The Age Curve

How to Profit from the Coming Demographic Storm

The Age Curve

Author: Kenneth W. Gronbach
Pub Date: June 2008
Print Edition: $19.95
Print ISBN: 9780814417942
Page Count: 288
Format: Paper or Softback
e-Book ISBN: 9780814410172

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Why Generation Size Matters to Marketers

and to Everybody with a Stake in America’s Future

“When we hear a good idea we say, ‘That’s so simple and so obvious. Why didn’t I think of it?’ Ken’s good idea—a brilliant recognition, really—is that the size of successive U.S. generations, and thus the differing number of people in specific age groups, is at the heart of the long-term sea changes we experience in economics, business, and society.”

—Benyamin B. Lichtenstein, Professor of Entrepreneurship and Management, University of Massachusetts, Boston

As everyone with any sense of business knows, selling any product, service, or idea ultimately depends on having enough customers to buy it. Yet, when it comes to targeting specific consumers—like the prime young adult buyers for jeans or motorcycles—marketers routinely fail to do the math of demand and supply. Lack of market research, lack of creativity, and lack of consumer motivation all get blamed when the real culprit is shifting generational numbers.

A respected marketing consultant and forecaster, Kenneth W. Gronbach believes that most of the country’s struggling companies—and most generational-marketing gurus—are not paying attention to a basic fact: Smaller generations buy less stuff; larger generations buy more stuff. In THE AGE CURVE: How to Profit from the Coming Demographic Storm (AMACOM 2008), Gronbach shows corporate executives, entrepreneurs, and marketers how to anticipate and successfully adapt to predictable waves of demand using one piece of data: the U.S. Census record of the number of live births from 1905 to 2005. Focusing on each of the five distinct generations living in America today, Gronbach reveals how a generation’s size, particularly in relation to the generation it follows, determines its collective personality and habits of consumption.

“Marketers seem to miss the fact that generation size is also market size,” Gronbach observes. “And marketers don’t notice that aging and generational movement are absolutely consistent. We can’t speed them up and we can’t slow them down.”

Bringing a profound, commonsense perspective to the challenge of reaching and keeping core customers, THE AGE CURVE gives any business an edge on serving the changing needs of the two largest markets: the 78 million members of the Baby Boom Generation and the soon-to-be 100 million Generation Y (or Echo Boomers). Backed by hard facts and numbers, Gronbach shatters many trusted assumptions about consumer behavior and offers eye-opening insights into the imminent future of the United States. For starters, readers will discover:

• How the myth of the much-hyped “graying of America” may culminate in the collapse of the grossly overbuilt assisted-living industry (now ranging in age from 44 to 63, the Boomers won’t be nursing home candidates for at least another 20 years).

• Why Gen Xers have been unfairly branded as unresponsive consumers and “slackers” (there are simply 11 percent fewer Gen Xers than Boomers)…and how this small group of young adults spurred the huge housing crisis and may seal the death of Social Security.

• Why Generation Y offers a massive opportunity for marketers (these kids are already consuming at five times the level of their parents’ generations)…and how selling to this savvy group will require unique, personalized strategies and a commitment to being green.

Throughout, Gronbach offers entertaining examples of companies working to stay in front of the generational parade (Apple and Toyota, among the few) and companies stubbornly clinging to what worked yesterday (Levi Strauss, Honda, Wal-Mart, and the AARP, among many). He also reflects on the social implications of generational shifts, including Boomers’ championing of racial and gender equality and what this will mean as they take seats on corporate boards and lead organizations.

A compelling argument for generational marketing looking simply at the numbers, THE AGE CURVE is a mind-transforming book with the potential to revolutionize the way companies view, connect with, and count their most valuable customers.


Kenneth W. Gronbach is a nationally recognized expert on demographics and generational marketing. The founder, president, and CEO of a direct marketing company, he regularly counsels Fortune 500 corporations as well as large and small businesses across the United States. He has been featured in Advertising Age and Entrepreneur. He lives in Haddam, Connecticut.

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