I was talking to a couple of Gen X friends of mine the other day and I pointed out that they should now be called the invisible generation because no one seems to be paying much attention to them at all. It’s unfortunate because they’re now running many of the companies we’re all buying from. So does that mean they’re focusing on the younger set or are the boomers above them and still in control elsewhere doing so?
What made me think of all of this was a recent Media Post piece by Stephen Reily titled Target Millennials or Boomers? Why Not Both? Reily was writing about recent work done by the brand consultancy Flamingo Group. One of the insights Flamingo recently discovered was that brands avoid marketing to women 50+ so they don’t damage their brand equity. In other words, they’re afraid that being associated with that age group might turn off the hipster Millennials.
Before the Baby Boomers start screaming ageism, Reily makes an interesting point. Flamingo research has found that while Boomers and Millennials may be a few decades apart in age, they seem to share similar attitudes and values around “technology, health, family, travel and change.” That’s probably not something you could have said 20 years ago about the Greatest Generation and Gen Xers.
Reily points out that the one element that may create a bit of a chasm is the happiness factor. Older consumers are increasingly happy and more comfortable with who they are. In other words, they don’t need brands for validation or to tell them what they want. But doesn’t that sound like a Millennial aspiration if not a reality? Especially considering what’s become almost a branding given in that Millennials are drawn to brands that enable a more engaged and connected life (Apple and social media du jour) – i.e., elements of happiness.
So will this commonality of being happy cause brands to develop and embrace a universal happiness message that transcends youthfulness? I’d like to think so, but Western consumer culture has always been enamored with youth…and a transcendent message may just be too woo-woo for most brands. Until then, we may have to just let the Baby Boomers be happy, the Millenials be in search of it, and the Gen Xers sell it to everyone.