Bearing an eternal summer: marketers target people's mind set, not age

SMU Vice President and Marketing Professor Tom Barry talks about appealing to consumers' mind sets, not their age

A hot red Chevy pulls up to a house, and a graying man climbs out. He knocks on the door, only to be greeted by a suspicious younger man. A white-haired woman, the younger guy's mother, comes out smiling eagerly, and the couple rush to the car. For just a moment there's a glimpse of them as attractive, young adults. "Just drive," she urges her date.

The TV commercial illustrates the marketer's challenge in a country packed with maturing adults. Just because people look one way on the outside -- or their driver's license says they've passed the half-century mark -- that may not be how they see themselves.

Not to be trite, but "you're as old as you feel," according to Thomas E. Barry, vice president for executive affairs and professor of marketing at Southern Methodist University in Dallas.

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