MILLS ON ... DEMOGRAPHICS

It’s a funny old world, isn’t it? Last week the Pru’s virtual bank, Egg, was widely perceived by the national press to have made a bit of balls-up when it announced it had pulled in pounds 5 billion in deposits in just six months since launch - a target it said it had expected to hit in three years.

It’s a funny old world, isn’t it? Last week the Pru’s virtual bank,

Egg, was widely perceived by the national press to have made a bit of

balls-up when it announced it had pulled in pounds 5 billion in deposits

in just six months since launch - a target it said it had expected to

hit in three years.



This follows on from the balls-up at launch when Egg was unable to keep

up with demand and had to turn savers away. Loans, meanwhile, are not

running quite so fast.



Since, in banking, a deposit is a liability while a loan is an asset -

and banks therefore only make money when they lend it out - the press

has a point. But only just.



The really interesting point about the current state of Egg - and the

reason why deposits have grown so fast - is that the appeal to older

customers (ie the ones with the dosh to put away) has been greater than

anyone anticipated.



Mike Harris, chief executive of Egg, even admitted he was ’shocked’ by

this. Egg won’t offer a precise age breakdown of its depositor base, but

it did say that it had more customers in the 45-65 age range than in the

25-35 sector.



Now let’s just pause here to let this register. Egg, you will recall,

launched in October with an edgy, vox-poppy campaign through HHCL. Apart

from Zoe Ball and Linford Christie, the ads featured real-life customers

who were, without exception, in their 20s and 30s. Thus everything about

the launch, from the trendy name (not forgetting the E as in e-commerce,

internet banking etc) told us this was a product aimed at the youth

market - and therefore, it seemed, an eminently sensible thing for a

venerable but fuddy-duddy institution like the Pru to do.



And what do we have now? In short, the Pru has, in Egg, a genuinely

mass-market brand on its hands - somewhat, one suspects, to its

surprise.



To my mind, Egg offers three interesting lessons for both clients and

agencies. The first concerns the fact that, in this age of segmentation

and media fragmentation, it’s hugely expensive and time-consuming, if

not impossible, to build cross-demographic brands with mass appeal. As

Egg shows, that is palpable nonsense.



The second is the obsession - and clients are just as guilty as agencies

- with targeting youth. This has its basis in two prejudices: one, that

you can only be cool and trendy if you have a youthful customer base

(hence the predeliction for producing ’yoof’ ads); and two, that once

consumers get past a certain age, their brand preferences are impossible

to shift, tied down as they are by habit and inertia. Again, Egg proves

both those sacred cows wrong.



Last, the success of Egg will, I hope, force marketers to reassess their

view that new-tech products like virtual banking, e-commerce or anything

internet-related are the preserve of the young.



In fact, research by Ziff-Davis and Yahoo! demonstrates that the ’silver

surfers’ (the 20 per cent of web users who are over 45) are a

fast-growing sector.



And as Egg shows, they’re not only open to ideas, but they’re also savvy

and rich.