IMB_ReadersDigestI'm not really sure when I started getting Reader's Digest delivered to my home, or even if I subscribed to it. I am a sucker for magazines and always have been. So chances are I subscribed thanks to some sort of Grouponesque deal that I found online. Call it a marketing weakness, but if I get a magazine in the mail I can't help opening it. I always flip through – and I look mainly at the advertising.

The problem when I did that looking through Reader's Digest is that I started to get depressed. I mean every other ad is some sort of pharmaceutical reminder of my own mortality. There are vein problems, bone problems, heart problems, memory problems and all kinds of other stuff that will go wrong. And just in case that wasn't depressing enough, there's a full two page spread on how I can buy "government issued gold coins" for only $175 each. I'll stick with my government issued quarters, I think. At least they're only 25 cents each.

Still flipping through the magazine got me thinking about what a missed opportunity this is. Don't older people travel and stay at hotels. Don't they buy DVD players and digital cameras? Aren't they interested in new ways to connect with their friends and family online? Of course they are. But the ads in Reader's Digest are an example of the stereotypical way that many brands approach their marketing.

They assume that people in the older generation are only concerned about health issues, so that is what the majority of the ads focus on. The same thing happens with almost any demographic, younger or older, male or female. When everyone targets their advertising based on a standard demographic like age, they all land in the same place.  It is the single biggest reason why most marketing looks like noise.

In contrast, remember when the Wii first came out? It was the only gaming console that focused on families and moms instead of hard core teenage gamers. They stood out. It is an easy example since they had a game changing product (pun intended!), but the lesson is an important one. There is a real value to thinking outside the demographic. Not to mention it would make Reader's Digest a lot less depressing.