Thursday, April 17, 2008

Generational Touchstones

As we've mentioned, we write a bi-weekly op/ed column for Media General's Richmond Times-Dispatch. It's called "Viva the Vital" and is a series about issues facing Boomers.

This week's column addresses the events that shape each generation, and specifically is about the impact of last year's massacre at Virginia Tech might have on the Millennial generation.

You can read it online.

Or download a PDF of it.

We've gotten an interesting amount of feedback about it. Let us know what you think.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Irony of Insight

Earlier this year we went public with a business-changing insight we delivered for Home Instead Senior Care, the largest provider of in-home non-medical care services in the country.

The insight was that Boomers have to get over the parent/child role in their relationship with their older parents in order to have productive, useful conversations about aging issues with their parents. Until that happens, such conversations are difficult at best. Once the parent/child role is resolved (we're all adults here), then the conversations are much, much better.

The irony is that our friends at Iconoculture, a trend-spotting firm, have decided that it's an insight they'd like to share with their clients. Read this entry from their newsletter.

We're flattered, if not acknowledged, to be the source of their latest insight into today's Boomer Consumer. Glad to have helped.

Monday, April 7, 2008

The Return of the Age Wars

First, there was Christopher Buckley's Boomsday satire, where a Gen Xer suggests Boomers commit suicide at age 65 to save Social Security and Medicare for younger generations.

Now comes Jeff Gordinier's X Saves the World: How Generation X Got the Shaft But Can Still Keep Everything From Sucking. Here's a review of it in today's USATODAY. Better yet, read this short excerpt.

We first wrote about the Age Wars about a year ago, and summed up our take on it in this op/ed piece last summer (PDF file).

Here's an excerpt from it:

The first shots came last spring in a PBS documentary, Boomer Century. We don’t think producer Ken Dychtwald meant to launch “Age Wars,” but he did. Virtually all reviews and commentaries were not about the show, but attacks on Boomers. We found it in traditional media. We found it in the blogs.

Commentary by Martin Kuz, in SF Weekly titled “Boomtastrophe” represents the best, or worst, depending on your point-of-view. “Boomers,” Kuz begins, “have largely squandered their chance to improve the world.” He then proceeds to take Boomers to the woodshed for an unmerciful beating. He gets absolutely apoplectic that Boomers haven’t fixed Social Security or Medicaid, and will bankrupt both.

This assessment is at best premature, and at worst, unfair, inaccurate and biased. Neither entitlement was by or for Boomers, nor have many, if any, Boomers collected a dime from either program. Nobody doubts that they have the potential to ruin both through the sheer force and magnitude of their numbers. But let’s be honest. It wasn’t the Boomers who failed to see their own demographic tidal wave coming — it was the previous generations of social policy makers.
We're not sure where the war goes next, but it's interesting to watch it unfold.

Friday, April 4, 2008

More Reader Comments

A few more readers have weighed in with updated bumper stickers:

"He who dies with $1 left wins" -- from Ken (our guess is that the kids and grandkids are the big losers in this scenario)

"He who dies with the most toys...still loses the toys" -- from Michael
And one more, from a clown in our office:
"He who dies last will be a she."
Anyone else a comedian?

Here Come the U-Boomers

Some sharp folks at McKinsey have identified what they think is a big consumer segment largely ignored by markters: "U-Boomers."

The "U" stands for (are U ready?): financially unprepared yet undaunted and uncompromising baby boomers (we would have called them "unBoomers" because that takes us back to the days of 7Up's uncola, and we're all about marketing).

Seriously, they make an interesting case for the "...24 million middle-class American households approaching retirement with lofty lifestyle aspirations, a thirst for new products and brands, and limited financial resources."

This article about U-Boomers in Forbes, makes the key point for marketers:

As the economic clout of the cash-constrained, highly discriminating u-boomers grows, companies will need to rethink how they deliver services while keeping prices down. Web-based tools that lower delivery costs while retaining a sense of personalization and high-end service are part of the solution. One of the fastest-growing usage segments for Skype's Internet videoconferencing is grandparents talking to their grandchildren. It's not a big leap to imagine financial services providers using this same technology to deliver personalized financial advice.
It's an interesting segmentation of the Boomer cohort, and one worth closer examination.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Reader Comments

This came in about the posting yesterday on Michael Kinsley's excellent essay in this week's The New Yorker magazine.

From reader Craig Williams:

"I would update the bumper sticker to stay, 'He who dies last still dies.'"

(He's referring to Kinsley's comment that the old Boomer-focused bumper sticker from the 1980's "He who dies with the most stuff wins" should be revised to "He who dies last wins.")

Anyone else have some suggestions?

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

The Last Boomer Game

We recommend this article by Michael Kinsley in the Apirl 7th issue of The New Yorker magazine be required reading for anyone trying to understand Boomers today.

Titled "Mine is Longer than Yours," it is an essay about the "last Boomer game," or the quest for longevity. In essence, to update the bumper sticker, he who dies last wins.

Kinsley, you may recall, was once on CNN's Crossfire, opposite Pat Buchanan. He went on to run online magazine Slate in the early years, then became editorial page editor for The Los Angeles Times. He has Parkinson's Disease, but that isn't why he wrote the essay. He wrote it because he's smarter than the rest of us.

Sometimes I feel like a scout from my generation, sent out ahead to experience in my fifties what even the healthiest boomers are going to experience in their sixties, seventies, or eighties. There are far worse medical conditions than Parkinson’s and there are far worse cases of Parkinson’s than mine. But what I have, at the level I have it, is an interesting foretaste of our shared future—a beginner’s guide to old age.
Like we said, read this piece if you want to better understand Boomers.

Valuable Insights into the Hearts, Minds and Wallets of Today's Baby Boomers

This blog is by the authors of Boomer Consumer: Ten New Rules for Marketing to America's Largest, Wealthiest and Most Influential Group, on sale now.

Here is where you'll find information referenced in the book, as well as updates, news and perspectives from Matt Thornhill and John Martin, founders of the Boomer Project.