June, 2014

Why Generation X Gets No Respect In The Marketplace



Generation Xers were born when Rodney Dangerfield was in his forties and fifties – between 1961 and 1984, according to one definition, from 1965 to 1980 according to another.  But as Quentin Ferrell, writing for the Wall Street Journal June 27,  Jason Notte, writing online for MSN Money  or most Xers themselves would tell you, they’re the Rodney Dangerfield generation. They don’t get no respect – in the workplace, in the marketplace, or in life overall.

Now “creeping into its 40s and even 50s,” Notte (an Xer himself) writes, this cohort is “well into parenthood despite having children far later than the generations that came before. They’re old enough to actively compare U.S. economic recessions and don’t know where everybody got this idea of ‘economic stability’ from. They’ve been told since they were young that they were going to be the first American generation to do worse than their parents and watched as market and global forces conspired to make that true.”

Oh, and just in case you hadn’t noticed, they seem to have an exaggerated sense of victimhood.

Notte’s lament notwithstanding, “market and global forces” didn’t single out his g-g-g-generation. If anything’s responsible for their existential angst, it’s first, their parents and second, their own responses to those evilly conspiring market and global forces.

No respect in the marketplace

Only one notable product stands out as having been specifically created for and marketed to Xers, and that’s MTV. So if they feel that “market forces” such as marketing, advertising and media have overlooked them, they may actually have something there.

That’s because those “market forces” pay attention to two things – numbers and dollars.  And Generation X is just a wee bit short on both.

They’re short on numbers because their Baby Boomer parents decided to have fewer babies.

Roughly 75 million Baby Boomers gave birth to only 49 million baby Xers. By comparison, the next generation – Millennials – is some 89 million strong.

To marketers, that looks like a shortage of customers. No wonder marketers are more attentive to the tastes and habits of Boomer and Millennial consumers.

If that weren’t enough, Xers are short on assets and long on debt.

According to Pew Charitable Trust research, Generation X lost about 45 percent of its wealth during the Obama economy – from an average of $75,000 net worth in 2007 to $42,000 in 2010. That’s less than half of what Baby Boomers lost, but since the Boomers had more assets going into the Great Recession, they had more left over to fall back on.

Xers were the first demographic cohort to get into big-time college debt, and their participation in the massive expansion of consumer lending (i.e., credit-card buying and stated-income mortgages) that characterized the 1980s and ’90s put them further in the hole.

As of 2010, Xers’ assets were only double their debts, while Boomers’ debt-to-asset ratios were 1:4 and the Silent Generation (born 1930-45) had assets 27 times their debts.

Marketers don’t find it very productive to invest advertising dollars in consumers who can’t afford to buy their products.

No respect in the workplace

As working Boomers retire, they create new marketing opportunities – in grandparenting and grandchild-related purchases; in travel; in business equipment and supplies for second careers; in caregiving,  health care, durable medical equipment, and presecription and OTC meds.

These all cost money, which Xers, when they reach their sixties, aren’t likely to have anywhere near enough of.

According to a 2012 Insured Retirement Institute report, 59 percent of Gen Xers haven’t even figured out how much money they’ll need to save for their retirement. Half of them, a 2012 MetLife-sponsored survey found, were behind on their retirement savings, and 7 percent hadn’t even started. During the recession, the IRI reported, “15 percent of Xers made early withdrawals from their 401k plans, 23 percent stopped contributing to their retirement accounts, and 22 percent stopped contributing to college savings plans.”

Xers can’t even count on higher future earnings, as they climb their way up the hierarchy at work, to help. While 58 percent of Xer men and 41 percent of Xer women want to be CEOs and COOs someday, Boomers who already hold those jobs may make sure that someday never comes. According to a Gallup poll, old Boomers in the workplace, unlike old soldiers in the song, have no plans whatever to just fade away. Some 39 percent plan to go right on workingpast 65, thank you, and 10 percent plan to retire only feet first. Meanwhile, Millennials, whom employers prize as the first generation to have spent all their lives in a digital world, are nipping at the Xers’ heels.

