Advertising To Boomers: Lessons From The Great American Desert

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The beaver on the mountainside

Lomgs Peak BeaverJames Michener’s historical novel Centennial describes how Native Americans imagined a giant beaver climbing the mountain now called Long’s Peak (14,259 ft).

That’s still how it looks from 50 miles away in the thriving little Colorado cities of Longmont and Greeley, where prairie travelers run out of flat land and look up to the sky for a way westward.

Le CarThe mountain is named for Major Stephen Long, dispatched in 1820 to explore the Louisiana Purchase (1803), America’s best trade deal with France until Renault Le Car arrived in 1976, just in time for the nation’s bicentennial.

Okay, your humble scribe is biased, having owned a Le Car in LA back in the eighties. Cruising Wilshire Boulevard, with that big sunroof open, one could almost smell la soupe a l’oignon – even when passing the La Brea Tar Pits on a smoggy day.

Well, anyway …

Stephen Long is not just famous for his peak. He also labeled the region between the 100th meridian and the Rocky Mountains “the Great American Desert” – a name used on maps for more than half a century – and “almost wholly unfit for cultivation.” 

To be fair, mostly treeless and with few major rivers, it was very different from his native New Hampshire, where trees and water clutter up the place and crowd out the cactus.

In one of the great ironies of U.S. history, the “desert” later became central to the nation’s incredibly productive breadbasket. By 1893, when Katharine Lee Bates wrote the poem that provided the lyrics for America The Beautifulthose famous “amber waves of grain” she gazed on from Pike’s Peak, Colorado, stretched over 500 miles, clear across Kansas, to the Missouri River.

All it required was enough disruptors with vision.

Colorado: home to two of America’s top five “best places to live”

Wow, what a difference a few generations of free-thinking disruptors make.

Best places to live in the USAJust last week, March 2, 2016, U.S. News released its list of Best Places to Live in the USA. Among America’s 100 most populous metro areas, Denver and Colorado Springs ranked #1 and #5 respectively.

Not bad for a couple of hick towns on the edge of the Great American Desert.

Horace Greeley, the New York newspaperman for whom Greeley, Colorado is named – hey, you remember, right, the beaver climbing Long’s Peak – is also credited for the mid-19th century advice “go West, young man, and grow up with the country.”

Young people – women and men – have done so ever since. In 2011 the Brookings Institution ranked Denver #1 among “cool cities” for in-migration among 25-34 year olds. ADWEEK figured those footloose Millennials were “looking for a hipper vibe.” 

Not just livable and hip, but classy – heck, we got gobs of class

Eventually, to save face, easterners renamed the region beyond the 100th meridian The Great Plains. But when it comes to culture and cultivation of the mind, many believe the desert moniker still applies.

Frozen Dead Guy Days 2016The annual Frozen Dead Guy Days festival in the tiny mountain town of Nederland, Colorado, proves them wrong. Dead wrong, actually.

Nothing at the Lincoln Center, or MOMA – or even Trump Tower itself – can match the class and style of Ice Turkey Bowling, The Newly-Dead Game, The Frozen Salmon Toss or, a personal favorite, the Coffin Race.

Good news, sophisticates – there is still time to register, but hurry; FDGD runs this weekend, March 11-13, 2016.

Boomers – the new Great American Desert

It’s no secret that, viewed from Madison Avenue, the Boomer arena is the new Great American Desert. “Almost wholly unfit for cultivation.” 

Boomers in the Great American DesertAfter crossing the symbolic Missouri (or is it the Hudson?) of our 50th birthdays we are largely ignored. Except, of course, as the rich breadbasket that feeds ad campaigns directed to Millennials.

Not that we really object to subsidizing our kids’ ads – we love the little techie twerps.

But you’d think mainstream brand decision-makers could show a little curiosity when it comes to the 94 million members of the Boomer-Plus Generation™ – i.e., Baby Boomers, those born 1940-1945 and Gen Xers 50 and older.

After all, if this were a country it would be the world’s third largest economy – a population so huge it buys about half of just about everything marketed in America.


It’s time for adland’s young disruptives to “go Boomer, and grow up with the country.” We recommend racing to arrive before the land-rush – we’ll help you get there first.

Opportunity_Race across the desert

Boomer - neXt SM logo_MMOriginally published as a Boomer-Plus Consulting Group post; in September, 2017, we up-branded as Boomer / neXt to welcome the 4 million Gen Xers who join the Boomers in the 50+ space each year.

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