I love demographic data.
This is a somewhat surprising pleasure for someone who is admittedly not a numbers person.
In part, I enjoy working with these statistics because I was employed in marketing research for years and became comfortable in finessing such data.
But more importantly, demographic information can spark creativity and innovation in all fields of endeavor, far beyond the interests of the demographers who lay out the basics for us.
So I was fascinated to see how MetLife, in the publications of its MetLife Mature Market Institute, segments the U.S. generations born since the early 1900s. Generation Y (born 1977-1994), Generation X (born 1965-1976) and those 65+ (born 1944 and earlier) are rather predictable.
However, Met Life has done something interesting in breaking down Baby Boomers into three segments:
- Younger, born 1959-1964
- Middle, born 1952-1958
- Older, born 1946-1951
This is the first time I’ve seen such segmentation (but then I no longer track what is going on in demography in any serious way). However, I have worked with systems that split the Boomers into two groups.
Either way, the whole gang born between 1946 and 1964 totals 26% of the U.S. population. Too broad a time span for reasonable generalizations about business and lifestyle trends. And despite the smaller groupings, each one still represents a huge number of people, even when limiting to the U.S. alone.
- Younger Boomers number approximately 27.4 million. Their major generational event is Watergate.
- Middle Boomers number 29.1 million. Their major generational event is the Vietnam War.
- Older Boomers number 20.5 million. Their major generational event is the JFK assassination.
So what’s the relevance?
In an era when businesses of all sizes, but especially self-employed entrepreneurs, are finely niching, dividing Boomers into three groups can be a useful tool in refining our niche.
Both demographic characteristics (Boomer men who are divorcing) and value characteristics (people who want to develop spiritually) are aspects of niching, and these ready made classifications by age can help narrow a business niche in a useful way. It helps us get our hands around a concept that can be helpful in defining what our work and our business are all about.
Of course, these distinctions are somewhat arbitrary. Someone who helps Older Boomers refine their golf swing can also work very effectively with an individual born in 1952.
And the distinctions are less useful when only a few people or entities observe them. There’s a huge amount of info out there about Boomers as a whole, but further narrowing of niches demographically will become easier when (or if?) this narrowing down becomes more widespread among business strategists, researchers and writers.
By the way, I hate the phrase “Baby Boomer.” It’s a ridiculous descriptor for people in their fifties and even older. I propose “Generation W” instead.