11 February 2008

Me vs. We

Last week I read a piece of marketing advice:
"Baby boomers have always been considered the 'me-generation,' and that doesn't change with age."
It's this type of reckless gibberish that is useless to marketers, and ultimately harmful to their clients. I wrote a chapter about it in my book. Here's a bit of it:
Baby Boomers were stigmatized when we were in and around our twenties, early thirties. Sure, we were ‘me’ back then. Barring tragedies like war and all sorts of catastrophes similarly horrifying, most young adults are me, me, me. Self-obsessed to the nth degree. They have to be. It’s the period for figuring out who you are, making something of yourself, being mostly selfish, mostly self-obsessed. Not such a bad path to take when you’re young and getting your bearings. If you don’t, you might not survive. Some of us went a bit overboard and didn’t survive – but it was a small percentage.

What happened is that there were so many of us in the 1970s when the term ‘me generation’ was coined that it ended up being the zeitgeist of the industrialized world. This image followed us. As we hit our late thirties, forties, fifties, and now some of us banging into our sixties, we were too busy to bother about this silly ‘branding’ of ourselves.

Today, Baby Boomers are two or three times removed from being a “me” generation. What constitutes self-actualization when you are twenty-five is different than when you are fifty-five. In your twenties a person thinks they are the picture. As you get older, you see yourself more and more as a picture that is part of a bigger picture.

Talk to some folks in their twenties, thirties. They are now in that ‘me’ stage. It’s healthy, smart for them to be so. I was just like them thirty years ago, get a big bang out of them, admire their boundless creativity, energy – and self-obsession. These ‘me generation’ twentysomethings today will become a ‘we generation’ in thirty years.
(page 171, Advertising to Baby Boomers)
(c) 2004, 2007 by Paramount Market Publishing

I could go deep into all sorts of profound stuff, like Shakespeare's The Seven Ages of Man and Maslow's Hierarchy, but that would take scores of screen scrolls. So this'll be short ...

Here's a piece I blogged about in 2006:
'Me Generation' becomes 'We Generation' in USA Today:
Will boomers really give something back? They already are. Nationally, boomers (33%) have higher volunteer rates than either seniors (24%) or young adults (24%), reports the Corporation for National and Community Service. This is the most schooled and traveled generation in history. It has much to offer by the giving of its time. The number of American volunteers rose to 65.4 million last year from 59.5 million in 2002. It is projected to reach 70 million by 2010, driven by aging boomers who want to make a difference.
Recently the New York Times weighed in on the subject. Sounds like my book:
Generation Me vs. You Revisited
Yet despite exhibiting some signs of self-obsession, young Americans are not more self-absorbed than earlier generations, according to new research challenging the prevailing wisdom.
And today Mark Miller (a one-day colleague and every day intelligent, nice guy) talks a bit about this stereotyping silliness in his Chicago Sun-Times column:
Boomers give plenty of financial help to kids, parents
Baby boomers often are stereotyped as self-indulgent -- a generation endlessly fascinated with its own needs and interests.
Then there's this:
Selfless baby boomers switch careers
Back to that quote:
"Baby boomers have always been considered the 'me-generation,' and that doesn't change with age."
A quote from Yours Truly:
"When a marketing, advertising, or PR person starts talking about Baby Boomers in sound bites and clich├ęs, he/she is treating you like a baby. Don't listen. Simply put on your iPod, and smile and nod."

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