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"The most transformative year in U.S. history" — Rolling Stone

 

1969 stood as the final year of a tumultuous decade, shattering domestic tranquility with epic events and cultural trends. Consider Woodstock, the most famous music festival of modern times, attracting over 400,000 rock ‘n’ roll fans. Or NASA’s Apollo 11 space mission and astronaut Neil Armstrong’s first steps on the moon. Or the October 15th Moratorium to End the War in Vietnam, the largest peaceful protest of a war in American history. Or the Beatles’ final public performance on the roof of Apple Records in London.

Then ponder impact of the gay community’s Stonewall Riots, Senator Ted Kennedy’s Chappaquiddick scandal, murderous rampages of Charles Manson’s cult family, a reviled military draft lottery, and the beginning of President Richard M. Nixon’s fragmented and disgraced presidency.

It was a year of technological achievements such as ARPANET, predecessor of the Internet; the Boeing 747 jumbo jet; and the Pontiac Firebird Trans Am. Popular culture fans crowded theaters to experience a breakaway hippie movie called Easy Rider. Elton John, David Bowie, and John Denver emerged to become music icons.

Seven professional writers collaborate with author Brent Green to share their experiences and memories of a raucous, transformative year. One question resonates throughout this book: Are You Still Listening? Joining Brent in this endeavor are Carol Orsborn, Ph.D., David Cogswell, Richard Adler, Jed Diamond Ph.D., Robert William Case, Bob Moses, and Greg Dobbs.

For those who experienced 1969 firsthand, these essays and stories may stir buried memories and invite reflection about that defining year. For those who were born later, this book invites contemplation about our social and political progress fifty years later. Do we see greater national unity? Do we hear lingering discord? Do we sense progress?

1969: Are You Still Listening? is available from Amazon.com, both in paperback and Kindle. After you read our book, we’d love to learn your reactions in the comments below.

You can discover more about the book and authors at our website.

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In the realm of marketing to adults older than 50, vigorous debates arise about how best to construct advertising messages and frame offers in memorable and compelling ways. Pundit opinions fall into three overlapping theoretical camps.

Some are proponents of “Ageless Marketing” as conceived and articulated by my late colleague David Wolfe. Ageless Marketing is “marketing based not on age but on values and universal desires that appeal to people across generational divides. Age-based marketing reduces the reach of brands because of its exclusionary nature. In contrast ageless marketing extends the reach of brands because of its inclusionary focus.”

Some are impassioned about “Life-Stage Marketing,” which understands the consumer from the life-stage they’re experiencing in the present. So, for example, adults between 50 and 60 today have a lot in common such as children in high school or college, the beginning of caregiving for aging parents, accumulation of significant consumer debt, and so forth. Further, stage of life implies psychological priorities. Thus, some argue that middle-age or the “Fall Stage” includes a reduction of material pursuits in favor of accumulating experiences.

And some are committed to “Generational Marketing,” an approach for which I’m a proponent. As I write in my book, Generation Reinvention:

“… a generation implies membership in a unique group, bound by common history, which eventually develops similar values, a sense of shared history, and collective ways of interpreting experiences as the group progresses through the life course.

“One way to describe this phenomenon of generational identification is the concept of cohort effect, which sociologist Karl Mannheim wrote about as ‘the taste, outlook, and spirit characteristic of a period or generation.’ He also referred to the notion of zeitgeist, the idea that a generation has a collectively shared sense of its formative historical period.

“Marketers tap into the cohort effect when they remind consumers of cherished events and experiences from the past and connect these acquired memories with brand identity.”

Some critics deride Generational Marketing as superficial: feckless attempts to connect nostalgic memories with products. Boomers aren’t invested in their formative years, critics argue, they’re looking ahead. Formative experiences are of little contemporary consequence. What’s done is done.

Aside from my assertion that humans always recall nostalgic moments with enduring and emotionally powerful reflections—and therefore these memories can become potent motivational triggers in contemporary marketing communications—sophisticated new consumer research substantiates the affirming power of nostalgia.

Authors of a multi-continent research study, published by the Association for Psychological Science, determined that feelings of loneliness—emotions such as unhappiness, pessimism, self-blame and depression—reduce perceptions of social support. Loneliness can be alleviated by seeking support from social networks. And here’s the surprising psychological insight: nostalgia, a sentimental longing for the past, increases perceptions of social support. A sense of social connectedness nourishes the soul. Nostalgia functions similar to optimism in maintaining health. Nostalgia, appropriately harnessed, inspires positive feelings, including positive brand associations and affinity. (APS, Vol. 19, #10)

This does not mean that creating an advertising strategy around shared generational experiences is always on target or well-executed. Creative problems begin when brand associations are hackneyed or arbitrary.

Misjudgments sometimes occur when those outside a generational cohort superficially interpret generational experiences. We’ve seen recent ads targeting Boomers that connect brands with peace symbols, classic rock music, and the rebellious spirit of Boomer youth. Once potentially powerful as a creative approach, connecting brands to the spirit of the sixties has been done.

Other marketers create messages where psychic connection between nostalgic memories and a brand have little in common; that is, brand utilities have nothing to do with the creative message.

St. Joseph Aspirin launched a TV ad featuring Ken Osmond, the actor who played Eddie Haskell, cheeky friend of Beaver Cleaver in the hit 1950s sitcom, Leave It to Beaver. Significantly, this is the first situation comedy ever written from a child’s viewpoint, thus elevating potential for nostalgic resonance with the children of that time: Leading-Edge Boomers.

Although this ad deserves acknowledgement for resurrecting an actor who is part of Boomer nostalgia in a fairly big way, we are left wondering what Eddie Haskell has to do with headache pain relief. (Maybe the product is a palliative for the headaches Eddie often caused Beaver’s parents, June and Ward.) But brand connections between Eddie and an OTC analgesic are vague. Even minor copy changes could have strengthened ties between Eddie, the obnoxious neighborhood headache, and a popular aspirin brand of the same time. To the credit of this advertisement’s creators, contemporary Eddie helps re-position the brand for what Boomers need today: cardiovascular health. (A note of caution: Ad critiques rarely consider sales or measured changes in brand awareness/preference generated by a campaign, and these performance measures are, indeed, the bottom line in judging marketing effectiveness.)

A more recent television advertisement aptly demonstrates nuances that successfully connect a car brand with Boomer nostalgia. 

