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The Age Curve: How to Profit from the Coming Demographic Storm (2008)

by Kenneth W. Gronbach

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Generational theory has become widespread in America, most famously pioneered by William Strauss and Neil Howe. It is common with marketing consultants, since GT can predict trends, there is a lot of money to be made with the right call. Gronbach is a seasoned marketing consultant. His version of GT is based on Demographics. Everything can be explained by one simple fact: each generation is of different size, some smaller and others bigger. This creates waves in the marketplace, for example with 20 year cycles of big numbers of 18-26 year old males followed, by 20 year cycles of small numbers of the same age group. These demographic waves create and destroy markets, for example motorcycles. It's a very simple yet powerful observation that has a lot of application.

Strauss and Howe on the other hand not only describe the generations, but explain them with complicated personality characteristics loaded with value judgments akin to generational warfare. Gronbach tosses all that aside and simply looks only at the demographic size of each generation, which in many cases is enough to explain things. Generation X, which has been much maligned for a long time, only real fault is it's small size which means it has been unable to participate in society at the same level as its predecessor, the Baby Boomers. Thus the "slacker" tag.

I learned a lot from this breezy and captivating book, but there were so many questions and seeming contradictions I wish it had gone into more depth. Gronbach wears his personal politics openly and they usually fall on the side of conservatism ie. he suggests now would be a good time to "solve" the Middle East problem, namely Iran, with military measures, because of the large number of young people in Generation Y. But also fairly he takes a liberal view towards other issues like immigration. Who knew that 50% of all live births in the US are to Latino's! We would be sinking without them. He also forecasts China's economy will stall because of its 1-child policy (so much for the rise of China).

One thing I would caution about this book. Gronbach is using a "common sense" approach with a very simple tool to explain very complex phenomenon - this can be dangerous, as the world is much more complex. Still, it may be macro enough to get general trends correct some of the time, although more so in hindsight. Gronbach doesn't look at or explain things that are contrary to his theory. Gronbach is an evangelizer and visionary, the book is a manifesto, what's needed next is someone to do the hard research to see how well the theory really works.

--Review by Stephen Balbach, via CoolReading (c) 2010 cc-by-nd ( )
  Stbalbach | Feb 10, 2010 |
The Age Curve: How to Profit from the Demographic Storm (Hardcover)

by Kenneth W. Gronbach

The Age Curve is a book about numbers. Don’t worry. The author does the math.

The author Kenneth Gronbach, a proud member of the Baby Boomer generation, outlines the numbers of live births in the US starting from the beginning of the 1900’s and ending with projected estimates in 2010. This sounds boring, but this book is a fun read filled with anecdotes, quirky observations and the occasional easy-to-understand chart.

Using these simple numbers and market data, the author highlights typical spending and work habits of each generation, concentrating on Baby Boomers, Generation X and Generation Y. Mr. Gronbach cites many examples to show the impact of population on the market. This information, he claims, is (dangerously) being ignored by everyone from Levi’s chain of command to the White House and Karl Rove. He deftly explains why Honda motorcycle dealerships disappeared overnight, how Walmart will soon have to drastically change their format to survive, and how Social Security will fail. He gives Generation X a well-earned break from the criticism and lends immigrants a welcoming hand. Gronbach finishes the book with the gloom and glory Generation Y will bring.

The book reads like a conversation, which includes an occasional non-sequitur and incomplete points, which a more thorough editing could remedy. Also, the book lacks any opposing views to clear up the befuddling question of why big box stores and our government are consistently ignoring what Gronbach presents as undeniable evidence of impending doom (my guess is they need to read Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions or Sway: The Irresistible Pull of Irrational Behavior to examine why they are holding steadfast to yesterday’s markets).

Personally, this book has helped me to understand why Generation X has gotten a bad rap and how to position myself and my investments in the market for the next several decades. It’s a must-read for any marketer or any parent of an X or Y generation member. ( )
1 vote PurpleCar | Jun 26, 2008 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0814401813, Hardcover)

For years, savvy marketers have held on to certain unwavering beliefs that have dictated how they market to their consumers. The hard truth, however, is that at the heart of the changes we see in marketing and business is based on one undeniable factor - the size of the generations we are selling to. As each generation ages, what they buy and how much they buy will change. Each product and service has a "best customer" that sustains a business. As these customers grow up, the smartest marketers will stay ahead of them - and their money. In "The Age Curve", marketing guru Ken Gronbach shows executives and entrepreneurs how to anticipate this wave of predictable demand and ride it to success. Both eye-opening and compelling, "The Age Curve" will change the way companies look at their customers and how they court them.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:16:53 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

"Get ready to radically change the way you think about your markets and products. In 'The Age Curve, ' Ken Gronbach will open your eyes to a remarkably simple yet consistently ignored fact: Demographic numbers--more specifically, the size of every generation of comsumers--hold the key to your organization's success"--P. [2] of cover.… (more)

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