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The Age Curve: How to Profit from the Coming Demographic Storm [NOOK Book]


In business, one thing is certain: What worked 15 years ago won't work today, and what works today will at some point in the future fall flat. Every 20 years or so a new generation is born, bound together by common wants, needs, motives, and events. As each generation ages, we all recognize that its members become ripe for consuming a changing array of products and services. But what most organizations fail to consider is that today's demand cannot be projected from yesterday's successes, because the one ...

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The Age Curve: How to Profit from the Coming Demographic Storm

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In business, one thing is certain: What worked 15 years ago won't work today, and what works today will at some point in the future fall flat. Every 20 years or so a new generation is born, bound together by common wants, needs, motives, and events. As each generation ages, we all recognize that its members become ripe for consuming a changing array of products and services. But what most organizations fail to consider is that today's demand cannot be projected from yesterday's successes, because the one unchangeable and most dominant determinant of consumer demand is the size of the generation that is ripe for a given product or service.

This groundbreaking book lets you in on the best ways to position your business to roll with changing populations of ripe consumers-including how to succeed despite the looming challenges posed by the relatively small Generation X, and leverage the explosive opportunities afforded by massive young Generation Y.

With its simple yet profound insights (along with eye-opening examples of companies who succeeded or failed spectacularly in leveraging or weathering the demographic storm), The Age Curve will forever change the way you look at your business, and how you perceive the generational impact on the entire commercial (and political!) landscape. It will help you forecast far into the future with unprecedented clarity and accuracy and propel your business to entirely predictable long-term success.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780814410172
  • Publisher: AMACOM
  • Publication date: 6/25/2008
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Sales rank: 1,259,006
  • File size: 389 KB

Meet the Author

KENNETH W. GRONBACH is a nationally recognized expert in the field of demography and generational marketing. He regularly provides counsel to Fortune 500 companies as well as large and small businesses across the U.S.
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Read an Excerpt


There are sick empty feelings in your stomach, and then there are really big sick empty feelings. I had the latter. Our signature account of eight years, American Honda Motorcycle, had shipped the year’s allotment of new 1986 bikes to the dealers two months earlier and a unique thing happened: nothing.

Our history with Honda had been nothing but successful up to this point. The formula was simple: Honda sent the bikes from Japan to a New Jersey warehouse, where they were distributed to the Northeast regional dealers, who prepped them and displayed them on showroom floors. As soon as they were displayed at the dealerships, the marketing and advertising kicked in and the customers bought them—all of them. Life was good.

But this was 1986 and the bikes did not sell. It wasn’t that traffic was slow. There was no traffic. The folks at Honda asked, “Did you run the ads?”

This is when the really big sick empty feeling kicked in. The bad news was that sales volume was dropping like a stone. The really bad news was that sales would continue to drop for the next six years until the decline amounted to an 80 percent free fall. Gulp. By 1992 most of the dealerships were ready to close, and we lost the account. No surprise there. The only consolation was that exactly the same thing happened to Yamaha, Suzuki, and Kawasaki. Someone had turned off the faucet and we didn’t know who or why.

In mid-October 1996 I was reading the Hartford Courant’s editorial section. The Hartford Courant is America’s oldest newspaper in continuous publication. It devoted a full page to a sweeping indictment of Generation X and its noninvolvement in the political process. Bill Clinton was about to trounce Bob Dole. It seemed that the Xers (born between 1965 and 1984) did not vote or donate its resources at the same level the Boomers did (born between 1945 and 1964) when they first got involved in politics.

The implied laziness part bothered me. We had thirty Xers working at our agency at the time, and none were lazy. I asked our research department to review the voting habits of Generation X. Our research department checked. All the factors seemed equal on a per capita basis. Xers did vote. They did contribute to their political parties and they did participate in government. There were just fewer of them. In other words, the young Generation X voters actually cast fewer votes than the young Boomers when they were the same age not because they were lazy but because they were simply a smaller group.

Was this simple difference in the size of the Boomer generation and Generation X the answer to the motorcycle mystery? I reviewed U.S. Census Bureau data to find out, and indeed there were a lot fewer of them—11 percent fewer. There were 78 million Boomers and only 69 million Xers.

