What Lies Beneath

The Age of Genergraphics

Understanding the influence one generation has on another will be the key to successful marketing in the future, contends Phil Goodman, president of market research and planning company Generation Transitional Marketing in San Diego. He's the creator of "Genergraphics," a method of marketing to customers of different generations by taking into account their generational mind-sets.

The internet, Goodman says, is tailor-made for Genergraphics. Companies will retool their websites using buzzwords geared to each of the major generations: seniors, boomers, Gen X and echo boomers. Customers visiting a company's website will click intuitively on the link meant for their generation, and then they'll see products and services described with generational buzzwords and images that fit their mind-sets.

Goodman claims Genergraphics will triple the chance of making a sale. "People buy different products and services according to their generations," he says. "You're not just wasting space or time on whatever advertising and marketing you're doing. You're gearing it toward that mind-set."

Goodman thinks boomer grandparents will be one of the most powerful groups 10 years from now. Some boomers are working on their third or fourth marriages and are bringing kids into the mix--from previous relationships and kids they have together--making blended families of forty- and fiftysomethings an emerging trend. Donald Trump is a famous recent example of a boomer blending two or more families.

But of all the major demographic categories, the most overlooked could be the Generation X consumer in his or her 30s and early 40s. "Up to this point, it's been the stepchild generation behind the powerful baby-boom generation, but Gen Xers are entering their peak earning years and peak buying years for many product categories," Chung says. "Marketers are only now trying to understand them."

Basic demographics still play a role in drilling down consumers, but companies need to go beyond demographics to spot emerging customer categories in a rapidly changing marketplace. "We're in the middle of a huge transformation in the shape of marketing," Smith says. "You've got to have better information about consumers." Call it the shape of things to come.

The Demographic Revolution

The following demographic groups should be on the radar of every smart marketer in 2005 and beyond.

  • Cablinasians: Tiger Woods coined this term to refer to his mixed racial heritage, and he's not alone: 1 in 16 Americans under 18 today is of mixed racial heritage. Marketers who tap into the multiethnic experience could win big.
  • Unmarried, professional women in their 30s and 40s: These highly educated women aren't weighed down by family responsibilities and have disposable income that high-end marketers are chasing, says James Chung, founder of Reach Advisors, a Belmont, Massachusetts, strategy and research firm.
  • Empty nesters: These are the boomers whose kids have moved out, creating a new stream of disposable income for these parents--and new marketing prospects for entrepreneurs.
  • Twixters: These are twentysomethings who've been so fussed over by their boomer parents that they can't deal with adulthood. According to University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, economics and public policy professor Bob Schoeni, cited in Time, the percentage of 26-year-olds living with mom and dad rose from 11 percent to 20 percent between 1970 and 2004. If they hold jobs, these young people have disposable income that's probably not spent on rent or mortgages. They also have parents willing to spend on them, too.
  • Gen X: The 44 million Gen Xers born between 1965 and 1975 are entering their peak earning years. They're raising families, they're tech savvy and they love to shop.
  • Boomer grandparents: Grandparents are becoming day-care providers to their grandkids, and in some cases even more: As of 2003, 900,000 grandparents had been responsible for most of the basic needs of their grand-children for at least five years, according to the Census. The number of boomer grandparents will only rise and increase in power as boomers age.
  • Progressive Prioritizers: Thirty-one percent of women 25 to 29 held a bachelor's degree or higher in 2003, compared to 26 percent of their male peers, according to Census data. What's emerging is a generation of young, educated women who are prepared to leave their jobs to stay home with kids and then return to the work force when they're ready. Savvy marketers will find ways to catch women as they go between both mind-sets.
  • Blended families: Younger boomers are remarrying. Some are even working on their third or fourth marriages and have kids in the mix, says Phil Goodman, president of Generation Transitional Marketing in San Diego.
  • Single mothers by choice: More women are having children without partners. In 2002, 12 percent of births were to unmarried women ages 30 to 44.

Chris Penttila is a Washington, DC-based freelance journalist who covers workplace issues on her blog, Workplacediva.blogspot.com.

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This article was originally published in the May 2005 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: What Lies Beneath.

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