Which means that business-to-business marketers may ignore Gneration Xers in the workplace the way business-to-consumer marketers have ignored them everywhere else.

One saving grace

One possible bright spot in Generation X’s economic future is something no one may ever have expected – Social Security. That’s because the one feature that makes its future very doubtful right now could eventually be its, and the Xers’, salvation.

You see, Social Security’s business model is based on a Ponzi scheme’s, in that its “solvency” requires an ever-growing number of people paying in to supply the cash the system pays out to a dwindling number of recipients.  Two factors have put the whammy on this model: First, increased longevity, already into the eighties, is rapidly draining a system set up on the premise that most beneficiaries would, in accordance with 1930s life expectancy figures, conveniently curl up and die. Second, the combination of a smaller demographic (i.e., the Xers) paying into the system to cover monthly checks for a larger cohort (the Boomers), coupled with five years of record-low workforce participation, has reduced the amount of money coming in.

But a younger, larger cohort is on the way. As noted above, Millennials already outnumber Boomers in the total population, and soon they’ll outnumber them in the workforce. While they may take away those top jobs the Xers aspire to, their growing number of FICA withholdings can, assuming Social Security survives, contribute more to the Xers’ retirements than many Xers themselves did.


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Yahoo Graciously Offers To Stop Ripping Off Some Advertisers


Yahoo will stop charging advertisers for online display ads that fail to display on the audience’s computer screens, Advertising Age reported June 25. This is a big deal, but nowhere near as big as it may sound.

Yahoo giveth

Up until now, most of the ad dollars that marketers have been paying Yahoo for display space have been, in effect ripped off, because a majority of display ads simply haven’t been displaying – at least not where anyone can see them.

ComScore analytics conducted from May, 2012, through February, 2013, showed that a majority of online display ads –  54 percent, to be specific – “do not have the ability to be seen by the consumer.”

Sometimes the ads, or the entire web pages they’re supposed to appear on, don’t even load.

Sometimes the ads do appear, but so far down, you have to practically scroll all the way down to China to see them – and most website visitors don’t, because they still can’t be bothered scrolling down even a little below the fold.

The main place those ads show up is on advertisers’ media bills.

Yahoo’s new Prime View offering, Ad Age says, “is moving to give some of its advertisers their money’s worth, by charging only only for display ads that actually come into view on someone’s computer screen, according to the company.” Actually getting what you’re paying for; how ’bout that?

But like those inflated advertising bills, there’s somewhat less to this than actually meets the eye.

Yahoo taketh away

Part of that is because of the presence of a little, four-letter weasel word – “some,” not all, advertisers. Read more →

Do You Make These Common Mistakes In Email Marketing?


Because it can be targeted, customized and tracked, “Email marketing is arguably one of the most effective digital marketing channels.” At least that’s what Kara Trivunovic, strategic services vp for enterprise email provider BlueHornet, writes in a June 24 MediaPost emailInsider post.

Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t. It all depends on how you define effectiveness.

“According to a 2014 study by McKinsey & Company,” says web designer and developer Bonnie Grassie-Hughes, “email marketing is nearly 40 times as effective as Facebook and Twitter for gaining new customers.”

But according to Gallup research released just this week, that’s not saying much. “Social media are not the powerful and persuasive marketing force many companies hoped they would be,” Gallup reported, noting that 62 percent of 18,000 adult social media users surveyed said that Facebook, Twitter and other social sites had no influence whatever on their purchase decisions.

Another way to evaluate email marketing’s effectiveness is by results. But what kind of results? Read more →

New Gallup Research Questions Social Media’s Effectiveness As Sales Tools

Burst your bubble

If advertisers aren’t questioning the sales value of their social media marketing, they have good reason to, says a June 23 Wall Street Journal report, citing brand-new Gallup research to be officially released June 30.

