Pulp and Paper Canada

The Echo-Boom Generation:

The largest generation in US history is about to make itself felt. The Echo-Boomers (aka Gen Y'ers, Nexters, Net Generation and born after 1980) outnumber their parents, and have already created a new...

May 1, 2001  By Pulp & Paper Canada

The largest generation in US history is about to make itself felt. The Echo-Boomers (aka Gen Y’ers, Nexters, Net Generation and born after 1980) outnumber their parents, and have already created a new and powerful market. They will increasingly shape the US economy and, by osmosis, other economies. An examination of their values and behaviour will provide clues on future potentials for the forest products industry sector. Specifically, it may signal future directions for the paper business in a connected and high technology world.

The financial wellbeing of the 73 million baby boomers is now largely in the hands of the 70 million Gen X’ers born between 1960 and 1980. Housing, financial investment, markets and social security could all be negatively affected. But the economic landscape is not as dire as some doomsayers have prophesized, because following the Gen X’ers are the Echo-Boom Generation, which by some reckoning is the largest generation ever. This highly educated, well-informed, self-confident and media-savvy demographic is about to enter the workforce in a big wave over the next 20 to 30 years. They are entrepreneurial, have a strong work ethic, understand the new digital economy and are comfortable with change brought about by new technology. The Echo-Boomer generation does not appear to be group of self-indulgent, gratification-seeking, irresponsible shoppers. Surveys show them to be strong advocates for social responsibility. They value personal time and experience. They care about the world, the environment, poverty, and global issues in general.

Characteristics for this powerful new consumer group:


A big contributor to the real estate market for the next 40 years;

Big investors in the stock market to build a retirement nest egg;

Early car ownership, either from parents or their own resources;

Parents and grandparents are sources that contribute to a large disposable income;

Highly influential on family spending patterns;

Core values: optimism, civic duty, confidence, achievement, morality, diversity;

Needs: control their environment; resolve their fears; information hungry; more time for themselves in a less structured world;

Have a long-range plan to find their life destiny, after assuring economic security;

Reversing long-term negative youth trends;

The Global Teenager phenomenon — a fully connected group with similar values and tastes that transcends geographic and cultural boundaries;

Implications for the employer:

Employers that offer a flexible working environment will attract and keep the best employees and achieve that competitive edge.

Echo-Boomers are looking for experience rather than money in a career; could change jobs every 2 to 4 years.

Employers can hold these mobile workers, if they offer variety, stimulation, high learning, and a chance to actually accomplish something — to make a positive difference in the world around them.

How do Echo-Boomers feel about paper and print media? There is little hard data on this, but a 1996 study by GAMIS has highlighted education rather than age as the significant indicator for print use. The critical issue is the thirst for information, which tracks education and income. Since Echo-Boomers are highly educated and work motivated, one can project that they will get information from whatever source (print and electronic) that best fits the need of the moment.

Why is this important?

Since the Echo-Boom Generation hold the key to the long-term health of the paper business, their strong social values will be important. It will be a driving force in the growing demand for new socially aware business models (reference: Sustainable Futures by Philips Design). The customer has become a stakeholder who not only buys the product, technology or solution, but also buys the values of the company. Among many other stakeholders are: employees, contractors, governments, communities, universities and banks. The most powerful businesses of the future will be those that can build and evolve the most successful network of business alliances that can co-operate, share knowledge and provide seamless human-focused solutions to customers. As business guru Alan Kennedy recently noted, we are seeing “The end of shareholder value.”P&PC

Alan R. Procter can be reached at futureviews@alanprocter.com. For more information, visit www.futureviews.net

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