A 15th Nation allegory: soaring Boomer tablet use triggers adman meltdown
One sunny summer afternoon, the chairman of the 15th Nation™ saved a visiting big city adman from being arrested in Boulder, Colorado.
He was on the losing end of a dustup that made Peter Griffin’s epic Family Guy Chicken Fight seem tame.
BTW, Family Guy’s hilarious stream of 1970s-80s cutaways makes the show a must-watch for Madison Avenue Millennials; unapologetic Boomer Peter delivers cultural history lessons that put pedantic academics in the shade.
The Mad Man was trying to grab an iPad Mini from a member of the Boomer-Plus Generation™, born 1940-1964. Clad in a sports shirt, shorts and Teva sandals, the buff Boulder Boomer sat on a bench browsing the latest Silicon Valley news at TechCrunch.
His dated orthodoxy claims that when Americans turn 50 they become increasingly unlikely to adopt new buying behaviors or switch brands. Outside the 25-54 demo they do not even merit targeting.
Clearly, using an iPad Mini did not fit the template. Even worse, the exec feared the Boomer might actually respond to a mobile ad. Such a heresy would shake the very foundation of the faith which served his career so well during the last century.
Hence the desperate attempt at confiscation.
Eye-opening Pew Research tablet use survey to the rescue
The ruckus erupted just a few feet from the 15th Nation chairman as he was reading a fascinating Pew Research Center report over tapas at a trendy Boulder bistro.
The January 2014 Pew survey reported that 42% of American adults owned a tablet, up from 34% in May 2013 and 18% in April 2012.
As might be expected, the highest levels of ownership were among those under 50 (18-29 @ 48% / 30-49 @ 52%.) But the real wow factor was the stunning revelation that 2012-2014 tablet ownership grew more rapidly among Boomers than among Millennials.
Boomers aged 50-64 increased their tablet ownership by over 160% while there was an astonishing 200+% jump for those 65 and older. In comparison, Millennial ownership was only up 140%.
As a result of Boomers surging into the market, by January, 2014, ownership among Americans aged 50-64 was higher than it had been among Millennials only eight months earlier (37% versus 34%.)
That’s right: Boomer adaptability is, well, booming – we buy millions of tablets. Brands that fail to directly compete our business sacrifice market share on the altar of conventional wisdom. But, hey, it’s only lost profit, ROI, bonuses and salary increases – we’re sure the stockholders and employees are cool with that.
Fortunately, the fit and gnarly Boomer decided not to press charges – after all, Boulder is a mellow town. So the 15th Nation chairman invited the chastened exec to lunch and explained how the enormous potential of the Boomer-Plus Generation was validated by the mind-opening Pew data.
Wow, it all began to make sense. The ad guy suddenly remembered a disruptive Millennial back at the agency who recently suggested targeting the huge Boomer market. He was already figuring ways to grab the credit for her Big Idea as his limo sped off to the airport.
Millennials “looking for a hipper vibe” are discovering Boomers
Something up in here Colorado seems to stretch the mind; new ideas pour in. And new thinking attracts even more new thinkers.
So, no surprise, the Denver-Boulder metro area was the top “Cool City” destination for Millennial in-migration according to a 2011 Brookings study.
As Millennial advertising beacon Adweek put it, they were “looking for a hipper vibe.”
Actually, hip Millennials coast to coast are on the move in other ways. A few are beginning to sense vast opportunities for mainstream brands in the 50+ space.
They are also learning that if the Boomer-Plus Generation were a country, it would be the world’s 15th most populous nation – one that controls two-thirds of America’s household net worth. This makes the 89 million strong 15th Nation a bigger market than Germany or France or the UK, and way bigger than Canada and Australia combined.
After decades of muddled thinking, the incredible reality of Boomer adaptability still eludes many of Madison Avenue’s traditionalists. But for Millennials who seek new and profitable ideas, advertising to Americans over 50 is about to become the hipper vibe.