frail so by 35 off their scale
  • WM: so what demo do the ad goes after
  • JC: 18 to 25, then 35.  the belief is that if I can capture you then I have you for life.  The older will continue to be there  and there is more of us than the young.  business has to do new things
  • WM I’m a research free zone, otherwise known as a journalist!  I think they, the ad people,  are not changing.   It is not a shock that the baby boomers are active, living longer, got money.  Surely they know this.  but there is no disruption to the business.
  • JC: it is not about a new idea, it is knowing that the world has changed around you.  Most do not, they have been here long enough, they do not think they need to change.  most orgs do not pay attention to things that are happening. People get paid to do what they have done, innovation happens next you.  most people do not want to admit they are aging, they want to ignore it.  companies do not build old products
  • WM:  want them to adverstise intelligently to me
  • JC: you want them to advertise to you.  We are looking at aging driving personalisation, style, wealth, etc.  as a result, this is not what companies are used to, a customer that want things from them, when they want to, and are willing to shop around.   the age lab is the only place looking at business, behaviours and technology together.  Baby boomers, are in prime chronic disease time.  Have to manage diet etc.  We developed with P&G a personal tool to allow you to monitor salt etc in prudcts in stores.  In Germany , it may go on your cell phone, but at the moment on your shopping cart in.  EU is older then us, so they are there.  Aging is one of the greatest driver of innovation
  • WM: more examples?
  • JC: countries will reduce in population, some people here are looking at the nursing home, so how can we actually change the house, add a health station, make it as a platform for living.
  • WM: how about a 1 floor house?
  • JC: longevity 1.0 was luck.  2.0 was water, tech and vaccinations,  3.0 is longest – personal responsibility, where you live, save, etc, get 30 years of productive living.  that is the greatest driver of innovation around the world.  on 40 years you will have a workforce shortage in China,
  • WM: so what is the message the companies are getting this?
  • JC: you are seeing it by stealth.  Bud use their distribution network.  People are looking to live longer well, the expectations to live well is the difference.  It’s all about women, they live longer, they make the decisions, they make most the care choices,   Now we have an population that have seen a lot of things and have a higher bench mark to make it exciting.  They have the money to pay things. a premium
  • WM: I was reading in the NYT, the 18-35 demo has changed over the last 20 years, they start making money later.  Does that impact the spending power?
  • JC: if life has got 30-40 years longer, so we have prolonged adolescence.  The fact that you have a degree you are educated for life is wrong.  so where do you continue to work, you will have 2-3 careers, how do you go back to school.   The average 50 yo want to stop working…wnat to stop doing what they are working, they still want to do things.  so how do you want to live tomorrow, it’s all about aging

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