2015 Subaru Outback: Memory Lane | Stivers Subaru - YouTube

I appreciate this ad because it has several multi-generational, cohort-sensitive qualities, including clever use of nostalgia. This Boomer grandmother teaches her Generation Z grandchild about zip-lining naked in Belize, albeit to the consternation of the child’s Generation X parents, especially her perturbed daughter-in-law. Yet, one instance at a farmer’s market—an insightful moment of awareness by the daughter-in-law as the grandmother acknowledges her ability to talk with cats—conveys the value of generativity: critical teaching and mentoring moments between old and young. After several ironic twists in the ad, careful observers learn that the family had been visiting the area where the 1969 Woodstock Festival took place.

Which generation is this Subaru ad targeting? I suggest two. Boomers have had a longstanding and positive relationship with Subaru, an import that became popular during the oil shortage crises of the 1970s and continues in popularity today as a safe and durable SUV brand. The ad reinforces this relationship by evoking collective nostalgia for magical moments from the Woodstock era, such as meeting a future spouse under a stately tree near the rock music festival. Further, the ad also suggests Subaru’s contemporary relevance and value to members of Generation X as portrayed by the son and daughter-in-law. Themes of vehicle safety and off-road capacity also have been cleverly woven into the ad’s story-line. 

Successful Generational Marketing requires mastery of nuance and meaning. Linkages between a brand and nostalgic meaning must make sense. Further, all formative life experiences of a generation, from early childhood through young adulthood, have potential for development. Boomers possess a rich repertoire of shared experiences beyond those that occurred between 1967 and 1973. Potential nostalgic motivational triggers go way beyond Woodstock.

Based on thirty years of experience marketing to Boomers, I can affirm with my career and portfolio that Generational Marketing succeeds when executed properly. I have created numerous ad campaigns and promotions, dating back to 1981, that performed by generating sales, memberships, donations, inquiries, and leads.

Some argue that Generational Marketing is exclusionary:  marketing messages that appeal to a specific generation exclude members of other generations who might not identify with the message or conclude that the product is not for them.

I say, “Welcome to market segmentation.” Target marketing forces choices about who is most likely to buy a product, their common characteristics, and the most potent ways to evoke an emotional connection, to inspire a brand-consumer relationship. These choices force exclusion. As one of my mentors once instructed, “Brent, always make your easiest sales first.” Some of my successes in advertising and marketing correlate with the degree to which my team was effectively exclusionary.

Further, big brand marketers create and target messages to multiple segments for the same brand. When I handled advertising and sales promotions for McDonald’s in Colorado, we executed campaigns targeting young parents, children, Latinos, African Americans, and older customers. Each of these segmented campaigns involved sophisticated messaging that considered cultural and social nuances of the segment. McDonald’s meant slightly different things to different segments.

As I have written and instructed in my speeches, Boomers, particularly Leading-Edge Boomers (born between 1946 and 1955) have a sturdy sense of generational identification. This is due to two factors.

First, the Leading-Edge grew up during significant cultural and social upheaval. Karl Mannheim and several social science researchers have confirmed that turmoil in youth strengthens generational identification and durability of formative experiences.

Second, Boomers comprise the only generation to have grown up with just three monolithic television networks. No generation older or younger experienced this convergence of technology with youth. Boomers growing up in Alaska and Florida shared many of the same televised moments and thus learned the same cultural and social messages. We watched Eddie Haskell weekly in dominant generational percentages. We either liked or disliked Eddie, but we all recall his shifty character. This isn’t about the past or future; it’s about who we are: the sum-total of our life experiences.

Research conducted by Pew Research Center last year underscores how pervasively Boomers identify with their generational cohort, which also means this generation continues to connect with nostalgic images and metaphors from a tumultuous and transformative youth.

Almost 80 percent of Boomers identify with their generational label (and the experiences and values associated with the label), compared with just 18 percent of the Silent Generation and 40 percent of Millennials. As I've insisted for more than a decade of writing and speaking, Boomers are uniquely bound by their formative years and social history and in greater proportions than any other living generation.

Nevertheless, as a marketer, I’ve always maintained a full toolbox. The three Boomer marketing approaches discussed here can succeed when well executed. All three approaches can fail when creators have inadequate understanding of the market, message, methodology or meaning conveyed through their ads.

Ageless Marketing can inspire advertising messages that appeal across generational divides because of commonly shared values, such as the nearly universal desire for a cleaner environment. Boomers and their Millennial children share passion almost equally for greener living and sustainability.

Life-stage Marketing can offer another path to success for those who connect a product or service with a stage need. Many Boomers today need help in understanding their caregiving challenges and responsibilities. This hallmark of their current life-stage predisposes them to offers of caregiving support and education.

And Generational Marketing can create powerful associations between a brand and a segment’s formative experiences. These nostalgic associations can become instant shorthand for positioning a contemporary brand constrained by cluttered media and product/service parity. Nostalgia is rich with opportunities for deeply personal brand interactions.

Those who insist that Generational Marketing is the least effective way to create advertising targeting Boomers may simply not understand this approach at a level of expertise necessary to be successful.

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If you would conduct a worldwide opinion survey to discover one wish for the future of humanity shared across societies and cultures, chances are that universal yearning would be for peace.

A world without war and strife, without sectarian violence, without the omnipresent threat of terrorism, certainly these are among our most cherished but unrequited dreams.

Boomers attached themselves to an idealistic quest for world peace early in their adult lives.

Some demonstrated for peace. Some molded lifestyles eschewing violence, whether through nonviolent civil disobedience or conscientious objection to military service. Some sought to influence national war policies through political engagement. Some joined the military to fight for long-term peace. Some joined the military as clergy or nurses.

The yearning for peace became a theme of many rock and folk songs, with these lyrics among the noteworthy:

Where have all the young men gone?
Long time passing
Where have all the young men gone?
Long time ago
Where have all the young men gone?
Gone for soldiers every one
When will they ever learn?
When will they ever learn?

Where have all the soldiers gone?
Long time passing
Where have all the soldiers gone?
Long time ago
Where have all the soldiers gone?
Gone to graveyards every one
When will they ever learn?
When will they ever learn?

— Pete Seeger, Where Have All the Flowers Gone?

For this generation, peace became a preoccupation.

One icon subsumed their hopes for a better future: the Peace Sign. This graphic image tapped into a collective set of values emerging during a generation's youth, from anti-authoritarian attitudes to youthful thoughts of a more Utopian society. To some it took on inspirational import about moral values similar to symbols of the world's great religions.

With its growing emotional and motivational subtext, the peace symbol eventually became a useful selling tool as businesses refined modern marketing techniques to create a Boomer revolution in product sales. Advertisers quickly recognized the strategic value of co-opting the symbol for product positioning. So-called "head shops" filled initial Boomer-consumer demand by offering peace symbols as stained glass sun catchers, silver necklaces, refrigerator magnets, T-shirts and posters. Eventually so did K-Mart and Walmart.

