Monday, October 20, 2008


As we watch a new generation of college students and young adults become energized about the political process, it reminds me of what I witnessed in the ‘60’s. And it brings to mind a great book called Generations; The History of America’s Future 1584-2069 by William Strauss and Neil Howe.

First published in 1991, this is proving – 17 years later – to be dead-on accurate as a predictor and reflection of consumer behavior. You can still buy it on

The authors break generations down by “type,” “principal callings,” “personality,” “life phase,” “cycle,” etc., “Boomers,” for example, were born in an “awakening” era, so it is no surprise that in our youth we revered authors like Emerson and Thoreau who were also idealists born in another awakening era.

An era lasts about 22 years.

But as boomers age, they are going through each of the other eras, e.g., “inner driven,” which began in 1981, “crisis 2003,” and “outer driven,” which will begin about 2025 when the youngest boomers will be about 65. If they live long enough, this latter group will see the beginning of yet another “awakening” era.

The parents of most Boomers, like my late Father (GI generation) and Mother (Silent generation), came of age during another “crisis” era, like we’re in now, the Great Depression and World War II. They were “civics” and “reactives” by type, not “idealists” like my generation. But their parents and grandparents were either “idealists,” born during an earlier “awakening” era epitomized by Franklin D. Roosevelt or like my grandparents, “reactives” like Dwight D. Eisenhower.

“Millennials,” who were born during the “inner driven” era are now going through the “crisis” era as young adults, while my Mother, now 80, is seeing the beginning of an era like the one in which she came of age, the Great Depression.

Even more relevant to consumer behavior and marketing, these eras can be used to look at differences or cycles in the nurturing of children, gender roles, tolerance for risk, individualism vs. community, world view, behavior toward ideals, behavior toward institutions, sense of greatest need and vision of the future.

Take my word for it. Be patient. You may need to read and re-read it. And you’ll find this book a remarkable way to understand the past and see into the future.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I totally agree! Just bought the book, and also bought "The Fourth Turning: what the cycles of history tell us about America's next rendevous with destiny" by the same authors.