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Thursday, October 11, 2007

Generation whatever...

I reported in and earlier post that I subscribe to an e-newsletter from an outfit called Iconoculture. They purport to track trends at both a macro and micro level for various subdivisions of our society. They have quite elaborate sub-classifications or at least a nice set of names for groups, sometimes more than one name. I got confused by all the names that are used, so I did the logical thing – I Googled it. After wading through a bunch of sites where I tried to find the boundaries of various groups, I came to these conclusions.

I’m either a pre-Boomer or an older-Boomer, since most of the people considered to be Baby Boomers were born after WWII, a bi-product of the soldiers coming home from Europe and the Pacific. Since I was born during the war (a bi-product of my father having a job teaching WWII aviators at a ground school during the war), I’m sort of pre-Baby Boomer. Anyway, the Boomers were born in the years 1945-1964. I suppose the date range is so wide, because this generation also embraces the children of Korean War vets, too, and allows for war vets who put off having children for a long while.

Generation-X (Gen-X) is next with a range of 1964 to 1979, so I have 2 Gen-X children. Next is Generation-Y, which is defined as those born between 1982-1994 and are also called the MTV-Generation, Echo Boomers (the children of the Boomer’s children) and the Internet Generation or sometimes even Generation-C. Apparently there is already a label awaiting my grandchildren – born after 2000. They are being called Millennials. The marketers are not yet too concerned about their buying habits, since they can’t even pick out the diaper brand that they are wearing. Just wait until they get old enough to influence mommy and daddy on what cereals they want. Gen-Xers appear to be leading the “Green” revolution in housing and Gen-Yers are the ones for which Toyota designed the Scion brand. I’d guess that Metamucil would be the brand sponsor for my generation.

Quite honestly, I’ve always rejected being labeled like this and being thrown into a “bucket” with everyone else who just happened to be born within a certain date range. I think that is one of the characteristics of my generation. And that is really the point of countless studies and sites like Iconoculture. There are characteristics which can be identified that are ingrained in people who grew up in certain eras. They are “values” or “beliefs” or predispositions that, if known by marketing people can be leveraged to influence the buying patterns of those people – at least that is the theory. This same attempt at “profiling” was the basis for a class that I took last year on dealing with older home buyers. Some of the home-buying decision criteria were logical consequences of dealing with an aging and aging and frail bodies – everything on the first floor, for instance - and some were just stereotypical predispositions attributed to people of certain ages – being skeptical of salesmen for instance.

I look back at my childhood, and how it may have shaped who I am today; and, I can now see or understand some of the good and the bad influences that are still there today – remember those little characters, the “good” little angel and the “bad” little devil, who sit on cartoon character’s shoulders and advise them abut things,. That is the kind of thing that gets into ones character because of what was happening and how things were when you were a child. Those things eventually help define the values of these Generations and how they react to the current world around them. So my younger days spent watching Howdy Dooty, Sky King, My Friend Flicka, Lassie, The Cisco Kid and later, Leave It To Beaver, Father Knows Best, Doctor Welby, Mayberry RFD on TV have all influenced me to be the way I am; just as the current TV fare is influencing today’s youth (heaven help them!).

Of course, much more than just TV or entertainment in general influences generations. I suppose that I lived my youth in simpler times; certainly they were times that were slower and less communications intensive. I don’t fear for today’s youth. They have opportunities in front of them that would have been unimaginable in my youth ad access to means of learning and growing in knowledge and maturity that we just didn’t have. I just hope that they never lose the chance just to be kids for those glorious first 16-18 years when society gives them an understanding pass on maturity and expectations. Whatever Gen they’re in, kids deserve a chance to just be kids. That’s why I chose the one icon from my age that is known to people from all of those generations and whom has withstood the test of time – Alfred E. Newman – as my graphic for this piece. What, me worry?

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