The Idea of Three-Generation Marketing

It was in the spring of 1993 that I proposed the idea of three-generation marketing. At that time members of the postwar baby-boom generation were approaching their forties, and their parents were in their seventies.

What prompted me to do so was a letter in the Asahi Shimbun newspaper by a 41-year-old housewife, who wrote something like “I wanted to present my parents with a stereo, so I went along to an electric appliance store. I had a look at this and that, but everything looked so difficult to operate. The knobs were small, and there was lots of English. In the end I gave up, because I knew my parents wouldn’t be able to use one. Really, who are the manufacturers making products for?” In other words, members of the baby-boom generation experienced audio equipment in their youth, became the main actors in the audio industry’s development, and now that they had a bit of leeway, wanted to buy stereos for their parents.

At that time, centering on the baby-boom generation of about seven million people, there were also their parents’ generation and their children’s generation, the so-called baby-boom juniors, who numbered about eight million people and were approaching their twenties. Each of these three generations formed its own consumption structure, and lively marketing was conducted targeting them. I think that all industries developed product policies in recognition of the existence of these three generations. The audiovisual industry was successful and achieved spectacular growth. In particular, the scale of the audio market reached ¥800 billion in 1988, and it continued to prosper until the collapse of the bubble in the early 1990s.

Today the idea of three-generation marketing is emerging once again. Members of the baby-boom generation are now aged over 65 and will be in their seventies by 2020. At that time, the baby-boom juniors will be in their late forties, and their children will be in their twenties.

In 2020 the baby-boom juniors will be in the position of the 41-year-old housewife mentioned above, and the postwar baby boomers will be the parents. The population aged over 75 will number more than 18 million people, accounting for about 15% of the total population. In other words, Japan will be a super-aged society.

The present baby-boom juniors are going to inherit from their parents, so they are being described as a nouveau-riche generation. The tax reforms of fiscal 2015 appear to have had the transfer of assets from the postwar baby-boom generation in mind, because they made gifts of up to ¥10 million for the purpose of marriage and education tax-free. This exemption is going to increase the assets of the receivers, and in the future the children of the baby-boom juniors are going to become nouveau riches as well.

If this happens, then the postwar baby boomers, the baby-boom juniors, and their offspring are all going to have powerful purchasing power, and we are going to enter an age of real three-generation marketing.

Since the postwar baby boomers and the baby-boom juniors have developed a deep-rooted affection for audiovisual equipment in their lives, I think that high-resolution and also analog sound are undoubtedly going to be popular. While riding on the wave of new trends like the smartphone, we must create the next audio demand structure. Targeting the three generations is extremely important. I believe it is the key to our industry’s revitalization. Three-generation marketing is an urgent issue.