Below I've provided a chapter excerpt from my newest book, Generation Reinvention: How Boomers Today Are Changing Business, Marketing, Aging and the Future. This 279-page book explores a growing body of research, arguments, insights, and speculation over how Boomers are impacting aging and commerce.
Implications from my book are monetary and personal, local and international, intergenerational and multicultural. To learn why these conclusions are significant for your work and future, you can get a copy from online book retailers, including Amazon. Thank you for following my blog and, of course, your interest in Generation Reinvention. You can read Part 1 of this trilogy by clicking here.
Boomers and the Future of Technology - Part 2
Michael Pollan, a prolific book author and writer about food forThe New York Times brilliantly condensed his manifesto about eating:
“Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”
Allow me to condense Boomers and the future of technology to the simplest declaration:
• Boomers like and adopt new technologies
• Not unnecessary complexity or useless frills
• Mostly for learning, entertainment, and communication
Here is part two of this three-part series:
Not Unnecessary Complexity or Useless Frills
My earliest confrontations with an over-priced home computer demanded that I learn nuances of the DOS operating system, which I obliged thanks to tutoring by one of my geeky colleagues. Understanding how to format a floppy disk or move computer files from hard drive to floppy didn’t require technical genius or a degree from MIT, but it did require enormous patience and practice with arcane, non-intuitive methods. I remember panic attacks when my computer would freeze up, thinking that I had permanently destroyed documents.
I remember reading thick manuals trying to figure out how to attach peripherals to my computers. This, in a nutshell, is what Boomers hate about some new technologies. When a product requires us to turn our lives over to the product so that we can master its nuances, then we’ll look for alternatives that insulate us from maddening minutia.
Michael Rogers’ summary of focus group commentary for the AARP/Microsoft white paper echoes my own frustrations: “The group made it clear that there are two aspects to ease of use. The first is learning how a device operates. The second is fixing it when something goes wrong.”
Technology companies that address Boomers’ collective motivations to buy products that are easy to use and then easy to fix will win discretionary income.
Another concern relates to diminished physical capacities as Boomers age. If Boomers can’t see a cell phone keyboard or computer interface easily, then they will seek alternatives that accommodate middle-age presbyopia (loss of visual acuity due to hardening of the lens of the eye after age 50). It’s simply more difficult to use a product consumers can’t easily see.
So, technology innovation winners with this generation will create products that are intuitive to learn, easy to interact with, and effortless to repair when things go wrong. When manufacturers design simplicity into their technology products, they appeal to all generations, not just Boomers. Nobody wants to be bogged down by technological convolution.
In some of the AARP/Microsoft focus groups, insightful Boomers proposed an intelligent interface idea for future cell telephones:
“Consider the perennial problem of too-small visual displays that wash out in bright light. One solution that came up at the dinners was the use of miniature digital projectors built into cell phones, technology already available in Asia that will soon be introduced in the United States.”
Recognizing loss of visual acuity in Boomers not as a problem but an opportunity, Japanese consumer electronics giant LG has introduced its new “Expo” phone as the first smartphone with a built-in digital projector.
The next edition of this blog will address Part 3 of my Boomers-and-technology manifesto: Mostly for Learning, Entertainment, and Communication. Subscribe to this blog now and be sure not to miss this unfolding saga of economic opportunities for technology companies. In the final installment of this trilogy, I'll include specific strategic recommendations that technology companies can undertake to improve marketing to Boomers.