On April 4, 2018, the peace symbol turns 60.

The story about how it has become one of the most recognizable symbols of the Boomer generation is significant.

In the spring of 1958, Gerald Holtom, a textile designer and graphic artist from Great Britain, set out to create a mark that could be used at protest events pressing for nuclear disarmament. In perhaps one of the most inspired days of identity design during the 20th century, the artist brought together semaphore symbols for N and D, surrounded by a circle representing the globe.  

On April 4th, five-thousand people gathered at Trafalgar Square in London to support the Ban the Bomb movement and to protest testing and stockpiling of fissionable materials by the world's largest industrial powers. It was on this day that Holtom's memorable icon made its debut.

Protesters walked a few miles from the square to Aldermaston, location of an atomic weapons research facility. Their placards carried the succinct message of protest in this new and undefined symbol. Yet it needed no explanation, whether viewers understood the symbolic implications or not. Reactions were not always positive; some saw Lucifer in the logo.

The peace symbol quickly spread to other protest movements representing opposition to the Vietnam War, the quest for civil rights, a growing outcry against environmental degradation, and spirited marches for gender and sexual equality. The symbol persisted through Vietnam and onward into the debates about two wars in Iraq.

The peace symbol even emerged during a nationwide protest inspired by today's youth, called March for Our Lives.

Hundreds of thousands of young and old gathered in cities across the nation to assert their impassioned pleas for stricter gun control laws. They also honored seventeen students and faculty members massacred February 14, 2018 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. 

The peace symbol received overdue commemoration in a book published in April 2008 by the National Geographic Society, PEACE: The Biography of a Symbol. Author Ken Kolsbun observed that the symbol "continues to exert almost hypnotic appeal. It's become a rallying cry for almost any group working for social change."

Ironically, April 4, 2018 is also the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.

This callous slaying represents the severest liabilities of peaceful efforts to further social and political progress.

A pivotal figure in the American civil rights movement, Dr. King personified one facet of a grassroots peace movement with nonviolent protest marches, speeches and rallies. And the symbol marched with him through Selma and Montgomery, Washington D.C. and New York, and finally to his destiny with a bullet in Memphis, allegedly fired by James Earl Ray.

April 4, 2018 is a good day for pause: to contemplate a symbol and how near or far Western society is from achieving the dream of peace. And it is a day to recall one of the most revered leaders in the history of the nation: how he knowingly sacrificed his life in pursuit of some noble ideals represented by a symbol.

 

"Where Have All The Flowers Gone?"- Kingston Trio - YouTube

Where have all the flowers gone? by Pete Seeger, covered by Kingston Trio

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Middle age, edging toward old age, presents many unique challenges for men, and these momentous changes—biological, social and cultural—become greatly magnified when around 5,500 men cross the threshold of 65 every day. For eighteen years, beginning in 2011 and until 2029, roughly two million men can be expected to traverse annually the journey across the age 65 horizon. Being 65 and beyond can be viewed, in a sense, as an enormous population of men experiencing the same lifestage at once. They are simultaneously dealing with the idiosyncratic vagaries of physiological changes (such as andropause, obesity, and diseases of aging), while confronting a social milieu that is often ageist and unaccommodating. The U.S. is evolving into a nation addressing an old age imbalance for the first time in its history.

Marketing implications include the rise of grandfathers as a market force, as well as other markets demanding new strategies from companies to take advantage of patriarchy.

Being Boomer Male and Feminism

Boomer men were and are widely supportive of feminism, especially those aspects of the social movement focused on economic equality and full participation in institutional society. Many recall early encounters with feminism during their teen years: perhaps a polite request not to open the door for a young woman passing by, or a more vociferous denunciation by being called a “male chauvinist pig.” The experiences of feminism often served to confuse Boomer men; they wanted to please their female counterparts but did not necessarily wish to relinquish some of the privileges and territory of maleness as their fathers and grandfathers had defined it. Boomer men often feel caught between opposing values about sexual roles: those celebrating full equality between the sexes, and those that honor the special privileges of manhood such as classic corporate and institutional power. Many privileges under onslaught today spring from ancient religious traditions and time-honored customs when men practiced rituals of initiation, preferred separation from females during specific periods and seasons, and developed their own language nuances and culture.

Boomer Men versus Health and Wellness

Baby Boomer men are dichotomous with respect to health & fitness. They grew up in a time when the adult population was largely ignorant of today’s diet and health maxims. For example, I recall consuming a steady diet of high-fat foods, prepared and presented by my well-meaning mother. My mother’s refrigerator was always stocked with cheeses, bacon, whole milk, bologna, and sundry cheese casserole leftovers.

On the contrary, this generation also discovered outdoor sports and jogging in their twenties, influenced an explosion in the fitness facilities industry throughout their thirties and forties, and escorted many diet and weight-loss fads to popular and economic prominence. Thus, when it comes to health and wellness, this is a bifurcated generation. About 40 percent are overweight or obese; a smaller but nevertheless significant percentage is dedicated to maintaining fitness, with accelerating commitment to workout regimens. An entire new category of master athletes has become prominent in the last few years.

Marketing to Boomer Men as Healing

Boomer men are moving into a period of their lives representing unprecedented opportunities for growth, service, community, and fraternity. Along this path, dangers lurk: irrelevance, anger, depression, lack of appropriate role models, obesity, and a general dearth of purpose. The impact can lead some men to make abrupt and unwise changes, from quitting a job to leaving a marriage.

What might be the source for these challenges of male aging? According to Jed Diamond, Ph.D., author of Male Menopause and The Irritable Male Syndrome, acting out by older males involves much more than external stresses. “Often a man’s restlessness and irritability come from the pull of his inner world, not a pull from outside. He may think he needs to leave his family, have an affair, change jobs, run away from home, leave the country. The real longing may be to fulfill his soul’s calling.”

These potential illnesses of the body and soul need healing, and this is the service that many companies in the future can provide. Marketing can be restorative when insights gleaned positively change the way men think about themselves as husbands, partners, fathers, grandfathers, and mentors. Just as marketers have been instrumental in teaching women about breast cancer, so can marketers take a leadership role in helping men understand their own needs and positive ways to address what they want through the choices they make as consumers.

Marketers can teach environmental awareness, the special role of fathers in the nation’s future, and how men and women can co-evolve, wherein both sexes share equally in the American dream.

The most powerful marketing premise of the next ten years will be healing. In healing the nation’s aging men, insightful and courageous companies will also heal many ills besetting the nation and the globe. Along this fruitful path, enlightened companies will also experience the economic and psychological rewards of making a substantive difference, while elevating late-life manhood to a status worthy of esteem and aspiration by younger generations.

