Care to be alarmed? The way you’ve been marketing your goods and services is about to fail. Not suddenly, not dramatically, but surely, completely, and inevitably. The aging of the Boomer generation is changing the nature of the market. By necessity it’s changing the nature of marketing, too.

The Boomers were the “me” generation. They were pampered, and catered to, in a way that previous generations never understood. Marketing to the Boomers was driven by the understated message “everybody else has one, you deserve one too.” That message isn’t working very well, anymore. It will continue to be less and less effective.

The sheer size of the Baby Boom generation has shaped almost every facet of our society for the last half century.

  • The parents of the Baby Boomers, enjoying a post-war economic boom, doted on the Boomers. In the process they contributed to the success of Mattel, Tyco, Hasbro, Ideal, Tonka, Wham-O, Parker Brothers, and Milton Bradley.

  • The co-incidence of the unbridled growth of television broadcasting during this period brought us the first children’s programming both as education and entertainment.

  • We saw local taxes affected by the enormous growth in the number of schools and teachers as the Boomers hit the five and six year marks.

  • As the Boomers hit adolescence, they had more spend-able income than any previous generation, and spent it on clothing, make-up, and entertainment.

  • In early adulthood the Baby Boomers had a dramatic effect on social mores. Couples living together “without benefit of clergy,” or having children out of wedlock… concepts which would have horrified their grandparents… became common. Equal opportunity started leveling the paying field (pun intended) and eliminating gender bias in employment.

  • Over the next decades, the sheer size of the Boomer generation drove purchasing trends in automobiles, housing, and again, entertainment.

  • Recently the Boomers have forced demand in the stock market, investment real estate, and health care.

Wait a minute. What happened to entertainment?

For the first time, network TV isn’t meeting their entertainment preferences. And the networks don’t seem concerned. Consider this to be evidence of the fading influence of the Baby Boom generation.

The staple of prime-time television since the beginning of network programming has been the situation comedy. Seen any new situation comedies recently? It appears that they’ve all been replaced by “reality programming.” Sitcoms were watched by Baby Boomers. Today’s audience doesn’t relate.

At the peak of the Baby Boom, there were 74 million teenagers. Today there are 72 million teenagers ready to take over the world. Their motivations are vastly different from those of their parents… in fact, different from their older siblings.

As Senior Wizard of Ads® Partner, Roy Williams, said in his Monday Morning Memo of December 15, 2003:

AOL and are the Kerouac and Salinger of the new generation that will soon pry the torch from the hands of Baby Boomers reluctant to let it go. Tupac Shakur and Eminem are the new Chuck Berry and Elvis Presley and the Boomers’ reaction to them is much like their own parents’ reaction to Chuck and Elvis. But instead of saying ‘Take a bath, cut your hair, and get a job,’ we’re saying, ‘Pull those pants up, spin that cap around and wash your mouth out with soap.‘”

Boomers rejected conformity. Today’s teens reject pretense. Words like “amazing,” “astounding,” and “spectacular” are heard by today’s teens as as we hear the adults in the Peanuts® cartoons: “Wah wah, wah wah wah.” Tested marketing methods which have worked since WWII are no longer pulling the predictable results that experienced marketers have grown to expect. As you might suspect, this is leaving a large number of experienced marketers perplexed at the new reality.

In the past, decisions-to-purchase revolved primarily around features and benefits. All you had to do was explain why your product was better than your competitor’s. The new trend in decisions-to-purchase is based on shared values. Today’s customers aren’t just buying what you sell, they’re buying you.

To succeed in the new marketplace, your messages must reveal who and what you really are. It’s going to take courage, and a different way of communicating.

Today’s kids are a savvy, streetwise generation. They want it real. They don’t expect perfection. They demand truth. It’s going to be harder and harder to win these kids as customers through advertising alone. It’s going to be nearly impossible through traditional advertising.

What are you doing to prepare for your new customers?

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