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Multiples of Twelve

Defining the key target-ages of the American male as it applies to our business.


I was recently using two of my employees to assist me with the construction of a shed in my backyard. One of my dogs was lying on the ground, watching with a certain amount of disinterest, when a snowball came from high above and hit her on the back. She jumped up with a cool showing of aggravation, then walked away. I looked to my rear deck two-stories above and yelled to my son who was leaning over the railing and laughing, "Hey! Are you trying to hit that dog in the back with a snowball?" I asked. "No" he replied, "I was aiming for her head!" He laughed again and ran away.

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I thought of following him and explaining why it was a bad idea to throw snowballs at people (or dogs) that weren’t expecting it, when suddenly I was struck by a clear memory. The memory was of a few hours earlier in the day when I had lobbed a well-packed snowball across the parking lot and planted it nicely into the back of my general manager’s head. One of those great shots that rains snow down beneath the guy’s collar and leaves you feeling all good about yourself. I guess I’m not the one to be preaching about snowball safety.


I tell you these things, so that I can tell you this: I’ve finally figured us out. By us, I mean guys — the American male — the product of so much misunderstanding and controversy from American women. You see, all of this time when women have looked at us and faulted us and claimed that we act like children, basically we’ve looked back at them confused, as though we didn’t understand their concern. And in truth, we didn’t. Until now, that is.

Women tend to mature chronologically after birth. The older they get, the better they become at all sorts of things. This is the way that you might expect things to happen naturally. Age + Experience = Success. However, this is not the case for men. You see, we operate on what I call a "12-year maturity cycle." We grow slower in the beginning, but then our hormones kick in, and we sprout into huge muscular beings. That begins roughly at age 12. Also, when those hormones kick in, we tend to regress emotionally and revert back to the actions of a one-year-old. I think this is mainly because we become interested in girls. The fact is that age 12 is as mature as we get.


Think about your life for a moment (if you’re a man … women, try to think about most guys you know). We begin playing with toys and not taking care of ourselves throughout the first several years. We continue to grow and mature, make decent grades and seem to be quite on-track … until the hormone engagement at age 12. Then, all of a sudden, we start playing pranks, we become interested in blowing things up, shooting things, riding things and going fast.

By the time we reach our senior year of high school, we’ve again matured back to that pre-12 level of commitment, just enough to apply ourselves to find a good college. We get through that with some partying, but gain enough sensibility to graduate and then, at age 24 precisely, we fall back to buying a fast motorcycle and chasing girls again! We appear to settle down, but perhaps we play hard with our kids as they grow, and we develop a connection with them that our wives don’t understand (this is because we’re actually the same age psychologically as our kids).


This lasts until we reach age 36, at which time we find ourselves again digressing as our kids continue to mature. Suddenly, we don’t understand them anymore. Many of us choose to fill this void with a new big-screen for football, a new sporty sedan or a new motorcycle. Then, after the fourth-12 (age 48), we freak out all over again and go into the notorious mid-life crisis, in which we invest in fast cars, more motorcycles and other big toys.

Why is all of this important? Because, it defines the key target-ages of the American male as it applies to our business! If you look at the ages of customers who drag mom and dad into the dealership for that first bike, a good number of them are buying 50s. They may stay with it, but many don’t. However, at age 12 to 13, many return with pimply-faces and start falling in love with the new CRF or TT-R or whatever. Most then trail off somewhere in the late-teens, but at 24 they return en masse to purchase a crotch rocket; and again after 36 for the cool cruisers. At 48 they start thinking that a sport-touring bike is cool, and when they arrive back at age 60, the GoldWing is suddenly the hottest thing out there and happens to fit the new, empty-nester budget. At 72, those still able are interested in trikes. 84? 96? 108? Well, let’s not get carried away.


Anyway, you can find ways to argue this philosophy on many levels, but the truth is, when you break it down … it works. Targeting these specific demographics in your next direct mail piece or radio ad might net you a decent return. You may well find that focusing on guys just regressing from a 12-year maturity cycle will earn you big successes in your next promotion.

Or then again, it might be a huge waste of money. What would I know, I’ve recently regressed back to infancy myself.

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