Toward Relevance and Reinvention

Although late middle age has been traditionally associated with predictability, quiescence and gradual withdrawal from mainstream society, Boomer men are poised to shatter these stereotypical expectations, challenging, for example, barriers to employment for those over age 65 or even 75. The softer side of maturity is a quest for reinvention and self-actualization. Boomer men have spent decades focused on their responsibilities as employers, employees, fathers, husbands, partners, and business and civic leaders. The stage of life after 65 presents renewed opportunities to reach for greater idealism and relevance in life. It’s a time to discover life anew, and this perpetually seeking cohort will pursue later life with questions, a search for meaning, and by finding ways to bring life into perspective while leaving behind meaningful contributions to society.

Excerpted from Generation Reinvention: How Boomers Today Are Changing Business, Marketing, Aging and the Future. Now available on Amazon. 

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In the realm of marketing to adults older than 50, vigorous debates arise about how best to construct advertising messages and frame offers in memorable and compelling ways. Pundit opinions fall into three overlapping theoretical camps.

Some are proponents of “Ageless Marketing” as conceived and articulated by my late colleague David Wolfe. Ageless Marketing is “marketing based not on age but on values and universal desires that appeal to people across generational divides. Age-based marketing reduces the reach of brands because of its exclusionary nature. In contrast ageless marketing extends the reach of brands because of its inclusionary focus.”

Some are impassioned about “Life-Stage Marketing,” which understands the consumer from the life-stage they’re experiencing in the present. So, for example, adults between 50 and 60 today have a lot in common such as children in high school or college, the beginning of caregiving for aging parents, accumulation of significant consumer debt, and so forth. Further, stage of life implies psychological priorities. Thus, some argue that middle-age or the “Fall Stage” includes a reduction of material pursuits in favor of accumulating experiences.

And some are committed to “Generational Marketing,” an approach for which I’m a proponent. As I write in my book, Generation Reinvention:

“… a generation implies membership in a unique group, bound by common history, which eventually develops similar values, a sense of shared history, and collective ways of interpreting experiences as the group progresses through the life course.

“One way to describe this phenomenon of generational identification is the concept of cohort effect, which sociologist Karl Mannheim wrote about as ‘the taste, outlook, and spirit characteristic of a period or generation.’ He also referred to the notion of zeitgeist, the idea that a generation has a collectively shared sense of its formative historical period.

“Marketers tap into the cohort effect when they remind consumers of cherished events and experiences from the past and connect these acquired memories with brand identity.”

Some critics deride Generational Marketing as superficial: feckless attempts to connect nostalgic memories with products. Boomers aren’t invested in their formative years, critics argue, they’re looking ahead. Formative experiences are of little contemporary consequence. What’s done is done.

Aside from my assertion that humans always recall nostalgic moments with enduring and emotionally powerful reflections—and therefore these memories can become potent motivational triggers in contemporary marketing communications—sophisticated new consumer research substantiates the affirming power of nostalgia.

Authors of a multi-continent research study, published by the Association for Psychological Science, determined that feelings of loneliness—emotions such as unhappiness, pessimism, self-blame and depression—reduce perceptions of social support. Loneliness can be alleviated by seeking support from social networks. And here’s the surprising psychological insight: nostalgia, a sentimental longing for the past, increases perceptions of social support. A sense of social connectedness nourishes the soul. Nostalgia functions similar to optimism in maintaining health. Nostalgia, appropriately harnessed, inspires positive feelings, including positive brand associations and affinity. (APS, Vol. 19, #10)

This does not mean that creating an advertising strategy around shared generational experiences is always on target or well-executed. Creative problems begin when brand associations are hackneyed or arbitrary.

Misjudgments sometimes occur when those outside a generational cohort superficially interpret generational experiences. We’ve seen recent ads targeting Boomers that connect brands with peace symbols, classic rock music, and the rebellious spirit of Boomer youth. Once potentially powerful as a creative approach, connecting brands to the spirit of the sixties has been done.

Other marketers create messages where psychic connection between nostalgic memories and a brand have little in common; that is, brand utilities have nothing to do with the creative message.

St. Joseph Aspirin launched a TV ad featuring Ken Osmond, the actor who played Eddie Haskell, cheeky friend of Beaver Cleaver in the hit 1950s sitcom, Leave It to Beaver. Significantly, this is the first situation comedy ever written from a child’s viewpoint, thus elevating potential for nostalgic resonance with the children of that time: Leading-Edge Boomers.

Although this ad deserves acknowledgement for resurrecting an actor who is part of Boomer nostalgia in a fairly big way, we are left wondering what Eddie Haskell has to do with headache pain relief. (Maybe the product is a palliative for the headaches Eddie often caused Beaver’s parents, June and Ward.) But brand connections between Eddie and an OTC analgesic are vague. Even minor copy changes could have strengthened ties between Eddie, the obnoxious neighborhood headache, and a popular aspirin brand of the same time. To the credit of this advertisement’s creators, contemporary Eddie helps re-position the brand for what Boomers need today: cardiovascular health. (A note of caution: Ad critiques rarely consider sales or measured changes in brand awareness/preference generated by a campaign, and these performance measures are, indeed, the bottom line in judging marketing effectiveness.)

A more recent television advertisement aptly demonstrates nuances that successfully connect a car brand with Boomer nostalgia. 

2015 Subaru Outback: Memory Lane | Stivers Subaru - YouTube

I appreciate this ad because it has several multi-generational, cohort-sensitive qualities, including clever use of nostalgia. This Boomer grandmother teaches her Generation Z grandchild about zip-lining naked in Belize, albeit to the consternation of the child’s Generation X parents, especially her perturbed daughter-in-law. Yet, one instance at a farmer’s market—an insightful moment of awareness by the daughter-in-law as the grandmother acknowledges her ability to talk with cats—conveys the value of generativity: critical teaching and mentoring moments between old and young. After several ironic twists in the ad, careful observers learn that the family had been visiting the area where the 1969 Woodstock Festival took place.

Which generation is this Subaru ad targeting? I suggest two. Boomers have had a longstanding and positive relationship with Subaru, an import that became popular during the oil shortage crises of the 1970s and continues in popularity today as a safe and durable SUV brand. The ad reinforces this relationship by evoking collective nostalgia for magical moments from the Woodstock era, such as meeting a future spouse under a stately tree near the rock music festival. Further, the ad also suggests Subaru’s contemporary relevance and value to members of Generation X as portrayed by the son and daughter-in-law. Themes of vehicle safety and off-road capacity also have been cleverly woven into the ad’s story-line. 

