Millennials For Click Bait, Boomers For Market Share … Gen X Mostly Forgotten

The Boomers’ long run as the only real generation

Until June, 2015, according to the Census Bureau, there was only one real generation: Baby Boomers, born 1946 through 1964.

Bright ideasThe others – Baby Busters, Gen X, Gen Y, Echo Boomers, the MTV Generation, Grunge Kids, Digital Natives, Generation Next, Millennials et al – only existed in fertile media and marketer minds.

Not only did hipper-than-thou name tags change constantly, but date ranges for the Millennial generation skittered around faster than skateboards in a high school parking lot:

  • 1975-1990 (The New York Times [a])
  • 1975-1998 (The New York Times [b])
  • 1977-1994 (J.D. Power)
  • 1977-1992 (Pew Research Center, 2010)
  • 1981-1997 (Pew Research Center, 2015)
  • 1981-2000 (Adweek)
  • 1982-2004 (Strauss and Howe, authors)
  • 1985-2004 (The Harvard Center)

Millennials don't self-identifyIt’s hardly surprising that Millennials are unsure about their generational label.

The Pew Research Center (Generations in a Mirror, September 2015) reports only 40% of them identify with the term “Millennial.”

Boomers, of course, know who they are (79%). We’d be hurt if others didn’t know too; it’s all about us – talkin’ about my generation.

Gen X concertinaWhatever the label-shifting dynamics, they all hyped Millennial importance at the expense of Gen Xers who, stuck with the leftovers, were squeezed between 1965 and the start date du jour for the trendier arrivistes.

In the worst case, Gen X was squished into a measly span of ten birth years (1965-1974) – on the marketing scrap heap even before their Barbies and G. I. Joes were packed away in the attic.

The Census Bureau hung back until, on June 25th, 2015, they made it official: there is a Millennial generation.

Of course, they picked their own dates, choosing 1982-2000. Like the Boomers, this is nineteen birth years; Gen X was short-changed again, compressed to only seventeen, 1965 to 1981.

Oh well.

Millennials: the click bait generation

Wile E Coyote click baitLet’s be honest; much of the Millennial razzmatazz is about scoring clicks in the crowded online content ecosystem.

Not to be left out, we created our own label.

We considered the Can’t Afford To Buy Much Stuff But Really Cool Generation but it didn’t focus group well except among older Mad Men who said it was boss. So we settled on The Click Bait Generation. Catchy, huh?

But we doubt it has legs: commentators are already beginning to sense Millennial news has jumped the shark. From Advertising Age to The Washington Post we are seeing headlines like Were Millennials Just Figments Of Our Fevered Imagination All Along? (Ken Wheaton) to Your Generational Identity Is A Lie (Philip Bump).

We realists never lost sight of the fact that while Millennials – our kids – are good-looking, brilliant and hell on wheels with a touchscreen, their spending power is dismal.

Households headed by someone under 35 own only 2% of U.S. household net worth, and the median annual income of 15-24 year olds – over half the generation – was only $10,500 in 2014 (Census Bureau).

Duh! One third of Millennials– those born 1995-2000 – are still in high school, college or starter jobs and too young to drink!

Boomer-Plus: the brand share generation

Of the 110 million Americans in the 50+ space, the largest cohort is the 93 million strong Boomer-Plus Generation™, born 1940-1965. And it’s a real generation, too, bound together by shared cultural and lifestage experiences.

Silents and Boomer-Plus Generation

We’ve written before about extending the original Boomer birth range to 1940; now Pew validates us by finding that one-third (34%) of consumers over age 70 identify as belonging to our generation.

The point isn’t social commentary, it’s marketing opportunity: Boomer-Plus is the world’s third largest economy. Only China and the U.S. itself are bigger.

So it’s bizarre that as Americans exit the 18-49 demographic they disappear from mainstream advertising. Operating on thinking more dated than a 1960 De Soto, many brand managers believe we old-timers are just too ossified to adopt new buying habits.

Well, Millennials as a whole may not have much economic influence, but at least some of the incredibly brainy whizkids of Madison Avenue appear ready to follow new paths. We’re happy to lead the way.

Opportunity Pied Piper

Boomer - neXt SM logo_MMOriginally published as a Boomer-Plus Consulting Group post; in September, 2017, we up-branded as Boomer / neXt to welcome the 4 million Gen Xers who join the Boomers in the 50+ space each year.

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