For Millennials 35 Is the New 50

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According to the crystal ball that adland dusts off every couple of decades, Generation Z will – yes, you guessed right – change society and brand destinies for ever. 

Sure, half the Zers have yet to enter high school, but guru groupthink claims America’s grownups can’t wait to be guided by their juvenile take on what’s hot and what’s not.

If the memes sound familiar, they should: just a few years ago they were used to describe Millennials.

The problem is that real-world Millennials – i.e., those who live, work and consume out beyond the confines of the cloistered commune in which so many brand strategists fantasize – are selling out embracing adulthood and proving the so-called experts wrong.

In fact, the idea that youth-fixated Madison Avenue’s former disruptive darlings are settling into midlife conformity – opting for strollers, suburbia and SUVs no less – is beyond subversive.

It’s just so disconnected from Lyft/loft nirvana … so retro-normal … OMG, it’s almost Boomer-ish.

Dude, face it: 35 is the new 50

Despite their clickbait cachet – now being reused for Gen Z – Millennials did not “change everything,” they just enjoyed a few more years of youth than their Boomer parents. 

  • In the 1960s, the median age at first marriage was 20 for women, 23 for men; today the data reads 28 and 30 respectively.

But stretching the boundaries of youth did not repeal nature’s laws.

By the time 35 rolls around, Millennials find themselves on the brink of middle age – dad bods, mom bods, kitchen table budgeting, mortgages, car pools, preschool, day care. Who knew?

And the amazing part is that they actually enjoy it. Somewhere, Mother Nature is smiling.

The upshot is that spending patterns of households headed by consumers age 35-44 are far closer to those of the 45-54 cohort than the fancy free 25-34 they recently left.

As new midlife priorities come into focus, subconscious socio-cultural imprinting is triggered to drive unexpected brand decisions in previously low interest, low consideration categories.

Some of this silent software is generationally unique, but the role of received history is huge – the influence of the Millennials’ older Gen X siblings and, especially, their Boomer parents cannot be overstated.

However, in the politicized era of OK Boomer and Karen, rather than learn the real inner-mind dynamics of the 50+ arena that – often without their conscious knowledge – helped shape real-world Millennials, most brands deal in stereotypes and caricatures.

Big mistake.

Influencers over 50: unseen hands in the Millennial economy

Running quietly in the background of the Millennial operating system are lines of code laid down over the years by the fast-changing consumer society within which most brand decisions are made. For better or worse, the past determines the present.

Consider the grandma effect.

What new mom does not turn to her own mother for advice on everything from detergents to food to home appliances when those cute little critters arrive to take control of her life?

And when it comes time for a lawn mower or dishwasher what new homeowner can forget the colorful curses overheard back when mom, dad or uncle Fred damned Brand X to all eternity?

What’s more, consumers over 50 are not only crucial as Millennial influencers but incredibly valuable in their own right.

After the U.S. itself and China, the 117 million Americans age 50+ represents the 3rd largest economy on Planet Earth (AARP).They own 75% of U.S. household assets (Federal Reserve) and, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, were responsible for 51% of all consumer spending in 2019, including:

  • 51% of new vehicle expenditures
  • 53% of grocery store food expenditures
  • 53% of household furnishing, equipment and appliance expenditures
  • 67% of home repair and maintenance expenditures

Brand lobotomies

You’d think that brands would be fighting tooth and nail in this enormous, influential marketplace. You’d think wrong.

Only 10% of the U.S. ad spend goes to proactively targeting consumers over 50 because, allegedly, they no longer adapt and creep out younger buyers when depicted in advertising.

These myths persist because ad agency/marketing department culture is out of step with consumer culture: most advertising is created by hip 21-34 year-olds who have yet to personally enter adult realworld. And of ad/marketing professionals who survive to age 40 almost all (90%) are out by age 50.

It’s like having a brand lobotomy.

Just as everyday consumers enter their high-spending midlife, their generationally-aware  adland counterparts disappear and empathy evaporates.

Amazingly, this has been going on for decades. It’s time to unthink groupthink.

Out beyond the trendy 18-49 demo, America’s best customers still dance to their own beat.

And to succeed in that unfamiliar world, marketers must drop silly stereotypes, cringe-worthy caricatures and Mad Men era myths.

Here at VizioNation we teach the hidden socio-cultural imprinting and silent languages of the Boomers and Gen Xers who exert so much hidden power over brands – both as consumers and as Millennial influencers.

Like or not – and no one ever liked it – we all morph into middle age; more often than not we belatedly discover our parents and grandparents are a lot smarter than we thought.

Funny how that happens every generation …

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