Successful Generational Marketing requires mastery of nuance and meaning. Linkages between a brand and nostalgic meaning must make sense. Further, all formative life experiences of a generation, from early childhood through young adulthood, have potential for development. Boomers possess a rich repertoire of shared experiences beyond those that occurred between 1967 and 1973. Potential nostalgic motivational triggers go way beyond Woodstock.

Based on thirty years of experience marketing to Boomers, I can affirm with my career and portfolio that Generational Marketing succeeds when executed properly. I have created numerous ad campaigns and promotions, dating back to 1981, that performed by generating sales, memberships, donations, inquiries, and leads.

Some argue that Generational Marketing is exclusionary:  marketing messages that appeal to a specific generation exclude members of other generations who might not identify with the message or conclude that the product is not for them.

I say, “Welcome to market segmentation.” Target marketing forces choices about who is most likely to buy a product, their common characteristics, and the most potent ways to evoke an emotional connection, to inspire a brand-consumer relationship. These choices force exclusion. As one of my mentors once instructed, “Brent, always make your easiest sales first.” Some of my successes in advertising and marketing correlate with the degree to which my team was effectively exclusionary.

Further, big brand marketers create and target messages to multiple segments for the same brand. When I handled advertising and sales promotions for McDonald’s in Colorado, we executed campaigns targeting young parents, children, Latinos, African Americans, and older customers. Each of these segmented campaigns involved sophisticated messaging that considered cultural and social nuances of the segment. McDonald’s meant slightly different things to different segments.

As I have written and instructed in my speeches, Boomers, particularly Leading-Edge Boomers (born between 1946 and 1955) have a sturdy sense of generational identification. This is due to two factors.

First, the Leading-Edge grew up during significant cultural and social upheaval. Karl Mannheim and several social science researchers have confirmed that turmoil in youth strengthens generational identification and durability of formative experiences.

Second, Boomers comprise the only generation to have grown up with just three monolithic television networks. No generation older or younger experienced this convergence of technology with youth. Boomers growing up in Alaska and Florida shared many of the same televised moments and thus learned the same cultural and social messages. We watched Eddie Haskell weekly in dominant generational percentages. We either liked or disliked Eddie, but we all recall his shifty character. This isn’t about the past or future; it’s about who we are: the sum-total of our life experiences.

Research conducted by Pew Research Center last year underscores how pervasively Boomers identify with their generational cohort, which also means this generation continues to connect with nostalgic images and metaphors from a tumultuous and transformative youth.

Almost 80 percent of Boomers identify with their generational label (and the experiences and values associated with the label), compared with just 18 percent of the Silent Generation and 40 percent of Millennials. As I've insisted for more than a decade of writing and speaking, Boomers are uniquely bound by their formative years and social history and in greater proportions than any other living generation.

Nevertheless, as a marketer, I’ve always maintained a full toolbox. The three Boomer marketing approaches discussed here can succeed when well executed. All three approaches can fail when creators have inadequate understanding of the market, message, methodology or meaning conveyed through their ads.

Ageless Marketing can inspire advertising messages that appeal across generational divides because of commonly shared values, such as the nearly universal desire for a cleaner environment. Boomers and their Millennial children share passion almost equally for greener living and sustainability.

Life-stage Marketing can offer another path to success for those who connect a product or service with a stage need. Many Boomers today need help in understanding their caregiving challenges and responsibilities. This hallmark of their current life-stage predisposes them to offers of caregiving support and education.

And Generational Marketing can create powerful associations between a brand and a segment’s formative experiences. These nostalgic associations can become instant shorthand for positioning a contemporary brand constrained by cluttered media and product/service parity. Nostalgia is rich with opportunities for deeply personal brand interactions.

Those who insist that Generational Marketing is the least effective way to create advertising targeting Boomers may simply not understand this approach at a level of expertise necessary to be successful.

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"The most transformative year in U.S. history" — Rolling Stone

 

1969 stood as the final year of a tumultuous decade, shattering domestic tranquility with epic events and cultural trends. Consider Woodstock, the most famous music festival of modern times, attracting over 400,000 rock ‘n’ roll fans. Or NASA’s Apollo 11 space mission and astronaut Neil Armstrong’s first steps on the moon. Or the October 15th Moratorium to End the War in Vietnam, the largest peaceful protest of a war in American history. Or the Beatles’ final public performance on the roof of Apple Records in London.

Then ponder impact of the gay community’s Stonewall Riots, Senator Ted Kennedy’s Chappaquiddick scandal, murderous rampages of Charles Manson’s cult family, a reviled military draft lottery, and the beginning of President Richard M. Nixon’s fragmented and disgraced presidency.

It was a year of technological achievements such as ARPANET, predecessor of the Internet; the Boeing 747 jumbo jet; and the Pontiac Firebird Trans Am. Popular culture fans crowded theaters to experience a breakaway hippie movie called Easy Rider. Elton John, David Bowie, and John Denver emerged to become music icons.

Seven professional writers collaborate with author Brent Green to share their experiences and memories of a raucous, transformative year. One question resonates throughout this book: Are You Still Listening? Joining Brent in this endeavor are Carol Orsborn, Ph.D., David Cogswell, Richard Adler, Jed Diamond Ph.D., Robert William Case, Bob Moses, and Greg Dobbs.

For those who experienced 1969 firsthand, these essays and stories may stir buried memories and invite reflection about that defining year. For those who were born later, this book invites contemplation about our social and political progress fifty years later. Do we see greater national unity? Do we hear lingering discord? Do we sense progress?

1969: Are You Still Listening? is available from Amazon.com, both in paperback and Kindle. After you read our book, we’d love to learn your reactions in the comments below.

You can discover more about the book and authors at our website.

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1969 stood as the final year of a tumultuous decade, shattering domestic tranquility with epic events and cultural trends. Consider Woodstock, the most famous music festival of modern times, attracting over 400,000 rock ‘n’ roll fans. Or NASA’s Apollo 11 space mission and astronaut Neil Armstrong’s first steps on the moon. Or the October 15th Moratorium to End the War in Vietnam, the largest peaceful protest of a war in American history. Or the Beatles’ final public performance on the roof of Apple Records in London.

Then ponder impact of the gay community’s Stonewall Riots, Senator Ted Kennedy’s Chappaquiddick scandal, murderous rampages of Charles Manson’s cult family, a reviled military draft lottery, and the beginning of President Richard M. Nixon’s fragmented and disgraced presidency.

