Gronbach on America: Not as bad as you think

08/22/2011 06:22:00 AM
Tom Karst

Ken Gronbach was the keynote speaker at the U.S. Apple show in Chicago, and he fit the bill perfectly. He was, of course, not stuck behind the podium but instead energetically roamed the front part of the hall. He peppered his talk with questions he left hanging, fictional stories that provided a punch line and counter-intuitive observations about demographics that in the end gave the audience more optimism about America.

Gronbach, called a demographic keynote Speaker and futurist, has web site that also details his views on topics such as the future of China and the critical appearance of Generation Y in America's destiny.

Gronbach’s book "The Age Curve: How to profit from the coming demographic storm" was the basis of his talk to U.S. Apple.

 "If you want to predict the future, do the math," he said. For example, he said the recession of 2008 would have been much worse for the U.S. had it not been for the fact that Baby Boomers were in the midst of their "heavy lifting" of creating earnings and a tax base.

"If it happened 10 years earlier we would been cooked, and if it would have happened ten years later we would have been cooked.'

 He also cited the case of the decline in motorcycle sales in the late 1980s and 1990s. Those Gen X consumers were not fundamentally different than Baby Boomers; there were just nine million fewer of them and they didn't - and couldn't - consume to the level of Baby Boomers.

"Time ages humans," he said. "You can't slow it down, you can't speed it up and you can't pretend it doesn't happen."

Gronbach showed the audience what was his "signature" graphic - a chart of live births in the U.S. from 1905 to 2005. He noted that the smallish "silent generation," aged now from 67 years old to 86 years old. The Baby Boomers, from 47 years old to 66 years old, comprise a whopping 78.2 million people in the U.S.

He said that Baby Boomers will migrate to Florida and other warm locales in the coming years, no doubt reviving flagging real estate markets in Florida and other states. Generation X, with 69.5 million people can't quite live up to the conspicuous consumption of the Baby Boomers, he said.

He noted that millions of Latino immigrants between the years of 27 to 46 years old are helping to compensate for the population deficit of Generation X. "Do we have an immigration problem? We are a nation of immigrants," he said.

Generation Y, from 7 to 26 years old, beats the Baby Boom Generation with some 100 million people.

"We are the only nation with Generation Y above Generation X," he said. "They will eat a ton of apples; you have nothing to worry about in terms of demand," Gronbach said. Generation Y will also help fuel an "re-industrialization" of America, he said.

Gronbach suggested that marketers "wave goodbye to old people" and focus their gaze on Generation Y. Just as McDonald's introduced the Egg McMuffin for the breakfast crowd and Ford bowed the Mustang for Baby Boomers, Gronbach urged apple marketers to examine what they are missing about their market. "What is your egg McMuffin?" he asked.

Women outnumber men at colleges by a ratio of 60 to 40 and Gronbach said the glass ceiling is shattered. "Look for women to lead; they will run things."

What's more, Gronbach embraced Latino immigrants, pointing out that their common faith and assimilation in American culture is much more favorable than Europe's experience with immigrants.

"The United States economy will benefit dramatically from the contributions of the Latino culture as they advance socio-economically,' he said.

"They go to the supermarket three times as much as the indigenous population and they will eat your apples," he said.

Though hopeful about America ("Our best days are ahead") Gronbach's wide ranging presentation sounded a cautionary note about the lack of dads in homes with children.

His observations about the coming struggles for China were counter-intuitive but reasonable.  His thoughts on the ramifications of that country's one child policy - which has removed 400 million from China's population over the past few decades - are sobering. In comparison to his upbeat views on the “Americas,” he doesn't see great things for Europe or Japan, either.

If the Drudge Report has got you down, Ken Gronbach may pick you up.

 

 

 





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