Column: Thursday the 13th
The buying power of this age group is eclipsed only by its lack of restraint. This is a marketer’s perfect storm, a classic formula for the conversion of baubles into big bucks.
I am now in the last few months of membership in this prized demographic. Later this year I will receive invitations from financial planners to seminars with titles like, “Let Us Help You Maximize Your Paltry Retirement Savings, And Dinner Is On Us!”
Calls will come in from “Do Not Call” list-ignoring salespeople offering “pre-need” burial plans. “Relaxed fit” will be the answer to any question asked me by clothing salespeople. But until then I aim to revel in the heady froth of being a trend-setting consumer.
While I have its attention, I hope to set the marketplace straight concerning hi-tech gadgets. I am not impressed that a cell phone can also function as a video recorder, music player, calculator, and gaming console. I use it for making phone calls, and that’s all I want out of it. I will never explore the mystery functions that lurk under the 27 or so buttons I’ve never touched. The fact that some lazy statistician lumped me in demographically with the thumb-typing generation is staggering in its inaccuracy.
My upbringing has more in common with Tom Sawyer’s than 50 Cent’s. I grew up in an era of Saturday baths, milkmen, and locally-produced TV. Sports were played in backyards absent of parental interference, with rules tailored to the limitations of the lot (translation: in whiffleball, at least one of the four “bases” would be a tree). Sneakers, which we called tennis shoes, were non-specific as to activity - I was grateful just to wear something other than hard, heavy leather shoes that needed to be polished.
I and my 49ers can’t make sense out of today’s trends in eating. No food, solid or liquid, was blue (candies and frozen treats excluded.) The only energy drink at our disposal was coffee, not exactly the first choice before a round of hoops. And the 16-ounce “large” drink of my youth would hardly amount to one big gulp from a Big Gulp. Chickens were not extruded into nuggets nor split into buffalo wings. Ketchup was red, Kool-Aid was, too, and never, but never, was Gatorade blue!
The sub-genre of edibles known as chewing gum warrants attention as well. I look at what the kids are chewing now compared to the “chaws” of my youth and wonder what’s going on. We had three mainstream flavors of gum, a handful of minor league options, and a few brands of bubble gum, some of which were indistinguishable from the shoe soles they ended up on. Nowadays there are gums specifically for breath-freshening, with distillations of mint strong enough to strip varnish.
I feel the pain of employees whose job it is to entice me into an impulse buy. I feel it because I cause it. The more a marketer tries to get me to part with my money, the more I cling to my cash as if it were Black Monday. I imagine this exchange at one of the youthful marketers brainstorming sessions:
Tyler: “Dude’s awesome!”
Ariel: “Yeah, but would your dad buy it?”
Conner: “Maybe if we put more airbags on it?”
Madison: “He’d still never want a skateboard.”
So, younguns, as I quietly exit the culture of consumption and saunter haltingly into the sunset of my (and my money’s) relevance, let us share a sigh of relief that we are no longer in each other’s faces.
Bundle your functions, exponentiate your communication capabilities - meanwhile, I think I’ll make a phone call. With my phone.
Matt Wyatt is the Messenger staff cartoonist.