Advertising to Boomers: The uncool pig in the python

The Boomer-Plus Generation™ … an even bigger pig 

When the American Baby Boom generation was first defined it was based solely on demography: people born 1946 through 1964. 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?

Hippie V3So the term Baby Boomer had nothing to do with love beads, tie-dye, hippies, sex, drugs and rock n’ roll. Nor did it have anything to do with disco, yuppie greed or the rise of the SUV.

These associations were all tacked on later to provide an enduring bonanza for sermonizers, social scientists and pundits.

But the socio-cultural Boomer generation actually began in 1940 when the depression-era slump in US birth rates finally turned around.

Birthrate with Boomer-Plus BCGExcept for a brief WWII dip, the birth rate grew steadily through the late 1950s when it declined until Boomers’ children became parents themselves.

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.

So, in socio-cultural terms, we need to think of the Boomer-Plus Generation™ (born 1940-1964) – an even bigger audience and, if such a thing were possible, even less cool than the traditional Boomer concept.

Resolving a Boomer paradox

The new Boomer-Plus Generation paradigm resolves a paradox.

A surprising number of iconic “Boomers” are not actually Boomers according to the traditional definition. The following were all born 1940-45 and therefore, theoretically at least, members of the Silent Generation, born 1927-1945.

  • The Monkees – yes, The Monkees were all born 1940-1945
  • The Beatles. Okay, they’re Brits, but social historians always include the Fab Four
  • 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

Jimi Hendrix, silent. Sure.

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. It shares 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

Keep calm and be uncool finalRecently a fifth and highly potent strand has emerged to make Boomer solidarity stronger than we ever imagined possible … we are no longer cool!

  • 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 18-49 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 it were a country it would be the 15th most populous on the planet. 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 Japan, Germany, or France, or the UK and way bigger than Canada and Australia combined.

I Robot V3Many mainstream brands ignore this huge opportunity because they think of Boomers as shuffling along like robots, buying based on ancient programming, probably Fortran for punched cards.

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.

Opportunity Boomer uncool wealth

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