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Boomer Bummer

The marketing people who invented the term “uncola” are once again putting under the microscope the most heavily scrutinized age cohort in human history. As Baby Boomers begin their slow slide into the grave, the venerable advertising company J. Walter Thompson, now rebranded as “JWT,” has broken down the much-studied seventy-eight million potential users of retirement goods and services into 24 distinct, mnemonically labeled, psychographic categories. Once hippies, then yuppies, they are now “urban strugglers,”  “classic rockers,” “metro influentials,” and so on.

The ad firm’s trademarked “value portraits” divide the Baby Boom, a bit more manageably, into nine categories. The rationale is explained below, and the value portraits themselves can be found on the following nine pages. Each is designed to limn a particular subgroup of the “largest, most lucrative” generation ever to collide with the consumer culture (collective annual spending: $2.3 trillion). Alas, JWT’s take on “how each segment views itself” reads like The Death of Ivan Ilyich  as rewritten by Tom Wolfe (“little time for altruism or emotional loyalty … wanting to have it all, even if it means cutting ethical corners … chances were all missed and best times [are] in the past”). So much for getting back to the garden. If JWT has it right, “mature customers” may want to spend a little more of that $2.3 trillion on psychotherapy.

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