Act Your Age! {Consumers Do.}

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WHAT DIFFERENCE DOES AGE MAKE? In general, age is just one of any number of arbitrary parameters companies can use to segment their customer bases. Family size certainly matters, as does geography—and income level and gender are arguably more definitive traits.

But age, and, more to the point, an age range—well, that allows us to engage in something we really value in American life: We get to feel as if we’re part of a group. An us and a them. A set of boundaries—however blurred they may be—by which we can affirm our membership in a subset of society that is, to whatever degree possible, just like us. Surrounded by those we resemble, we feel empowered. Not just through numbers, but through community.

But here’s the sticking point: We’re not really that much like each other. No two Baby Boomers, for example, are identical, nor would they make identically desirable (or profitable) customers. Even the generations themselves are a bit arbitrary: Not everyone agrees on their start and end points. But until the day arrives when we can truly engage each customer on a one-to-one basis, the goal remains being able to profile the target audience as best we can. We’ve tried to gather some useful metrics on this spread, and in the articles that follow, to illustrate the very different ways in which each of these four generations are engaging with—and impacted by—today’s economic realities.

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