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Silver Lining

Secrets of marketing to the mature consumer.

Secrets of marketing to the mature consumer.

In this excerpt, experts from market research firm Yankelovich Partners analyze what motivates one of America's three major generational groups--the Matures--to buy.

They are Walt Disney and Bob Hope, Joe DiMaggio and John Steinbeck, Walter Cronkite and Ann Landers. Matures were America's first Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts. Now they are the country's first "senior citizens." On the journey from Scout meetings to Sun City, this generation triumphed over the Great Depression, vanquished the Germans and the Japanese and, in the process, built the suburbs and shopping malls of middle-class America.

The members of the Matures' generation were born between the turn of the century and the end of World War II. This generation includes two waves of consumers--the G.I.s, who came first and set the tone, and the Silents, who came next and flowed quietly, for the most part, into the mold.

Because they largely shared the same generational experiences, the G.I.s and the Silents developed the same basic values and motivations. They experienced economic upheaval during childhood. Discipline and self-sacrifice were cornerstones of their outlook as they came of age. At formative stages in their lives, the G.I.s and Silents were bound together, first by common goals like overcoming the Great Depression and building suburban America, and also by the necessity to defeat common enemies--Germany and Japan, then the Soviet Union and China.

Things weren't easy, but that was OK. Growing up in the shadow of the Depression, they understood the necessity and virtue of hard work.

Matures believed that a lifetime of commitment was required to accomplish their goals. Duty came before pleasure. The job to be done required that they postpone their own gratification. Rationing in World War II, tax dollars sent overseas for the Marshall Plan, years given to military service, scrimping during hard times all taught Matures self-sacrifice. Anything worthwhile meant giving up something else. Anything extra or left over had to be banked.

Matures prospered by thinking and doing together. Progress was assured as long as everyone followed the rules of the road and moved united in the same direction. Matures developed this unity by conforming to a larger system of values that emphasized hard work as its own reward, financial security through savings, the good of the group before that of the individual, and a belief that the good life had to be earned.

Though Matures have always had to sacrifice to meet the demands of conformity, they have also always succeeded. Therefore, conformity and fitting in have been linked for them to success.

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This article was originally published in the June 1997 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Silver Lining.

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