Boomer optimism and the Colorado street enjoyed around the world
Every year, tens of millions of people worldwide wander down an early 20th century Colorado street without realizing it. Fort Collins is home to a little corner of small town Americana that inspired Main Street Disneyland.
Even today, sipping a root beer float at an Old Town Fort Collins soda fountain still evokes the self confidence and optimism with which American Baby Boomers grew up.
Boomer confidence in progress and a great big beautiful tomorrow
Disneyland captured this sense of confidence to inspire millions of Boomer youngsters, secure in their heritage and optimistic about what lay ahead.
A popular new attraction in the Boomer heyday was the Carousel of Progress. Originally developed for General Electric by Mr. Disney for the New York World’s Fair in 1964, the Carousel is said to have become one of his favorite projects. It ran in Anaheim, California from 1967 to 1973 before moving to Walt Disney World in Florida where it is still enjoyed today.
Everything about the show – including a dazzling diorama Progress City, the city of tomorrow – infused young Boomers with confidence in the future. And the Carousel’s theme song epitomized a key strand of Boomer DNA – optimism: “There’s a great big beautiful tomorrow shining at the end of every day.”
This confidence was not misplaced.
Within 10 years of the Carousel’s opening, Americans landed on the moon and young Boomers founded both Microsoft (Bill Gates, Paul Allen) and the Apple Computer Company (Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak.)
E Ride enters Boomer-speak
The A rides were fun, but also the most simple. B, C and D rides were more advanced – but the E Ticket admitted guests to the most exciting attractions of all.
Boomer-speak quickly co-opted E Ride to describe any experience that was super-cool and E Ticket as its door opener.
The E Ride of Boomer buying power ignored by ad-world
In fact, median U.S. family income rose every year for over half a century until 2008.
Despite the recent decline, U.S. Census Bureau data shows that 2012 median family income was still 40% higher than in 1965 in real, inflation-adjusted dollars – $62,240 vs. $44,350.
It was during this long run of prosperity that the 89 million Americans in the Boomer-Plus Generation™, born 1940-1964, acquired the two-thirds of the nation’s household net worth they own today.
As a country the Boomer-Plus Generation would be the world’s 15th most populous, the 15th Nation™ – a bigger, more affluent market than Germany or France or the UK and far bigger than Canada and Australia combined.
Despite this huge potential, many mainstream advertisers seldom feature Boomers because – supposedly – we stop adapting at age 50, with our brand loyalties and buying behavior now permanently fixed in place.
By the time we exit the 25-54 demo, old school Madison Avenue treats us like denizens of the Haunted Mansion – pale, faded imitations of our former selves. Ghosts from yesteryear.
This oddball theory would have amused Walt Disney, who opened Disneyland at age 55.
Ironically, it is rigid brands, not Boomers, whose minds are closed to new ideas: adaptability is still a key 2014 trait among Americans over 50. After decades of incredible evolution, how could it not be?
But there is hope. Recently, a few enterprising Millennials have cast off the establishment shackles and are boarding the ultimate E Ride – a trip to a great big beautiful tomorrow in the 15th Nation.
Book your ticket early; the best new attractions are always the busiest.