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Happy birthday Gary Oldman* – you’re an alpha boomer!
In January I wrote a brief post about the shifting characteristics of generational cohorts (e.g. Gen X, Gen Y, Baby Boomers, etc.). I cited the oft-quoted statistic that roughly 10,000 Baby Boomers will reach retirement age every day for the next 19 years. That fact, combined with the very real differences between those on either end of the boomer demographic spectrum (those born between 1946 and 1964), has led to the coining of another demographic term: alpha boomers.
Marketers are realizing that if they hold strictly to the Nielsen cohort and market only to those 25-54, they are missing real opportunities. During a symposium on advertising and aging held at ZoomerMedia’s headquarters in Toronto on Monday night, Alan Wurtzel (president of research and media development at NBC Universal) dispelled myths about this lucrative – yet often overlooked – boomer subset. A MediaPost article reported that Wurtzel said: “Every 7 seconds someone in the U.S. turns 55, which immediately puts them outside the monetize-able Nielsen demo – basically forgotten but not gone. And yet they behave exactly as they did a year before – same purchasing decisions, same media choices – but they are no longer considered a part of the monetize-able advertising and television viewership ecosystem.”
So Wurtzel used the term alpha boomer for those younger boomers, like Mr. Oldman, who are turning 55. In fact, the term has gained some traction in describing the subset of Baby Boomers (born 1956-1964) that have long been seen as different than those born earlier (1946-1955). The need for this subset is increasingly evident as the behaviors and preferences of the alpha boomers become more distinct and more clearly understood. The MediaPost article even notes several myths about boomers in general that cannot and should not be applied to the alpha boomer.
So marketers, whether you adopt the new terminology or not, the question remains: are those over 55 years old falling off your radar screen? As Wurtzel summarized, “it’s not about ignoring younger consumers, it’s about including older ones.” You may want to take another look!
*Actor, (Commissioner Gordon in The Dark Knight Rises, Sirius Black in the Harry Potter series) born on March 21, 1958 in London, England.
Success in both the for-profit and not-for-profit sectors depends on how well we know our audience. We often turn to demographics as the foundation of any audience profile. While demographic variables include age, gender, ethnicity, income, occupation, geographic location, etc., we frequently talk about demographics in terms of specific generational cohorts (Baby Boomers, GenY, etc.).
A MediaPost article by Nancy Shonka Padberg reminded me that it sometimes helps to put a face with a name when thinking about those generational cohorts. Take a look at these famous faces as a reminder of how these cohorts continue to shift:
Gen Y – Justin Bieber: Age 18
While experts differ on Millennial birth dates, the cohort generally includes those born between 1980 and 1998 – that can mean anyone between age 15 to 33. With a population estimated at roughly 70-80 million, they are often described as the most educated, diverse, tech-savvy generation ever. So if you thought that the cohort is too young for you to be concerned about…think again!
Gen X – Cameron Diaz: Age 40
Generation X includes those born between 1964 and 1980 (that’s the 33 to 49 age bracket). This cohort is often described as independent, ambitious and family-centric. A Census Bureau study released last summer found that between 2005 and 2010, Gen X households saw the biggest percent decline in median household net worth.
Baby Boomer – Brad Pitt: Age 49
This is the one that shakes up many younger marketers, especially with so many researchers talking about the statistic that roughly 10,000 Baby Boomers will reach retirement age every day for the next 19 years. Take a good look at Brad. While he is among the younger half of the Baby Boomer generation, his entire cohort holds 70% of wealth in the United States and stand to inherit $15 trillion in the next 20 years. A report by Nielsen in collaboration with BoomAgers, dubbed Baby Boomers the “Most Valuable Generation” and cautions marketers not to ignore them.
Silent Generation – Dustin Hoffman: Age 75
The Silent Generation is the label for those born between 1925–1945 notably during the Great Depression and World War II – that’s 68 to 88 years old. This cohort has generally experienced vast cultural shifts in their lifetime and, as a result, value traditional morals, safety and security as well as conformity, commitment and consistency. They are not, however, to be stereotyped as the frail and lonely; and marketers should understand the difference between chronological and cognitive age.
A Pew Research Center Social & Demographic Trends survey showed that many in this cohort feel younger than their actual age — in many cases much younger. Most are retired from the workforce, but still shape the workplace and their communities by playing active roles on corporate and civic boards. Thanks to advances in health and longevity, the unique communication preferences of this cohort must remain on most marketer’s radar screen.
Developing a demographic and psychographic profile of your target is a crucial step in building a marketing or communication plan. Remember, your community’s demographics can shift significantly in as little as two years. If you thought you knew your market demographics, take another look. Take the time to understand the values and life stage of your target market.
A few weeks back, AdAge Stat featured a great article entitled “The Redistribution of Wealth? It Already Happened.” The authors, Matt Carmichael and Peter Francese talk about the “profound implications for those of us who want to sell products to the diminishing group who have a pile of disposable income”. It is worth a read.
Now Dante Chinni, director of Patchwork Nation, has written a great opinion piece in the New York Times that asks the question “Why do Americans seem unperturbed about the growing gap between the rich and the poor?” You can read it here and share your own comments.
Then take a look at the map that appeared in The Atlantic a few weeks ago entitled “The Twelve States”. It shows pretty clearly how median family incomes have shifted in the past 30 years.
The topic is certainly gaining attention politically…but how about in marketing circles? Are we paying attention to the trendline? What do you think?
Welcome to the first business day of the new year. Over the past few weeks any number of sources have been doing their best to help us prepare for 2011 with their predictions for the upcoming year:
Mashable offers up its roundup of predictions for the Web in 2011 here.
Robert Reich, former Secretary of Labor and administrator of Social Security. offers his predictions about the US economy here.
CNBC’s Mary Thompson offers her predictions for the banking sector in this video.
Forbes offers a few thoughts on individual philanthropy in 2011 in this article.
In addition to predictions, we’ve also had the promise of more data from the 2010 U.S. Census to help us prepare for 2011 and beyond. In December the Bureau released the population count of 308,745,538 along with apportionment totals for the 435 seats in the House of Representatives. But that is only the tip of the iceberg. The really in depth information, the summary files for the 2010 Census data, will be released “on a flow basis” from April 2011 through September 2013.
In other words, only time will give us a clearer picture of the profile of our nation… and only time will reveal the relative accuracy of these predictions.
For now, the one important insight I carry into the new year is that the shifts and changes within our personal and professional lives will continue to be fast-paced and far-reaching. How we chose to respond to those shifts and changes will be the greatest factor in determining whether or not this year turns out well.
Whatever the new year holds, I’ll do my best to keep exploring the horizon with you. Here’s to a happy, healthy and prosperous 2011.