Is college worth it? Goldman Sachs experts say ‘no’

Uh-oh. The number of years it takes until a student breaks even on the cost of his/her college education is increasing. Students entering college in 2030 (without scholarships or grants) may see a return on the investment until they are 37 years old.

Is college worth it? Goldman Sachs experts say ‘no’ | USA TODAY College

Reports like this are important because they may force the higher education world to get serious about value for money. They may also cause more and more Boomers (and soon, Gen X’ers) who are footing the bill for their kids’ tuition, to demand programs that are more plugged in to the real world job market. This is bound to hurt the liberal arts and soft sciences, where reform is badly needed anyway.

Do we need a new marketing model? 1 – Why what we have is nonsense

The “generation gap” and the “reinvention of aging” aren’t news any more. We all understand that the “older” generations aren’t acting the way people of the same age acted in the past, and that the “younger” generations — particularly, the Millennials (in their 20s and young 30s) are experiencing extreme delays in hitting the same demographic and lifestyle benchmarks that previous generations hit at that same age.

This has profound implications for marketing. I’ve written a couple of books on this, with some material dealing with the marketing implications, and it’s the focus of what I write about on this blog. But so far, I haven’t seen anyone in the marketing community take the subject and really run with it. I think it yields an entirely new marketing model.

So far, though, most of the discussion and debate has been about why marketers overspend against the younger segments and underspend against the wealthier older cohorts. There are hundreds of articles complaining that Madison Avenue doesn’t “get it,” that they are still over-reliant on the 18-34, or 24-54, age groups and discount the older Boomers and seniors. There are numerous ad agencies and consultancies whose mission is to the prove that the Millennials are a highly valuable market, and that they (th

e ad agency or consultancy) have unique knowledge about that age group and a unique ability to help marketers reach them.

All well and good.

But I think there’s a lot of room to take the topic much further — and that’s what I propose to do in the next series of posts.

My premise is simple:

Everything is shifting older. Therefore, the classical marketing model is obsolete.

The classical model tied lifestyle to age:

  • Brand influence began in the teens (although the spending power was still with the parents)
  • The young to mid-20’s saw the  formation of new families and the all-important determination of initial brand choices
  • Spending rose steadily through the 30’s and 40’s and maybe early 50’s
  • Retirement followed, meaning that spending dropped and, since brand choices were hardened into place anyway, there was little or no reason to spend marketing dollars against that cohort.

Marketing strategies are still largely based on this model. And there’s no question that life stage component of it is still logical: you  go from a being a child with no purchasing power to a first-time and early-stage shopper in the marketplace, to a full-on consumer, to a cut-back stage and, eventually, the end.

What’s different, of course, is the absolute and total uncoupling of age from life-stage — at least, the ages that were previously assigned to the various stages. This uncoupling is so radical that it makes the entire model nonsense.

  • Family formation has increasingly been shifting into the 30’s, instead of the 20’s
  • First home purchase is increasingly in the 30s
  • Retirement is no longer automatic at 65
  • The fastest-growing age group, in percentage terms, is the centenarian segment

For marketers, the urgent issue ought to be: how do we align our strategies and messaging to these new realities? What do we say to 20-somethings, while waiting for them to have money? What do we say to 60- or even 70-somethings, realizing that they might well be still in the workforce and might have 20 or 30 years of spending power ahead of them? In fact, what does a 30-year spending trajectory look like, for a 60-something, and how do we, as marketers, play into it?

I don’t think marketers are spending nearly enough time figuring this out. To too large an extent, they’re still aligning dollars and age brackets based on the old model that no longer exists. In the next two posts, I’ll suggest some new ways of coming at it.

Stay tuned.

More evidence of the Millennial struggle. (If you’re a Boomer, you may not like the proposed solution.)

Wall Street executive and New York Times op-ed columnist Steven Rattner presents a sobering array of evidence that the Millennial generation, “the most educated generation in history,” is “on track to becoming less prosperous, at least financially, than its predecessors.”

You can read the entire report here.

Some of the gloomy highlights:


  • In 1980, the 18-34 age group had median annual earnings of $33,845 (in 2013 dollars). This rose to $36,716 in 1990, and dipped slightly to $36,355 in 2000. Today it stands at $33,883 — right back at the 1980 level.
  • At the same time, a higher percentage of this age group have a bachelor’s degree or higher. In 1980, 15.7% had that level of education; today, it’s 22.3% — almost 50% higher.
  • And the cost of that education is in itself a huge problem. College tuition has increased 234% since 1995 (inflation was 63% over that same period), and today 71% of bachelor’s degree recipients graduate with debt, compared to 46% in 1995.
  • To complete the perfect storm of problems, they’re graduating into an economy with less-than-robust job growth, to put it charitably, and runaway government deficits that are certain to trigger an even more intense inter-generational fight for scarce resources, as Social Security and health care come under increased pressure due to the aging of the population.

The results, at least in the immediate term, are predictable: Millennials are marrying later, having kids later, and delaying the purchase of new homes and even cars.

