Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Generation Gap or Gap in Understanding?

For marketers, it’s not who they are, but what makes them tick

Bill Schroer, head of social marketing firm
WJSchroer Company has new definitions of the generations that make up our diverse population. Since many of you are in financial services, technology or trade associations, these generational differences can have significant implications for how your sell, market and support your services. Again, these age year cut-offs do not strictly distinguish one group from the next, but we’ve found they can be  very helpful for your long term planning and budgeting. If nothing else, see how these different age groupings vary when it comes to how they view things like trust, respecting authority and the word “join.”

1.The Depression Era: Born 1912-1921
(11-12 million population and declining rapidly)

Depression era individuals came of age in the 1930s. These 90-somethings tend to be conservative, compulsive savers, maintain low debt and use more secure financial products. Tend to be patriotic, oriented toward work before pleasure, respect for authority, have a sense of moral obligation.

2. World War II: Born 1922 to 1927
11 million population declining quickly)

People in this group, aged 86 to 90, which came of age in the early 1940s, shared in a common goal of defeating the Axis powers. There was an accepted sense of “deferment” among this group, contrasted with the emphasis on “me” in more recent cohorts.

3. Post-War Cohort: Born 1928-1945
(41 million population, declining)

This generation, aged 68 to 85, had significant opportunities in jobs and education as the War ended and a post-war economic boom struck America. The growth in Cold War tensions, the potential for nuclear war and other never before seen threats, led to levels of discomfort and uncertainty throughout the generation. Members of this group value security, comfort, and familiar, known activities and environments.

4. Boomers I or The Baby Boomers
: Born 1946-1954
(33 million population)

The much-celebrated Baby Boomers are really two groups, according to Schroer. Boomers I, aged 59 to 67, were born between 1945 and 1964. It doesn’t make sense to compare those born in 1964 with those born in 1946, he argues. Attitudes, behaviors and society are vastly different. The first Boomer segment is bounded by the Kennedy and Martin Luther King assassinations, the Civil Rights movements and the Vietnam War. Boomers I were in or protested the War. Boomers I had good economic opportunities and were largely optimistic about the potential for America and their own lives.

Boomers II or Generation Jones: Born 1955-1965
(49 million population)

This first post-Watergate generation, aged 48 to 58, lost much of its trust in government and optimistic views the Boomers I maintained. Economic struggles including the oil embargo of 1979 reinforced a sense of “I’m out for me” and narcissism and a focus on self-help and skepticism over media and institutions is representative of attitudes of this cohort. While Boomers I had Vietnam, Boomers II had AIDS as part of their rites of passage.

5.Generation X: Born 1966-1976
(41 million population)

Sometimes referred to as the “lost” generation or “latchkey” kids, these 37 to 47 year-olds were exposed to lots of daycare and divorce growing up. Known as the generation with the lowest voting participation rate of any generation, Gen Xers were quoted by Newsweek as “the generation that dropped out without ever turning on the news or tuning in to the social issues around them.” Gen X is often characterized by high levels of skepticism, “what’s in it for me” attitudes and a reputation for some of the worst music to ever gain popularity. William Morrow cited the childhood divorce of many Gen Xers as “one of the most decisive experiences influencing how Gen Xers will shape their own families.”

7. Generation Y, Echo Boomers or Millenniums: Born 1977-1994
(71 million population)

The largest cohort since the Baby Boomers. Gen Y kids, aged 19 to 36,are known as incredibly sophisticated, technology wise, immune to most traditional marketing and sales they not only grew up with it all, they’ve seen it all and been exposed to it all since early childhood. Gen Y members are more racially and ethnically diverse and more segmented as an audience aided by the rapid expansion in Cable TV channels, satellite radio, the Internet, e-zines, etc. Gen Y are less brand loyal and the speed of the Internet has led the cohort to be flexible and changing in its fashion, style consciousness and where and how it is communicated with. One in nine Gen Yers has a credit card co-signed by a parent.

8. Generation Z: Born 1995-2012 (
23 million and growing rapidly)

While we don’t know much about Gen Z yet, says Schroer, we know a lot about the environment in which these kids 18 and under are growing up. Their highly diverse environment will make the grade schools of the next generation the most diverse ever. Higher levels of technology will make significant inroads in academics allowing for customized instruction, data mining of student histories to enable pinpoint diagnostics and remediation or accelerated achievement opportunities. Gen Z kids will grow up with a highly sophisticated media and computer environment and will be more Internet savvy and expert than their Gen Y forerunners.

Macro View

Auto sales in March surged to the highest level in five years and the factories orders rose to the highest level in five months, according to the Commerce Department. So, with this positive news on the “tangible goods” side and stock markets trading at or near their all-time highs, many wonder why unemployment is still persistently high (U.S. and abroad).

Jeffrey D. Sachs, a professor of sustainable development and director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University, cited “deeply disruptive forces” in his New York Time op-ed piece Monday. According to Sachs, “rapidly evolving information technology, globalization and environmental stresses — are radically reshaping the jobs market. Decent jobs for low-skilled workers have virtually disappeared. Some have been relegated to China and emerging economies, while others have been lost to robotics and computerization.” As a result, we have two sharply diverging jobless measures. According to Sachs, 3.1 million new jobs have been created for college graduates since 2008, while 4.3 million jobs have disappeared for high-school graduates and those without a high school diploma. He predicts this education and employment gap will continue and become even more severe.


Now more than ever, there’s no longer a one-size-fits-all marketing solution for your products and services and there’s no longer a one-statistic-fits-all measure for the health (or lack thereof) of our complex global economy. Be smart and do your homework making any important business decisions. Even in this hyper-competitive business climate, it’s still better to be right than to be first.

Tags: Jeffrey Sachs, Earth Institute, Columbia University, Boomers, Generation X,Y,Z, Echo


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