Marketing Lesson from “The Little Old Lady in Pasadena”

The other day I pulled into a parking space at Trader Joe’s and noticed a white convertible Oldsmobile Cutlass in the space next to me.

It had two doors and looked to be from the late 1960s or early 1970s, making it a muscle car.

I’m not a car enthusiast but I couldn’t help but linger and take a look. Today’s cars all look alike so it’s fun to gaze at such a distinctive-looking car. The top was down and the red interior was very inviting.

Eventually I walked away and noticed an elderly woman, age 80 or so, leave the store and walk in the direction of the Cutlass.

I stopped and watched to see if she would get into the Cutlass.

As I waited I made up stories of how maybe she kept the car for nostalgia (she would have been in her 30s or early 40s when that car was new). Or maybe it belonged to her husband and she takes it for a spin sometimes in the summer, like the Little Old Lady in Pasadena.

I couldn’t help but think how cool it would be to watch her get into that muscle car, wearing a floral print dress and cardigan, and drive away.

But, alas, the black Toyota next to the Cutlass was her vehicle.

I shouldn’t have been surprised. I’ve written copy for the muscle car niche before and know full well that the target market for muscle cars is Baby Boomer men. One doesn’t normally see 80 year old women driving muscle cars.

I made a mental note to myself afterwards: “elderly ladies don’t drive muscle cars.” I told myself to remind myself of that the next time I got excited about a product idea before doing market research.

So what happened two weeks later?

I noticed a white Ford Mustang from the 1960s ahead of me and, lo and behold, there was an elderly lady driving it.

Woo hoo!

This reminded me of how no amount of research or marketing theory or advice from a gooroo can tell you for certain if a product will sell or if you’ve nailed the message to market match.

Your market will always keep you on your toes.

That’s why marketing almost always feels like a crapshoot. So you gotta just enjoy the ride. And in my case I’m wondering more and more if my ride should be a muscle car even though I’m not an old lady yet. 😉

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  • Ryan Healy

    I’m always surprised by how many 50+ women drive Mercedes SLKs, but will probably never come close to using the car’s potential. Maybe it’s a Colorado thing?

    Then again, maybe not. Check out this article I just found…


  • Anita Ashland

    I haven’t noticed the Mercedes trend here but then again it’s only those vintage muscle cars that tend to catch my eye.