The Silver Century – A growing Reality

The guru of marketing, Philip Kotler defines marketing simply as ‘meeting needs profitably’. However, there is so much effort, planning and strategy that go into achieving this. A recent book titled ‘Beyond Disruption’ praises companies such as Apple, Sony and TAG Heuer for achieving exponential sales growth despite being in established, but stagnant markets. So what is it that organizations world over are doing to increase sales, year after year? Obviously, they all have their own unique strategies, but a common thread that runs through all is a tremendous understanding of the market demographics.

National populations vary in their age mix. At one end is Mexico and India, with an extremely young and growing population. The other extreme is Japan, a country with one of the world’s oldest populations. So while milk and diapers would be extremely important products in Mexico, Japan would prefer many more adult products.

On the whole, there is a global trend towards an aging population. According to a survey in the Economist, more people will grow old in this century than ever before. If that’s not indication enough, check this out: In 2005, the population of people aged 60 surpassed the proportion of under fives, and there are unlikely to ever be more toddlers than seniors. Is it the start of what the Japanese called The Silver Century”? I certainly think so.

In most countries, women are not having enough babies to replace those who die. (Can’t say that about India and China though :)). In fact, 2002 was the first year since the Baby Boomer (1946) in which American women produced enough babies to sustain the birth rate. The last wave of baby boomers has turned forty. Research shows that half of them are depressed that they are turning older, and one in every five are actively resisting the aging process. That explains the boom in the hair replacement, health club memberships, skin tightening creams et al sectors.

What’s the positive of this?

The baby boomers will be passing on the torch to the next generation, called echo boomers (born between 1977 and 1994). The echo boomers – almost 72 million in number – are almost equal to the baby boomers. And they are still growing! The distinguishing factor of this age group is their fluency and understanding of the digital medium. For them, internet products and online advertising is as good as any other traditional means of marketing. For this reason, Don Tapscott has called them “Net-Gens”.

It’s not surprising then, that all major brands now have a special budget and marketing plan dedicated to the online medium. More on online marketing next time…