It was a year of technological achievements such as ARPANET, predecessor of the Internet; the Boeing 747 jumbo jet; and the Pontiac Firebird Trans Am. Popular culture fans crowded theaters to experience a breakaway hippie movie called Easy Rider. Elton John, David Bowie, and John Denver emerged to become music icons.

Seven professional writers join author Brent Green to share their experiences and memories of a raucous, transformative year. One question resonates throughout this book: Are You Still Listening? Joining Brent in this endeavor are Carol Orsborn, Ph.D., David Cogswell, Richard Adler, Jed Diamond Ph.D., Robert William Case, Bob Moses, and Greg Dobbs.

For those who experienced 1969 firsthand, these essays and stories may stir buried memories and invite reflection about that defining year. For those who were born later, this book invites contemplation about our social and political progress fifty years later. Do we see greater national unity? Do we hear lingering discord? Do we sense progress?

Are You Still Listening? Is available from Amazon.com, both in paperback and Kindle. After you read our book, we’d love to learn your reactions in the comments below.

You can discover more about the book and authors at our website.

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Middle age, edging toward old age, presents many unique challenges for men, and these momentous changes—biological, social and cultural—become greatly magnified when around 5,500 men cross the threshold of 65 every day. For eighteen years, beginning in 2011 and until 2029, roughly two million men can be expected to traverse annually the journey across the age 65 horizon. Being 65 and beyond can be viewed, in a sense, as an enormous population of men experiencing the same lifestage at once. They are simultaneously dealing with the idiosyncratic vagaries of physiological changes (such as andropause, obesity, and diseases of aging), while confronting a social milieu that is often ageist and unaccommodating. The U.S. is evolving into a nation addressing an old age imbalance for the first time in its history.

Marketing implications include the rise of grandfathers as a market force, as well as other markets demanding new strategies from companies to take advantage of patriarchy.

Being Boomer Male and Feminism

Boomer men were and are widely supportive of feminism, especially those aspects of the social movement focused on economic equality and full participation in institutional society. Many recall early encounters with feminism during their teen years: perhaps a polite request not to open the door for a young woman passing by, or a more vociferous denunciation by being called a “male chauvinist pig.” The experiences of feminism often served to confuse Boomer men; they wanted to please their female counterparts but did not necessarily wish to relinquish some of the privileges and territory of maleness as their fathers and grandfathers had defined it. Boomer men often feel caught between opposing values about sexual roles: those celebrating full equality between the sexes, and those that honor the special privileges of manhood such as classic corporate and institutional power. Many privileges under onslaught today spring from ancient religious traditions and time-honored customs when men practiced rituals of initiation, preferred separation from females during specific periods and seasons, and developed their own language nuances and culture.

Boomer Men versus Health and Wellness

Baby Boomer men are dichotomous with respect to health & fitness. They grew up in a time when the adult population was largely ignorant of today’s diet and health maxims. For example, I recall consuming a steady diet of high-fat foods, prepared and presented by my well-meaning mother. My mother’s refrigerator was always stocked with cheeses, bacon, whole milk, bologna, and sundry cheese casserole leftovers.

On the contrary, this generation also discovered outdoor sports and jogging in their twenties, influenced an explosion in the fitness facilities industry throughout their thirties and forties, and escorted many diet and weight-loss fads to popular and economic prominence. Thus, when it comes to health and wellness, this is a bifurcated generation. About 40 percent are overweight or obese; a smaller but nevertheless significant percentage is dedicated to maintaining fitness, with accelerating commitment to workout regimens. An entire new category of master athletes has become prominent in the last few years.

Marketing to Boomer Men as Healing

Boomer men are moving into a period of their lives representing unprecedented opportunities for growth, service, community, and fraternity. Along this path, dangers lurk: irrelevance, anger, depression, lack of appropriate role models, obesity, and a general dearth of purpose. The impact can lead some men to make abrupt and unwise changes, from quitting a job to leaving a marriage.

What might be the source for these challenges of male aging? According to Jed Diamond, Ph.D., author of Male Menopause and The Irritable Male Syndrome, acting out by older males involves much more than external stresses. “Often a man’s restlessness and irritability come from the pull of his inner world, not a pull from outside. He may think he needs to leave his family, have an affair, change jobs, run away from home, leave the country. The real longing may be to fulfill his soul’s calling.”

These potential illnesses of the body and soul need healing, and this is the service that many companies in the future can provide. Marketing can be restorative when insights gleaned positively change the way men think about themselves as husbands, partners, fathers, grandfathers, and mentors. Just as marketers have been instrumental in teaching women about breast cancer, so can marketers take a leadership role in helping men understand their own needs and positive ways to address what they want through the choices they make as consumers.

Marketers can teach environmental awareness, the special role of fathers in the nation’s future, and how men and women can co-evolve, wherein both sexes share equally in the American dream.

The most powerful marketing premise of the next ten years will be healing. In healing the nation’s aging men, insightful and courageous companies will also heal many ills besetting the nation and the globe. Along this fruitful path, enlightened companies will also experience the economic and psychological rewards of making a substantive difference, while elevating late-life manhood to a status worthy of esteem and aspiration by younger generations.

Toward Relevance and Reinvention

Although late middle age has been traditionally associated with predictability, quiescence and gradual withdrawal from mainstream society, Boomer men are poised to shatter these stereotypical expectations, challenging, for example, barriers to employment for those over age 65 or even 75. The softer side of maturity is a quest for reinvention and self-actualization. Boomer men have spent decades focused on their responsibilities as employers, employees, fathers, husbands, partners, and business and civic leaders. The stage of life after 65 presents renewed opportunities to reach for greater idealism and relevance in life. It’s a time to discover life anew, and this perpetually seeking cohort will pursue later life with questions, a search for meaning, and by finding ways to bring life into perspective while leaving behind meaningful contributions to society.

Excerpted from Generation Reinvention: How Boomers Today Are Changing Business, Marketing, Aging and the Future. Now available on Amazon. 

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In the realm of marketing to adults older than 50, vigorous debates arise about how best to construct advertising messages and frame offers in memorable and compelling ways. Pundit opinions fall into three overlapping theoretical camps.

Some are proponents of “Ageless Marketing” as conceived and articulated by my late colleague David Wolfe. Ageless Marketing is “marketing based not on age but on values and universal desires that appeal to people across generational divides. Age-based marketing reduces the reach of brands because of its exclusionary nature. In contrast ageless marketing extends the reach of brands because of its inclusionary focus.”

Some are impassioned about “Life-Stage Marketing,” which understands the consumer from the life-stage they’re experiencing in the present. So, for example, adults between 50 and 60 today have a lot in common such as children in high school or college, the beginning of caregiving for aging parents, accumulation of significant consumer debt, and so forth. Further, stage of life implies psychological priorities. Thus, some argue that middle-age or the “Fall Stage” includes a reduction of material pursuits in favor of accumulating experiences.

