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Why Integrators Should Set Sights on Gen X, Millennials

Electronic security contractors need to realize that Gen X and Millennial money spends just as well as Baby Boomer money.



By ·

Let’s have a quick culture quiz. When you see the year “1970,” do you first think: A) Somewhere nearer in time to the Paleozoic Era than the invention of the compact disc, or B) Smack dab in the middle of the Age of Aquarius and shortly after you tried to kiss Joan Baez at Woodstock? If you thought “B,” I wrote this piece for you.

In May 1970 as I ended my junior year in college, I decided to take a couple of summer school courses. Little did I know that one of the courses would alter my critical thinking from that point forward. The book I chose was “Future Shock”, a 6-million-copy best seller by Alvin and (then uncredited) Heidi Toffler. The book predicted the “electronic frontier” that became the Internet, Prozac and other mood altering prescription drugs, something akin to YouTube, cloning, home schooling, the cult of instant celebrity, and the end of Detroit-style manufacturing. Pretty good for 43 years ago!

But it was something the Tofflers wrote about Baby Boomers, at the time no older than 25, that has stayed with me forever. By then the Boomers were statistically acknowledged as the largest generation of all time. The Tofflers likened us to a pig swallowed by a python, slowly working itself to the end, causing the snake discomfort all the way. It’s a remarkable image.

Like it or not, that end is near. The oldest Boomers are two years away from 70 with not one of them younger than 50. Every day 10,000 of us apply for Social Security and Medicare. And that relentlessly continues unabated for nearly 20 more years.

Peter Townshend wrote “I hope I die before I get old.” How’s that workin’ out for ya, Pete?

The average post-recession Boomer is much more likely to move in with the kids, rent a double-wide outside of Tampa, buy a modest condo or home in a pre-planned and improvement restrictive community like Del Webb or simply stay in place than they are to start the building process anew.

AARP estimates over 40 percent of the Boomers will work until they drop dead because they must in order to survive. And while we are leaving this earth, we are not dropping fast enough. According to the Baby Boomer Death Clock, only 14 percent of us are already in the ground with a mere 73 million or so still waiting to meet the reaper. That happens about three times every minutes.

This is SSI, not Vanity Fair, so I’m not going to go on and on discussing my generation’s narcissism and self-indulgence.

Not so long ago, when I was still a smoker and could satisfy my addiction in the smog-filled, nicotine-encrusted, cough-inducing “smoking lounge” at McCarran Airport, I happened to share a smoke with the owner of a large specialty A/V chain. He was outlining his plans for that upcoming year. All of his advertising and marketing was focused directly at the Boomers, of which he was one. I asked him if he ever thought of trying to make his stores appeal to a younger demographic.

“Nah,” he responded. “They don’t have any money.”

That chain never did reach out to anyone born after 1964, not even the very young at the time car audio enthusiasts. The chain is long gone and while that’s hardly the only reason, I remain certain it was a contributing factor to their demise.

Most Baby Boomers are Broke

A while back I read those in the broad consumer electronics business and specifically custom installers must shift their thinking in order to continue catering to Boomers as they age because of all the accumulated net worth and massive unparalleled spending power. Say what?

This entire concept centered around the home. Yes, history knows the Boomers changed the housing market. They were brought up in slab ranches and bungalows and went on the create McMansions out of teardowns. Heck, they invented the condo and the co-op. As they downsize from these palaces, it has been said that they will move to smaller Jewel Box homes, even more technologically state-of-the-art their bigger digs only more manageable.

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