Agequake, by Paul Wallace
Nicholas Brealey, 1999, 266 pages, $25

For the first time ever, the world population is collectively getting older. The average age of the world has always been around 20 or younger, Wallace says, but by 2050 it will be 38. Why? Because advancements in technology have increased the quality and duration of the average life span, while fertility rates have plummeted.

The result, according to Wallace, will be fundamental shifts in society, which fall into six core areas: finance, property, business, culture, jobs, and pensions. For example, Wallace foresees on the finance side one of the "longest and deepest bear markets in history," as more and more people retire and cash out investments.

Wallace warns that businesspeople are largely unprepared for this unprecedented change.

For example, cultural shifts as a result of the aging trend will require marketers to change how they target certain audiences. People in their 40s and 50s are embracing youth longer than their parents did because they are in better health and expect to live another 35 or 40 years. They are not necessarily attracted by marketing that focuses on their (middle) age. Volkswagen successfully marketed the new VW bug and spanned the generations by playing on the nostalgia of the baby boomers (not their age) while appealing to the Gen-Xers' love of anything retro.

Growing Diversity

In addition to the aging trend, immigration is diversifying the ethnic makeup of populations. Wallace foresees a trend toward more universal ideas in advertising, as minorities become a greater percentage of the market and bring with them more diverse values and attitudes.

Agequake is a well-researched, thought-provoking text on the ways in which the world is changing -- and what those changes mean to business.

Copyright 1999 Soundview Executive Book Summaries

Published on: Oct 1, 1999