The Boomer generation: dude, it’s more than just demographics
When the American Baby Boom generation was first defined it was based solely on demography: people born 1946 through 1964.
At the time, policy makers wanted to assess the economic impact of this huge group in the years ahead. The pig in the python as one demographer colorfully described the population bulge of Boomers moving through life’s successive stages. Who says statisticians don’t have a sense of humor?
So the term Baby Boomer had nothing to do with love beads, tie-dye, hippies, anti-war protests, sex, drugs and rock n’ roll. Nor did it have anything to do with disco, yuppie greed or the rise – and fall – of the SUV.
These associations were all tacked on later to provide an enduring bonanza for sermonizers, social scientists and pundits.
The social Boomer generation actually began in 1940 when the depression-era slump in US birth rates finally turned around.
Although the conventional Boomer definition excludes those born 1940-1945, their cultural, social and life experiences do not. Children born in the early 1940s grew up in the same dynamic world as their slightly younger siblings.
Resolving a Boomer paradox
The new Boomer-Plus Generation™ paradigm, born 1940-1964, resolves a paradox.
Traditionalists arbitrarily shove Boomer culture mega-icons born 1940-45 into the Silent Generation, generally defined as born 1925-1945.
According to this orthodoxy, hit TV show Happy Days (1974-1984) actors Tom Bosley (super-square dad, Mr. Cunningham) and Henry Winkler (super-cool Fonzie) are both “silents.”
Supposedly, Bosley, who was born in 1927, grew up in the Great Depression and served in the U.S. Navy in WWII, shared the same life-shaping events as Winkler, who was born in late 1945, months after the war ended.
Whoa! Wrongamundo, Mr. C.
Other “silent” Boomer greats born 1940-1945 include …
- The Monkees – yes, The Monkees were all born 1940-1945
- Aretha Franklin … Bob Dylan … Bob Seger … Carole King … Simon & Garfunkel
- Chevy Chase … Diana Ross … Dionne Warwick … Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young
- Gladys Knight … Goldie “Laugh-In” Hawn … Barry White … Harrison “Han Solo” Ford
- Jerry “Grateful Dead” Garcia … Jimi Hendrix … Jim “The Doors” Morrison
And all the Beatles.
Okay, so they’re Brits, but hardly a Boomer historian fails to mention the Fab Four.
Gen X to join Boomers in 2015: united after age 50 by un-coolness
Despite some differences between leading and trailing edge members, Boomer-Plus is a true social generation. We share four unique, unifying strands of cultural DNA:
- Adaptability … embracing change and progress through electronic technology
- Fear of War … the threat of war on home soil until the Soviet bloc crumbled
- The Golden Era of Television … Boomers and TV grew up together
- The Peter Pan Syndrome … A lifelong preoccupation with youthfulness
- Backlash after age 50 … Americans become un-cool to many mainstream brand marketers as we turn 50. According to adworld’s conformists, our loyalties and buying decisions become fixed, and our minds are increasingly closed to new ideas. After leaving the 25-54 demo we are dumped faster than an old Lost In Space VHS collection, and disappear from their advertising.
Schadenfreude alert: starting in 2015 the oldest Gen Xers will join the Boomer-Plus Generation as they too turn 50. Welcome, kiddies. Stuff happens.
A bigger market than Germany ignored by robotic thinkers
It’s not as if the Boomer-Plus Generation is a niche market.
If we were a country it would be the 15th most populous on the planet – the 15th Nation™. There are 89 million of us, and we own over two-thirds of America’s household net worth. That means a bigger, more affluent market than Germany, or France, or the UK and way bigger than Canada and Australia combined.
The real robots are the last-century thinkers who just can’t seem to grasp the new reality: Boomers are America’s most adaptable generation.
We invented the modern world and adapted all our lives – we’re pretty darned good at it.
Recently, however, a few savvy Millennials have begun to re-examine the theory that Americans over 50 are past adopting new ideas or switching brands.
They finding that, cool or not, in a bigger consumer market than any European country a little disruptive thinking can create major gains in profits and market share.