Finding New Rooting in the Self
In the Jungian view, the second half of life involves a personal paradigm shift that redefines the self. Jung’s fifth task of aging, “finding new rooting in the self,” accounts for significant behavioral differences between consumers in the first half and second half of life that to date has escaped most marketers’ understanding.
In the first half of life, the self is defined by vocational, social and family development needs – in other words, by social actualization needs. Desires form around these core needs. We don’t choose our social actualization needs. We all have them in the first half of life. They are universal in the human condition. Free will choice comes into play in how we go about responding to our social actualization needs.
In the second half of life, the self is generally defined by pursuit of the ultimate meaning of one’s life, wholeness or completeness of one’s being and a deepened self-awareness and sense of connectedness to all things, animate and inanimate – in other words, by self-actualization needs.
Over the years, marketers got rather good at catering to people who are traveling through time on the social actualization track. That was when people in the first half of life, from adolescence on, where the consumer majority. However, a pervasive focus on youth markets left the marketing profession bereft of knowledge about marketing to people traveling along the self-actualization track. This is one reason why marketing productivity has fallen as second half markets emerged as the active consumer majority.
The character of our worldview – not necessarily what we believe, but how we connect to the world – is largely predisposed by whether we are on a social actualization track or a self-actualization track. The worldviews of people in the first half of life are generally rooted in the external world. In contrast, the worldviews of people in the second half of life tend to be rooted less in the physical or mundane and increasingly in the nonphysical or metaphysical (or spiritual).
Worldviews in the second half of life generally incline people to be more introspective (less dependent on external cues and clues to behavior); more individuated (less like their peers, hence more difficult to assign to niches that predict their behavior); and more autonomous (less easily influenced by external attempts to coax them into a course of action.)
Understanding how those three factors influence marketplace behavior in the second half of life is the first step toward jacking up marketing productivity in second half markets.
Marketers would do well to become better acquainted with the idea of people being driven by genetic predisposition to find new rooting. It is necessary to meet the developmental goal of self-actualization. This means that a typical 55-year-old is not simply a 25-year-older version of her 30-year-old self. In ways important to a marketer, she is a different person. She has found new rooting in her self, which has changed her marketplace behavior in significant ways.
Next: Determining the Meaning of One’s Life