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Mark Gardiner is the CEO of RevolutionaryOldIdea.com, an advertising consultancy that helps brands and their ad agencies create messages that resonate with mature consumers.
As the ad industry’s passionate and outspoken thought leader on the topic of ageism, Mark helps brands and their agencies understand the size of the mature market ― over $3,000,000,000.000 in the U.S. alone (no, that’s not a typo, there are really 12 zeroes in that number!)
Perhaps more important, he helps brands and agencies understand the perils of stereotyping mature consumers. There are over 75 million baby boomers in the U.S., yet most ad agencies ― when they consider mature consumers at all ― address them as a single demographic. That’s ridiculous but understandable, because ageism is the last acceptable prejudice in the ad industry.
“Next time you go to a creative presentation at your ad agency, look at their side of the table,” says Gardiner. “Virtually no one with a hands-on creative role is over 40, and most are under 30.” On the client side, marketing departments skew young, too.
“As far as I know, I’m the only ‘baby boomer whisperer’ in the U.S.. But the reason I fight the ad industry’s ageism is not because it’s morally wrong,” he says. “I fight ageism because it’s stupid. Brands routinely ignore mature consumers or, worse, alienate them.” That means most brands ― including yours ― are leaving money on the table... a lot of money, because baby boomers’ combined wealth is $30 trillion.
As the author of Build a Brand Like Trader Joe’s, Mark Gardiner is also a renowned expert on the way interactions with front line staff shape the customer experience and, ultimately, define your brand.
“You can build a great product or curate a fantastic selection in your retail store. You can create a terrific brand story, and run a fabulous ad campaign that brings in scads of new customers. But if the experience they have in the store turns them off, all your efforts are wasted,” he says. “At the end of the day, your front line staff has it in their power to devalue your brand, so you might as well empower them to add value, too.”
He coined the term ‘Gardiner’s Paradox’, which is a Peter Principle for the 21st C. Mark’s insight is that every business struggles with one or two fundamental problems. The paradox comes when businesses promote the employees most capable of working around those problems ― even though those are the people least motivated to actually solve them. The people most likely to transform your business are the ones who are most frustrated by your current situation; they’re probably not your most effective employees.
For more than a decade, Mark Gardiner led a double life as an ad agency Creative Director on weekdays, and a professional motorcycle racer on weekends. In 2002, he quit his ad agency job to pursue his childhood dream ― he moved to the Isle of Man and raced in the world’s oldest, most famous (and dangerous!) motorcycle race.
Mark Gardiner is the star of the documentary film, One Man’s Island. His memoir, Riding Man, is currently in development as a feature film by Escape Artists Entertainment. Antoine Fuqua will direct the screenplay by Todd Komarnicki.
Sometimes Mark’s topic is serious ― like the millions of dollars brands lose by misunderstanding mature consumers, or the way great cultural brands are built at the last touch-point of the customer experience.
Sometimes his topic is inspiring ― as in Riding Man, when Mark risked everything in the pursuit of a dream. No matter what, Mark’s always a funny, natural storyteller with a knack for making everyone in the audience think he’s talking just to them.