“Social media fail to live up to early marketing hype,” the WSJ headlines. “Social media are not the powerful and persuasive marketing force many companies hoped they would be,” the Gallup report concurs.

For the US companies that spent a combined $5.1 billion on social media advertising last year – a figure expected to almost triple by 2015 – that could mean expensive failures.

This is partly because of how consumers use social media and partly because of how marketers misuse them. Read more →

How Eric Cantor’s Own Advertising Killed His Re-election Chances


If you go along with Richmond Times Dispatch associate editorials editor Bob Rayner’s June 22 report, Eric Cantor’s own advertising was one of two major factors in his primary defeat. But it was actually two advertising campaigns. Cantor can perhaps be forgiven for not knowing about the second, because it launched in 1962, the year before he was born. But his advertising team has no such excuse, since the campaign in question was such a breakthrough that the lessons it taught about campaign strategy are still  reshaping advertising a half-century( and counting) later.

Deja vu…

No advertising professional worthy of the name should be ignorant of the 1962 Avis car rental “Number 2″ campaign, especially because of what it demonstrates so clearly about what dominant brands should and shouldn’t do, say and spend money on when competing with a distant underdog. Read more →

More Than Half Of Small Businesses Are Hiding From Customers


When consumers start shopping for goods and services, they let their fingers do the walking – straight to their keyboards. Webvisible and Nielsen research shows that 82 percent of customers find goods and services through search engines, and 50 percent go to search engines first. So it’s shocking that more than half of small businesses – 55 percent – still don’t have websites, according to a June 16 AP report [link unavailable]. That figure comes from a Google/Ipsos survey of 3,800 small businesses last year and represents only a tiny improvement over 58 percent without websites the year before. Read more →

More Than 20 Percent Of Hillary’s Twitter Followers Don’t Exist


According to IT security company Barracuda Networks, more than one in five of Hillary Clinton’s Twitter followers – 21.9 percent, to be precise – are as fake as those Nigerian princes who want to send you millions of dollars. With a total of over 1.4 million followers, that’s a ghost army more than 306,600 strong – 3,000 more than the entire population of Tampa, Florida. If that’s not bad enough, Barracuda calls an additional 12.1 percent of Hillary’s followers “questionable.”

But @HillaryClinton isn’t the worst offender.

Nearly one in four John McCain followers – 23.6 percent – aren’t living, breathing, flesh-and-blood humans, to say nothing of being registered voters, either.

Nor are more than 35 percent of Democratic National Committee mouthpiece Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s.

But the worst fake follower totals of all come from Barack Obama’s accounts. Almost half the followers – 46.8 percent, plus 16.6 percent questionable – at @BarackObama, operated by Organizing for Action, are fake, as are 31 percent of @WhiteHouse’s, with another 16.8 percent questionable. Read more →

Apple Puts Creativity Into Advertising Instead Of Products

rotten apple

Apple Computer may be based in Cupertino, California, but a June 9 Advertising Age report suggests it’s living in denial. Instead of developing jaw-droppingly awesome new digital products, “Amid criticisms that it has failed to innovate, Apple is increasingly taking marketing into its own hands.”

[Apple is] madly building an internal agency that it’s telling recruits will eventually number 1,000 – the size of Grey Advertising. It’s pitting [current agency] TBWA/MAL against this internal agency with “jump balls” to mine the best creative ideas, a controversial tactic with outside agencies, let alone an internal one. It’s going after some of adland’s boldest-faced names to staff its in-house shop — in some cases, it’s even poached executives from TBWA/MAL. And, in what once would have been seen as a sacrilegious breach of the Apple-MAL bond, it’s been inviting some of the ad industry’s top shops to pitch on major projects.
But Apple’s grand ambitions so far appear to be just that.

A long and dishonorable tradition

In firing advertising agencies to solve product problems, Apple joins a long and dishonored tradition. Read more →