And some are committed to “Generational Marketing,” an approach for which I’m a proponent. As I write in my book, Generation Reinvention:

“… a generation implies membership in a unique group, bound by common history, which eventually develops similar values, a sense of shared history, and collective ways of interpreting experiences as the group progresses through the life course.

“One way to describe this phenomenon of generational identification is the concept of cohort effect, which sociologist Karl Mannheim wrote about as ‘the taste, outlook, and spirit characteristic of a period or generation.’ He also referred to the notion of zeitgeist, the idea that a generation has a collectively shared sense of its formative historical period.

“Marketers tap into the cohort effect when they remind consumers of cherished events and experiences from the past and connect these acquired memories with brand identity.”

Some critics deride Generational Marketing as superficial: feckless attempts to connect nostalgic memories with products. Boomers aren’t invested in their formative years, critics argue, they’re looking ahead. Formative experiences are of little contemporary consequence. What’s done is done.

Aside from my assertion that humans always recall nostalgic moments with enduring and emotionally powerful reflections—and therefore these memories can become potent motivational triggers in contemporary marketing communications—sophisticated new consumer research substantiates the affirming power of nostalgia.

Authors of a multi-continent research study, published by the Association for Psychological Science, determined that feelings of loneliness—emotions such as unhappiness, pessimism, self-blame and depression—reduce perceptions of social support. Loneliness can be alleviated by seeking support from social networks. And here’s the surprising psychological insight: nostalgia, a sentimental longing for the past, increases perceptions of social support. A sense of social connectedness nourishes the soul. Nostalgia functions similar to optimism in maintaining health. Nostalgia, appropriately harnessed, inspires positive feelings, including positive brand associations and affinity. (APS, Vol. 19, #10)

This does not mean that creating an advertising strategy around shared generational experiences is always on target or well-executed. Creative problems begin when brand associations are hackneyed or arbitrary.

Misjudgments sometimes occur when those outside a generational cohort superficially interpret generational experiences. We’ve seen recent ads targeting Boomers that connect brands with peace symbols, classic rock music, and the rebellious spirit of Boomer youth. Once potentially powerful as a creative approach, connecting brands to the spirit of the sixties has been done.

Other marketers create messages where psychic connection between nostalgic memories and a brand have little in common; that is, brand utilities have nothing to do with the creative message.

St. Joseph Aspirin launched a TV ad featuring Ken Osmond, the actor who played Eddie Haskell, cheeky friend of Beaver Cleaver in the hit 1950s sitcom, Leave It to Beaver. Significantly, this is the first situation comedy ever written from a child’s viewpoint, thus elevating potential for nostalgic resonance with the children of that time: Leading-Edge Boomers.

Although this ad deserves acknowledgement for resurrecting an actor who is part of Boomer nostalgia in a fairly big way, we are left wondering what Eddie Haskell has to do with headache pain relief. (Maybe the product is a palliative for the headaches Eddie often caused Beaver’s parents, June and Ward.) But brand connections between Eddie and an OTC analgesic are vague. Even minor copy changes could have strengthened ties between Eddie, the obnoxious neighborhood headache, and a popular aspirin brand of the same time. To the credit of this advertisement’s creators, contemporary Eddie helps re-position the brand for what Boomers need today: cardiovascular health. (A note of caution: Ad critiques rarely consider sales or measured changes in brand awareness/preference generated by a campaign, and these performance measures are, indeed, the bottom line in judging marketing effectiveness.)

A more recent television advertisement aptly demonstrates nuances that successfully connect a car brand with Boomer nostalgia. 

2015 Subaru Outback: Memory Lane | Stivers Subaru - YouTube

I appreciate this ad because it has several multi-generational, cohort-sensitive qualities, including clever use of nostalgia. This Boomer grandmother teaches her Generation Z grandchild about zip-lining naked in Belize, albeit to the consternation of the child’s Generation X parents, especially her perturbed daughter-in-law. Yet, one instance at a farmer’s market—an insightful moment of awareness by the daughter-in-law as the grandmother acknowledges her ability to talk with cats—conveys the value of generativity: critical teaching and mentoring moments between old and young. After several ironic twists in the ad, careful observers learn that the family had been visiting the area where the 1969 Woodstock Festival took place.

Which generation is this Subaru ad targeting? I suggest two. Boomers have had a longstanding and positive relationship with Subaru, an import that became popular during the oil shortage crises of the 1970s and continues in popularity today as a safe and durable SUV brand. The ad reinforces this relationship by evoking collective nostalgia for magical moments from the Woodstock era, such as meeting a future spouse under a stately tree near the rock music festival. Further, the ad also suggests Subaru’s contemporary relevance and value to members of Generation X as portrayed by the son and daughter-in-law. Themes of vehicle safety and off-road capacity also have been cleverly woven into the ad’s story-line. 

Successful Generational Marketing requires mastery of nuance and meaning. Linkages between a brand and nostalgic meaning must make sense. Further, all formative life experiences of a generation, from early childhood through young adulthood, have potential for development. Boomers possess a rich repertoire of shared experiences beyond those that occurred between 1967 and 1973. Potential nostalgic motivational triggers go way beyond Woodstock.

Based on thirty years of experience marketing to Boomers, I can affirm with my career and portfolio that Generational Marketing succeeds when executed properly. I have created numerous ad campaigns and promotions, dating back to 1981, that performed by generating sales, memberships, donations, inquiries, and leads.

Some argue that Generational Marketing is exclusionary:  marketing messages that appeal to a specific generation exclude members of other generations who might not identify with the message or conclude that the product is not for them.

I say, “Welcome to market segmentation.” Target marketing forces choices about who is most likely to buy a product, their common characteristics, and the most potent ways to evoke an emotional connection, to inspire a brand-consumer relationship. These choices force exclusion. As one of my mentors once instructed, “Brent, always make your easiest sales first.” Some of my successes in advertising and marketing correlate with the degree to which my team was effectively exclusionary.

Further, big brand marketers create and target messages to multiple segments for the same brand. When I handled advertising and sales promotions for McDonald’s in Colorado, we executed campaigns targeting young parents, children, Latinos, African Americans, and older customers. Each of these segmented campaigns involved sophisticated messaging that considered cultural and social nuances of the segment. McDonald’s meant slightly different things to different segments.

As I have written and instructed in my speeches, Boomers, particularly Leading-Edge Boomers (born between 1946 and 1955) have a sturdy sense of generational identification. This is due to two factors.

