MBPT Spotlight: Forget Generation Z For Now—We’re In The Age Of Aging

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A while ago I ran smack into an infographic produced by NBCUniversal’s Curve Report. The report’s infographic, analysis and commentary provide an interesting assessment of the 45 million or so members of generation Z.

In case you aren’t keeping up with this stuff, gen Z is the generation of Americans born from 2005 to present. In a business where everyone is looking to hop on the next fast growth trend first, this report is telling marketers to think young—and boy do they mean young.

Is generation Z really the “next generation that matters to marketers?” If Z is the future, then I have clearly lost track of the fundamental ABCs of marketing.

The future is already here and it is the “Age of Aging.” No other trend, and no other generation, is more important than “The Most Valuable Generation”—the nearly 80 million baby boomers born between 1946 and 1964. 

In a thought leadership report that BoomAgers coreleased with Nielsen last year, we documented the unprecedented wealth, influence and impact of this generation and debunked most of the supposed mythology that’s been promulgated about older consumers. Unlike the older consumers from previous generations, boomers are far from “stuck in their ways.” In fact, they embrace new products, new technologies and new media channels with all the vigor of their compatriots in generations X, Y and Z.

The bottom line is that the risks inherent in ignoring the future potential of the baby boomers are considerable. To my mind, this constitutes the next great “emerging market.”

Think about it—the boomers possess all the characteristics of a global emerging market. Their size, scale and purchasing power dwarf that of many of the most highly touted new global markets. The difference is that boomers are not five time zones away, and there’s no language barrier. The next great emerging markets will be defined demographically, not geographically.

Today, baby boomers control close to 70% of U.S. discretionary spending and are the fastest growing cohort for luxury autos, 5-star travel and other high-price-point purchases. What’s more, they stand to inherit a staggering $17 trillion in cash, investments and real property assets in the next two decades; and as they begin to retire from the workplace they’ll have the time to spend it.

Hey, I get that the marketing establishment covets youth. Gen Z will no doubt be the most measured, monetized, studied, connected, socially-networked, technically-savvy, multiplatform, digitally visionary cohort ever. Enormous amounts of cash, algorithmic technology and next-generation brainpower will be invested to figure out how, where and when to sell these modern consumers all kinds of interesting stuff.

All of that’s fine, but let’s remember that the oldest members of gen Z are just now starting to ask their parents for an allowance. While we’re waiting for them to grow older and accumulate wealth, maybe it’s time to set our sights on 80 million consumers that are mature, thinking young and have money to spend.

The Age of Aging is here. The next generation that matters is the baby boom generation, and the alert marketers that join “The Old Rush” first will find gold, while their competitors are trying to “catch some Z’s.”

Hubbell is founder and CEO of BoomAgers, a creative-services agency launched in 2011 that is dedicated to helping clients capture the full value of the baby boomer marketplace. Hubbell spent 30 years in the ad agency business, including executive VP roles at Saatchi & Saatchi, D’Arcy Worldwide and NW Ayer, working with clients including Procter & Gamble and Pillsbury. The BoomAgers website is at www.boomagers.com.

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