Aug 14th, 2017
Marie Stafford Breaks Down The Elastic Generation
Marie Stafford is the European Director of the Innovation Group, an in-house futures consultancy that delivers trends, insight and thought leadership to the our clients.
In 2014, the Innovation Group started tracking the future impact of The Elastic Generation – better known as the Baby Boomers. They decided to focus on this cohort because this age group – people in their early 50s to early 70s – are the foundation of Britain’s most potent consumer force today. But hardly any brands bother to focus on them.
At a recent JWT London’s LABS session, a regular Friday occurrence where new ideas, innovation and creativity are shared, Marie presented some of the latest insights and trends from the living study of the Elastic Generation. Below are a few highlights.
This is the generation of rebels who ripped up the rulebook. They have been trailblazers all their lives and have always felt free to speak their minds, choose their own path and do things their own way. Think of their formative years during the 60s and 70s: a time when anything seemed possible - the sexual revolution, equality, peace protests and the birth of youth as a political and consumer force. They have reinvented life at every age and later life is no exception. As model and boomer entrepreneur Cindy Joseph said, “We’re just doing what we want to do, and we really don’t care what anybody else thinks.”
Elastics don’t fit into the neat little box of “empty nesters”. They live for now, seizing the opportunity to make the most of life and spend time well. That might be something as simple as spending more time with family or starting a new one (a growing trend among men in their 50s). For others, it’s about enjoying experiences, getting more active or taking up new hobbies. And for some, it’s about fulfilling their entrepreneurial dreams or giving something back through volunteering. Either way, the Elastics are not slowing down.
Despite still being fully engaged with the world, this generation is continuously underestimated.
We rarely acknowledge the powerful role the Elastics play at the heart of the modern family. We assume they are happy, carefree retirees who are living the good life now that their kids have flown from the nest.
In reality, a fifth of this group still have children living with them at home. Many more are helping to fund their children’s first steps toward independence. They also help with the grandkids. As life expectancy increases, some even care for their own parents too. A third (35%) of younger Elastics are worried about caring for their ailing parents.
This makes them a crucial consumer to reach. They are not just managing their own needs, but also those of younger and older family members. Brands can support them by offering helpful solutions that tackle genuine points in their often hectic lives.
Our research taught us that this generation is inspiring. So why shouldn’t it be aspirational too? Isn’t there something in the Elastics’ attitude and approach to life that could appeal to all of us, no matter our age?
Why not, when this generation is healthier and fitter than ever.
The Elastics we met were keen consumers of health, beauty and wellness. As a group, they rate their wellbeing very highly and view it holistically encompassing physical, emotional and mental aspects. They told us they are happier, wiser, more fulfilled and more confident today than any other time in their lives. Our research shows 83% are less concerned about what others think of them now that they are older. Age is irrelevant to them - they are who they are and they don’t care what anyone else thinks. This is who I am they say, take it or leave it.
This is the authenticity that comes with experience. And it’s something that can appeal to all ages, not just Elastics themselves. How many of us would love to feel truly authentic like this?
Fundamentally, the first rule of talking to the Elastic Generation is to forget about age. They don’t feel, think or want to hear about their age. They are just people, like everyone else. They take holidays, buy coffee, drive cars like everyone else, and can afford to do so.
Secondly, don’t imagine they fit the stereotype you expect. They are engaged, involved with the world and a key consumer to reach. Due to their unique position within their families and their relative financial wealth, they should be the dream consumer for many brands.
Finally, ensure your brand is open to this generation. They want to feel included, not pushed aside. Many of the values they care about include family, enjoying life, honesty and having fun. It’s time to welcome them in the consumer market.