First, the Leading-Edge grew up during significant cultural and social upheaval. Karl Mannheim and several social science researchers have confirmed that turmoil in youth strengthens generational identification and durability of formative experiences.

Second, Boomers comprise the only generation to have grown up with just three monolithic television networks. No generation older or younger experienced this convergence of technology with youth. Boomers growing up in Alaska and Florida shared many of the same televised moments and thus learned the same cultural and social messages. We watched Eddie Haskell weekly in dominant generational percentages. We either liked or disliked Eddie, but we all recall his shifty character. This isn’t about the past or future; it’s about who we are: the sum-total of our life experiences.

Research conducted by Pew Research Center last year underscores how pervasively Boomers identify with their generational cohort, which also means this generation continues to connect with nostalgic images and metaphors from a tumultuous and transformative youth.

Almost 80 percent of Boomers identify with their generational label (and the experiences and values associated with the label), compared with just 18 percent of the Silent Generation and 40 percent of Millennials. As I've insisted for more than a decade of writing and speaking, Boomers are uniquely bound by their formative years and social history and in greater proportions than any other living generation.

Nevertheless, as a marketer, I’ve always maintained a full toolbox. The three Boomer marketing approaches discussed here can succeed when well executed. All three approaches can fail when creators have inadequate understanding of the market, message, methodology or meaning conveyed through their ads.

Ageless Marketing can inspire advertising messages that appeal across generational divides because of commonly shared values, such as the nearly universal desire for a cleaner environment. Boomers and their Millennial children share passion almost equally for greener living and sustainability.

Life-stage Marketing can offer another path to success for those who connect a product or service with a stage need. Many Boomers today need help in understanding their caregiving challenges and responsibilities. This hallmark of their current life-stage predisposes them to offers of caregiving support and education.

And Generational Marketing can create powerful associations between a brand and a segment’s formative experiences. These nostalgic associations can become instant shorthand for positioning a contemporary brand constrained by cluttered media and product/service parity. Nostalgia is rich with opportunities for deeply personal brand interactions.

Those who insist that Generational Marketing is the least effective way to create advertising targeting Boomers may simply not understand this approach at a level of expertise necessary to be successful.

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If you would conduct a worldwide opinion survey to discover one wish for the future of humanity shared across societies and cultures, chances are that universal yearning would be for peace.

A world without war and strife, without sectarian violence, without the omnipresent threat of terrorism, certainly these are among our most cherished but unrequited dreams.

Boomers attached themselves to an idealistic quest for world peace early in their adult lives.

Some demonstrated for peace. Some molded lifestyles eschewing violence, whether through nonviolent civil disobedience or conscientious objection to military service. Some sought to influence national war policies through political engagement. Some joined the military to fight for long-term peace. Some joined the military as clergy or nurses.

The yearning for peace became a theme of many rock and folk songs, with these lyrics among the noteworthy:

Where have all the young men gone?
Long time passing
Where have all the young men gone?
Long time ago
Where have all the young men gone?
Gone for soldiers every one
When will they ever learn?
When will they ever learn?

Where have all the soldiers gone?
Long time passing
Where have all the soldiers gone?
Long time ago
Where have all the soldiers gone?
Gone to graveyards every one
When will they ever learn?
When will they ever learn?

— Pete Seeger, Where Have All the Flowers Gone?

For this generation, peace became a preoccupation.

One icon subsumed their hopes for a better future: the Peace Sign. This graphic image tapped into a collective set of values emerging during a generation's youth, from anti-authoritarian attitudes to youthful thoughts of a more Utopian society. To some it took on inspirational import about moral values similar to symbols of the world's great religions.

With its growing emotional and motivational subtext, the peace symbol eventually became a useful selling tool as businesses refined modern marketing techniques to create a Boomer revolution in product sales. Advertisers quickly recognized the strategic value of co-opting the symbol for product positioning. So-called "head shops" filled initial Boomer-consumer demand by offering peace symbols as stained glass sun catchers, silver necklaces, refrigerator magnets, T-shirts and posters. Eventually so did K-Mart and Walmart.

On April 4, 2018, the peace symbol turns 60.

The story about how it has become one of the most recognizable symbols of the Boomer generation is significant.

In the spring of 1958, Gerald Holtom, a textile designer and graphic artist from Great Britain, set out to create a mark that could be used at protest events pressing for nuclear disarmament. In perhaps one of the most inspired days of identity design during the 20th century, the artist brought together semaphore symbols for N and D, surrounded by a circle representing the globe.  

On April 4th, five-thousand people gathered at Trafalgar Square in London to support the Ban the Bomb movement and to protest testing and stockpiling of fissionable materials by the world's largest industrial powers. It was on this day that Holtom's memorable icon made its debut.

Protesters walked a few miles from the square to Aldermaston, location of an atomic weapons research facility. Their placards carried the succinct message of protest in this new and undefined symbol. Yet it needed no explanation, whether viewers understood the symbolic implications or not. Reactions were not always positive; some saw Lucifer in the logo.

The peace symbol quickly spread to other protest movements representing opposition to the Vietnam War, the quest for civil rights, a growing outcry against environmental degradation, and spirited marches for gender and sexual equality. The symbol persisted through Vietnam and onward into the debates about two wars in Iraq.

The peace symbol even emerged during a nationwide protest inspired by today's youth, called March for Our Lives.

Hundreds of thousands of young and old gathered in cities across the nation to assert their impassioned pleas for stricter gun control laws. They also honored seventeen students and faculty members massacred February 14, 2018 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. 

The peace symbol received overdue commemoration in a book published in April 2008 by the National Geographic Society, PEACE: The Biography of a Symbol. Author Ken Kolsbun observed that the symbol "continues to exert almost hypnotic appeal. It's become a rallying cry for almost any group working for social change."

Ironically, April 4, 2018 is also the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.

This callous slaying represents the severest liabilities of peaceful efforts to further social and political progress.

A pivotal figure in the American civil rights movement, Dr. King personified one facet of a grassroots peace movement with nonviolent protest marches, speeches and rallies. And the symbol marched with him through Selma and Montgomery, Washington D.C. and New York, and finally to his destiny with a bullet in Memphis, allegedly fired by James Earl Ray.

April 4, 2018 is a good day for pause: to contemplate a symbol and how near or far Western society is from achieving the dream of peace. And it is a day to recall one of the most revered leaders in the history of the nation: how he knowingly sacrificed his life in pursuit of some noble ideals represented by a symbol.

 

"Where Have All The Flowers Gone?"- Kingston Trio - YouTube

Where have all the flowers gone? by Pete Seeger, covered by Kingston Trio

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