So what’s the solution? “First and  foremost would be to get the nation’s economy onto a stronger growth trajectory,” Rattner argues. This would require more federal spending on education, infrastructure and r&f, which would in turn mean higher taxes “on my generation, which is getting a lot more from government than we are paying into it,” and the reform of entitlement programs like Social Security. We can quibble with some of this — and certainly, we’re entitled to be massively skeptical of the government’s ability to execute effectively, even if the underlying policies make sense. But there is no doubt that Rattner has accurately described a massive and urgent problem.

There are some interesting spinoffs for marketers in all of this, and I’ll have more comments in future posts. Meanwhile, I urge everyone to read the full article.

A resume that lists all your failures? Don’t laugh – it worked!

While this blog stands resolutely against the more juvenile attributes of the struggling Millennial generation — as witness the ‘Kim’ story of yesterday, in which a 20-year blew through her $90,000 college fund and blamed her parents (who else?) for not teaching her budgeting skills — fair is fair, and we’re equally happy to recognize entrepreneurial “go-getter”-ism when it appears.

Here’s a young man who has figured out how to make his resume jump from the vast pile of lookalikes: highlight failure.

I’ll leave it to you to read the article to get all the “business-y”  reasons why this may be good (and certainly, you can’t argue with the results). But I suggest another, less utilitarian reason why the ploy was successful: it shows a sense of humor, which in my experience usually means you’re dealing with an interesting and intelligent person.

A resume of failures stands out to employers – Business Insider.

But wait a sec, wait a sec — didn’t I dump all over the self-mocking “We suck an we’re sorry” video and didn’t an array of Millennials in turn dump all over me, some of them hoping I would die soon? And isn’t this “resume of failures” just that same tactic?

Not at all. Here’s why:

1. He’s at least using his list of failures to accomplish something. He’s not just saying “poor messed-up me” and leaving it there.

2. He’s related his list to real-life aspects of the industry (relevant resume, remember?) and taken a shrewd shot at some of the b.s. that everyone acknowledges but is afraid to say (creative award shows and new business pitches, for example). In this, he demonstrates some wisdom beyond his limited on-paper experience.

3.  He’s got guts, and he pursues follow-up publicity and recognition quite aggressively.

Very Boomer-like, if you ask me…

Boomers “bust out of their demographic.” What if age isn’t the main driver of behavior any more? – EverythingZoomer

Are we entering the “post-demographic age”? Maybe so, according to London-based “People – of all ages and in all markets — are constructing their own identifies more freely than ever…time to throw out the traditional (and tired) demographic models of consumer behavior.”

Their observations – and the supporting evidence – are laid out in this fascinating article on  Bottom line: Boomers in particular are not behaving the way their age would dictate, at least according to the traditional models.

The same is true of younger generations, as we’ve seen and commented on frequently on this blog. The Millennials are not, as a group, acting the way young- to mid-twentyish people acted in the past: they’re significantly “delayed” in their rates of marriage and family formation, and entry (beyond barista) into the job market. We’ve also noted, many times, that the “older” generations are acting younger than people of that same age in years past. So the idea isn’t totally new.

What’s I found intriguing in this report, though, is the degree of cross-generational activity and commonality: according to the head of music at the BBC, if you look at the 1,000 favorite artists of 60-year-olds and the 1,000 favorite artists of 13-year-olds, there is a 40 percent overlap.

Of course, age is still going to be a very strong driver of interests and behavior, particularly when it comes to money and health. But the assumptions of the past — that certain things kick in automatically (or stop happening automatically) at certain ages — are disappearing. Read the entire article for a sneak preview of a future in which the same people will act “older” and “middle aged” and “younger” at the same time.

Look out, Millennials – here comes Generation Z (Boomers all over again?)

We usually portray the “war of the generations” as Boomers vs. Millennials: the greedy, selfish, aggressive “old people” against the mellow, ironic, ineffective, unambitious “young people.” But now the Millennials may be about to get squeezed from the other side: the next generation in line, dubbed Generation Z, is coming on…and coming on strong. And it’s definitely not going to be more of the same.

Gen Z (those under the age of 19) outnumbers both the Boomers and the Millennials, and according to a report by marketing agency Sparks & Honey, they’re very different than the Millennials: more ambitious, more entrepreneurial, more realistic. Evidently they’ve seen how the Millennials are floundering, and don’t want it to happen to them.

Here’s a graphic summing up the differences between the two generations.



Mature? Future focused? Realists? Want to work for success? They look suspiciously like Boomers to me.

To find out more, read this excellent summary by Leonid Bershidsky on Bloomberg View. It also contains a link to the original presentation.





Teens abandoning Facebook: could the Boomers wind up being the most reliable social media market?

When Facebook was growing like wild fire, the Boomers were widely ridiculed (especially by youngish digital media buyers) for being slow to adapt. But now, it seems, Facebook is losing the teens. If this keeps going, Facebook’s audience will get older and older…and wouldn’t that be a delicious irony?

Of course, the whole social media phenomenon may be undergoing a healthy adjustment. Once you get over the “coolness” of a new site or app and start to pay attention to whether its adherents (a) have any actual money and therefore (b) represent an important market to go after, it’s obvious that the younger users are less valuable than the older. “Coolness” for its own sake doesn’t equate to sales or market share.

Here’s what is happening to Facebook:  Understanding Facebook’s Lost Generation of Teens | Fast Company | Business + Innovation.