That moment of recognition changed my thinking from that point forward. Large and small generations, alternately moving and aging through the marketplace, determine many a company’s success or failure. That moment changed the way I counsel my client companies. It spawned the shape of my public presentations. It gave birth to this book.

The core idea of this book is quite simple: Smaller generations buy less stuff; larger generations buy more stuff. When a large generation, such as the Boomers, leaves the market and is replaced by a smaller generation, such as Gen Xers, sales are going to drop. Please excuse the fact that I repeat this premise throughout my book, but I have found that people (executives, entrepreneurs, salespeople, marketers, advertisers, etc.) just don’t accept this clear-cut concept until you beat them over the head with it. My intention is to show how the simple idea of generational size applies to an ever-widening variety of areas and convince readers to recognize it, believe it, and, most important, put it to use.

—Kenneth W. Gronbach

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Table of Contents

Foreword     XI
Introduction     XV
A Word from the Author     XVIII
The Parade of Generations: Why Aren't Marketers Paying Attention?
The Generational Impact on Supply and Demand     3
Who Are These People?     11
Bell Curves, Pies, and Your "Best Customer"     19
Case Study: Detroit, Japan, and the Best Customers for Cars     25
The Older Generations
Silent Virtues: A Small Group with Its Own Impact     37
Case Study: How the "Graying Of America" Myth Will Take Down the Assisted-Living Industry     43
The Baby Boomers: The Radical-Change Generation and its Impact on Today and Tomorrow
The Boomers: Mass, Money, and Motivation     57
What Boomers Will Buy     65
Boomers Will Not Get Old     69
The Boomer Economy: Of Credit Cards and Gift Cards     75
Of Course You Can Afford It!     81
Social Security and Private Health Care: Dead But Not Buried     89
Wal-Mart Hits a Wall-A Great Wall     97
Media's Slow Death: The End of Marketing As We Know It     105
Generation X: The Outsize Expectations of a Small Generation
Quit Picking on the Xers!     111
The Cause and Effect of a Small Generation     117
The X Factor: Where Have All the Workers Gone?     123
The Gen X Labor Shortage and the Impact on Direct Mail     137
Case Study: How Generation X Drove Motorcycle Sales off the Cliff     141
Case Study: Planes Stuck on the Ground-A Business Traveler's Tale     153
Case Study: The Death of a Discount Store     159
Generation Y: The Giant on the Horizon
Stop Looking in the Rearview Mirror!     165
The Great Y Ahead: More of Everything     179
Marketing to Generation Y     185
Case Study: No Leg to Stand On-A Levi's Footnote     195
Schools, Taxes, and the Future     201
Generation Y's Leading Legacy     209
The Generation Impact of Social Issues
The Bigotry Is Almost Gone-A Boomer's Perspective     219
Coming to America: Melting Into the World's Melting Pot     227
Macro and Micro Conclusions     237
Appendix A     243
Appendix B     247
Appendix C     255
Appendix D     259
Index     263
About the Author     269
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Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 4, 2011

    Baby Boomers in Business Need to Read This!

    I had the opportunity to both read the book and attend a confernce where the author presented the highlights. The book takes a snore subject like deomgraphics (study of people simply in terms of quantity) and makes it engaging in our business decision processes. It is well written, easy to read and basically puts a tool in your toolbelt you did not know you were missing. Trust me, you need to spend 2 hours and read this book.

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  • Posted February 22, 2010

    This book offers a new angle to understand current employment and budget deficits of state level.

    The author is able to explain current and past successes and failed business very well with the demographic changes. However, the future does not depend only on demography, but also the trend of the people.
    An example is senior and assisted-living housing that targets seniors with 75 year plus old. Considering the large number of boomers approaching this age, the future of the senior housing market looks promising, but the boomers do not want to consider that they are old. That is, demography is positive, but the trend is negative. The book does not offer any clue, regarding which is more important. He seems to suggest negative factor will prevail.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 1, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted January 1, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

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