How do you market to orphan car geezers?

I was selling at a car show here in my home town of Dayton, Ohio, yesterday.

It wasn’t a good day. The weather made car owners hesitant about whether to show up or not. Many didn’t. As a result, the show was sparsely attended.

And there I was with a killer booth and lots of great orphan car t-shirts with a modern sensibility to them. I even had a sound system playing vintage orphan car radio commercials. I thought I had a can’t-miss formula for success. I sold one shirt.

Selling at Carillon Park 2011

Even though I was right near the action, very few people came over to look at the goods. One AMC guy came to my booth and growled that the prices for my tees were too high. He proclaimed that this was the time of year when his club sold all their tees for $5. My brother replied to this guy, “That’s not very profitable is it?” Not what AMC Guy wanted to hear. He grumbled about how my shirts looked old. My brother dryly told him that they were printed just yesterday. AMC Guy stomped off in a huff.

I’ve encountered this attitude a lot with older orphan car fans. They get calcified in their thinking. They relish in finding ways to exclude others like hot rodders, for instance. They treat car shows like complete narcissistic exercises instead of opportunities to educate the public. Regardless of who’s selling what (if anything), they grumble about price.

Somewhere along the way, they’ve turned into geezers.

Let me be clear about something. If you have a body that’s older than 50, you might not be a geezer. You might enjoy taking chances, trying new things, breaking routines, welcoming new people into your tribe, accepting people for who they are, and buying things. If those traits fit you, you’re not a geezer.

But if you’re older, and you put on your Hate Face more often than not, you’re a geezer. Rest assured, I WILL stay off your lawn.

So after a dismal selling experience yesterday, I asked myself over and over, “How can I reach these people?” I love their cars just like they do, but I don’t seem to fit in with them. (Yup, lots of soul searching and existential angst yesterday.)

Unfortunately, I don’t think I can change their minds. I think I need to find ways to move forward and reach young people by using new methods. I need to talk about the orphans that they know: Pontiac, Plymouth, Saturn, Oldsmobile, etc.

And I need to help create a new car show experience. To me, the car shows where people gather in parking lots and plaques are handed out like business cards are boring and wasted opportunities. Too much turning inward.

I haven’t settled this issue for myself yet. So I’ll turn to you. How do you deal with older orphan car owners? Can you show them a better way? Can you sell them anything, even ideas? What are your stories and your solutions? Should we just ignore them and focus on younger car fans? I’d really like to hear your stories before I become a geezer myself on this issue.

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