The best way to predict the future is to invent it
Finding the source of quotable quotes can be a challenge. Younger generations probably imagine Boomers in cobwebbed attics, squinting through Ben Franklin bifocals as they search dusty old tomes and back issues of Reader’s Digest.
Instead, when tracking down “the best way to predict the future is to invent it” we chose QuoteInvestigator.com and, bingo, had half a dozen versions and as many attributions in a millisecond or two.
The search was triggered by the use of the phrase by Matt McFarland, Washington Post editor of innovations, in a fun column titled: In 1956, here’s how GM imagined the self-driving car would work. Matt describes a very cool video, produced for GM’s 1956 Motorama traveling auto show, in which a family is projected twenty years into the future to experience a self-driving 1976 car.
McFarland couldn’t resist a friendly dig at Detroit’s visionaries of sixty years ago – apparently, they liked tail-fins and failed to predict the fine details of Google’s still-unfinished autonomous car technology – but we cut him some slack.
You see, he’s a Millennial, and doesn’t understand that tiny 1956 Boomer tots found GM’s anticipated features – touch screen readouts, satellite maps and OnStar-like communications, with trip planning support – pretty darned exciting. Of course, we thought a Slinky toy was nifty too.
The video is a reminder that Boomers grew up fascinated with progress. Soon, it would be our turn to invent the future.
One of many who still do is Ray Kurzweil, Google’s Director of Engineering heading the machine intelligence team. If you follow cutting edge science/technology, his Accelerating Intelligence newsletter is a terrific resource.
The only problem with people like Ray is they don’t fit the mainstream brand marketer template that sees Americans outside the 18-49 demo as incapable of creative thought. He turned 67 a few months ago.
Other examples that defy Mad Men era views on creativity after fifty include:
- iPhone introduced by Steve Jobs, aged 52
- Tim Cook succeeded Jobs at Apple, aged 51
- Disneyland opened by Walt Disney, age 55
- Frank Gehry, architect of the …
- Chiat-Day Binocular Building, age 62
- Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao, age 68
- McDonald’s founded by Ray Kroc, age 52
- Fastest growing US entrepreneurial group, 55-64
That last statistic is a doozy; the 2015 Kauffman Index of Startup Activity reports the highest growth rate of entrepreneurial activity 1996-2014 was among Americans aged 55 to 64. Their share of new business creation rose by 74% during the period versus a 28% drop for 20-34 year olds.
You read it here first: inventing a new hot demographic, 50-75
Everyone along Madison Avenue assumes the over-fifty crowd is sickly, but loaded.
It’s partly true: the 50+ space dominates 119 of 123 consumer packaged goods categories (Nielsen), buys half of the auto industry’ new cars and spends two-thirds of America’s home improvement dollars. We rock.
However, except for health and wealth categories, the 18-49 demo is the Holy Grail of consumer targeting; some say 25-54, but it’s a distinction without a difference. According to Nielsen, only 5% of total advertising effort is directed to the 50+ market. Despite Kurzweil et al, older consumers are seen as too rigid to adopt new buying behaviors.
Dude, that’s soo last century. How about some truly predictive thinking? The next hot new demographic is 50-75.
There are 93 million of us, the Boomer-Plus Generation™, born 1940-1965. Owners of 70+% of America’s net personal assets, if we were a country it would be the world’s 15th most populous – bigger, more affluent than any European nation.
Disruptive adland wunderkinder inventing their own futures need look no further than the prosperous 50-75 demo. But they need both courage and Boomer gurus; they have to supply the former but, fortunately, gurus are just a click away via the technology we invented.