6 Boomer Breakthroughs Since Star Wars 1977 That Advertisers Need to Know

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Boomers For Boomers consultancy identifies six life-changing Boomer breakthroughs since Star Wars launched in 1977 that shaped the modern world. However, many mainstream brand advertisers mistakenly perceive Americans over 50 as inflexible and no longer willing to adapt.


C Barry Robertson

"Although Boomers shaped the modern world in the years after Star Wars, many advertisers have simply forgotten how to listen to them and – even more important – how to speak to them."

With Star Wars: The Force Awakens set to arrive in 2015, marketing historian C. Barry Robertson, CEO of consultancy Boomers For Boomers (B4B), compares contemporary America with everyday life before the movie franchise debuted in 1977.

"In the early 1970s, FM radio, cassette tapes and pocket calculators were still cool. Away from home or work we relied on public payphones to stay in touch, most of us drove Detroit-brand cars and our TV sets pulled in only six or seven channels -- if the rabbit ear antenna was tweaked just right," he says.

B4B identifies six life-changing breakthroughs that Boomers pioneered and popularized in the years following the first Star Wars. Taken for granted today, these milestones were once considered revolutionary.

1. Practical personal computers hit critical mass in the early 1980s and were exponentially enhanced by the Internet a decade later.

2. Mobile phones had already transformed personal communication by the mid-1990s, well before the iPhone's 2007 introduction created the smartphones marketplace.

3. Import car brands now dominate the U.S. market, capturing 55% of new passenger vehicle sales in 2013 (NADA) versus 19% in 1977. It was upwardly mobile Boomers who pushed imports past their tipping point in the late 1970s and 1980s.

4. Post Cold War globalization: after the Berlin Wall fell in 1989 and the Soviet bloc crumbled, Boomer marketers quickly embraced globalism, fostering trade and the worldwide expansion of American brands.

5. The greening of America: calls to curb pollution and protect the environment attracted early support among Boomers, with their involvement accelerating after the mid-1970s. Today, over 250 environmental organizations operate in the U.S. (Wikipedia.)

6. America’s eating habits and tastes were redefined by the Boomers. The number of fast food restaurants more than quadrupled from 30,000 in 1970 to 140,000 in 1980 (USDA) and they adopted ethnic cuisine of all types, especially Hispanic and Asian.

Despite their history, Boomers are often misunderstood, even disregarded, by many Millennial marketers and advertisers who perceive them as too rigid to adopt new ideas -- a concept that is rejected by older experts.

Washington Post columnist, entrepreneur Vivek Wadhwa points out that most senior technology creators are over 50. "The claim that only the young can effect change has been disproved not only by Apple, but also by founders, inventors and innovators, and executives at almost every major technology company," he writes.

And Robert Love of AARP complains that although Americans over 50 represent the world's 3rd largest economy after the USA and China, "older Americans are virtually ignored by marketers mired in last century's obsession with youth ... It's insulting."

The bottom line, according to Robertson, is a significant opportunity loss. "Although Boomers shaped the modern world in the years after Star Wars, many advertisers have simply forgotten how to listen to them and – even more important – how to speak to them," he says.

About Boomers for Boomers

Headquartered in Boulder, Colorado, Boomers For Boomers/B4B publishes the free 15th Nation Newsletter to introduce non-Boomers to what it calls America's most adaptable generation and to opportunities in the 50+ space.

The firm's network of Boomer-age consultants, researchers and strategists all go through the unique B4B certification program before qualifying to coach Millennials and overseas brand managers on how to better engage Americans over 50.

In addition to custom research and consulting services, B4B also offers workshops and white papers to acculturate advertisers to Boomer-world.

CEO C. Barry Robertson began his consulting career at Marplan, the market research division of Interpublic. He was a co-founder of J. D. Power & Associates in 1968 before going independent in the late 1970s.

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