Boomer “Generation” vs. “Cohort” – dude, does anyone care?
Dissed as too old to adopt new behavior, devastating to product image and infuriatingly slow to switch brands, folks outside the 18-49 demographic score low on the cool scale in marketing and tech circles.
Hip elites from Madison Avenue to Palo Alto, and from CES to SXSW, have banished the Boomers to The Twilight Zone of assisted living facilities across the country. Florida soon may sink into the ocean under the weight of the incoming hordes, clutching oxygen tanks and shuffling to a disco beat on their vintage Sony Walkmans.
Not a few of the cognoscenti are muttering good riddance. The Onion, ever alert to societal snark predicted this back in 1999:
WASHINGTON, DC—After decades of waiting, the much-anticipated mass Baby Boomer die-off should finally commence within the next five to ten years, Census Bureau officials said Monday … the curtain will at long last fall on what is regarded by many as the most odious generation America has ever produced.
So, who are these people who evoke such dismissiveness among the smarty-pants class?
For starters, they’re not limited to the conventional definition, born 1946-1964. That was just a handy age bracket chosen by the US Census Bureau to assess the future economic impact of high post-WW2 births. In fact, the Bureau refers to the Baby Boom cohort – key word, cohort – not generation.
There’s a huge difference between an age cohort and a social generation – so brace yourself adland, there are actually far more of us than you feared
Hiding in plain sight: millions more odious Boomers
In socio-cultural terms, the traditional Baby Boomers, born 1946-1964 grew up no different than their slightly older sisters and brothers born 1940-1945.
In fact, the US birth rate boom began not in 1946 but in 1940 when the depression-era decline finally turned around. Births that year were up 5% over 1939 and by 1942 the nation’s annual growth rate soared to an unprecedented 10% – a trend that WW2 briefly interrupted until the GIs came home.
This isn’t just inside statistics chatter, we’re dealing with the foundational culture of the social Boomer generation: once more for emphasis, millions of babies born 1940-1945 grew up in the same vibrant post-war society as their slightly younger siblings. Many Boomer icons among them, including:
- Aretha Franklin … Bob Dylan … Chevy Chase … Diana Ross
- Jimi Hendrix … Janis Joplin … Jim “The Doors” Morrison
- Simon and Garfunkel … The Beatles … The Monkees
Believe or not, conventional thinkers shove these greats into the Silent Generation (beginning ≈1922/25). Huh? Whatever these cool cats were, silent sure ain’t on the list.
So, forget what you’ve heard about 75 million members of the 1946-1964 age cohort, the socio-cultural Boomer generation was born 1940-1964 and numbers 88.2 million.
- Optimism: embracing change/technology
- The fabulous golden age of television
- The Peter Pan Syndrome, clinging to youth
- Duck-and-cover: fear of war on home soil
As if piling millions of extra Boomer-Plus consumers into the The Onion’s most odious generation isn’t gross enough, as the infomercials say, wait, wait there’s more!
The Boomer-Plus Blob: absorbing 50+ Gen Xers one year at a time
Blindly obeying 18-49 demo dogma, mainstream brands are now dumping Gen Xers as they cross the 50th birthday divide.
Madison Avenue rules with an iron hand; from now on, they’ll only see themselves in ads as dithering grannies who can’t do Snapchat and geezer curmudgeons with issues best glossed over in polite company.
Like the hungry mass in the sci-fi classic, The Blob (1958), the Boomer-Plus Generation now guzzles up Gen X exiles faster than you can say alien life-form.
Some 8.5 million Xers will have been absorbed by the end of 2016. Yum!
And these Boomer-Blob absorbees assimilate rapidly, finding themselves surprisingly at home. You see, Planet Boomer is actually the world in which they grew up; optimistic, adaptable, TV-oriented, youth-focused and over-shadowed by Cold War tensions until the Soviet bloc dissolved in the early nineties.
And, in the final step to Boomer-Plus bonding, they are ostracized by adland simply because they’re over fifty. Thanks to 18-49 myopia, the 88 million Boomer-Plus Generation will have expanded to over 96 million by year’s end.
The Longevity Economy: the world’s third largest
Last month AARP issued its 2016 update of The Longevity Economy, a treasure trove of data on the 50+ population – folks who possess 83% of US household wealth and about buy half, or more, of most everything sold in America.
The Boomer-Plus Generation represents the lion’s share of this awesome market. Those 96 million people represent the 3rd largest economy on Earth.
With a Netflix/Amazon-driven resurgence in classic mid-century sci-fi, we are already seeing some savvy young adland/techland Millennials checking out our awesome alien world.
Don’t be scared. Come on in – you may never want to leave.