Editor's Note: Anyone who has read his work knows Neil Howe is a bright shining bulb. In the three bullets below, our in-house demography guru (and the man who coined the term "millennials") cuts through recent headlines and shares key observations on topics people are talking about across America.
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Campbell and Hershey will acquire healthy snack upstarts for $6.1 billion and $1.6 billion respectively, the largest-ever deal for each company. Both firms are trying to win over health-conscious consumers who have strayed away from the supermarket’s middle aisles. (The Wall Street Journal)
Neil Howe: For both Big Food firms, this is a brainless, trend-chasing strategy. Indeed, acquiring processed-food snacks to replace the larger-portioned processed foods that consumers are already rejecting is not a strategy at all. What these companies need is a new vision or mission statement that would redefine their purpose in a world of increasingly wellness-focused consumers. We're waiting.
After transitioning to a Nielsen format that takes into account streaming figures, ESPN recently saw its prime-time Millennial viewership soar 28%. These data affirm that, rather than abandoning sports programming altogether, many young viewers are simply watching it on alternative platforms at their own leisure. (Adweek)
Neil Howe: On the upside, you always knew networks like ESPN would gain most from Nielsen's new "total audience measurement" tools. Nielsen now measures everything from DVR and OTT to viewing in airports and sports bars. Yes, this differentially advantages sports clips more than reruns of Murder, She Wrote. It will quiet some of the biggest doubts about Disney and position DIS as one of the best long-term buy-and-holds in the media space.
On the downside, who guards the guardians? Nielsen has an interest in great numbers than make both networks and advertisers feel great--even if they do imply that the typical American is now spending an insane number of hours watching a screen: 4.5 hours per day watching linear (live) TV... and then another 6.0 hours per day watching on-line stuff. Are you kidding?
Both the magnitude and the growth rate of these numbers are due for a huge ice-water reality check once competitors (yes, they do exist) succeed in taking on Nielsen.
Some Boomers seeking to reinvent themselves before retirement are returning to college. For Boomers in search of meaning and colleges in search of additional tuition, adult education is a no-brainer. (The Wall Street Journal)
Neil Howe: Colleges are still in trouble (Moody's just downgraded higher-ed in December from neutral to negative). The steep demographic decline in new freshmen that started in 2010 won't be over until 2019.
Meanwhile, Gen-X parents are bargaining hard over tuition--and the influx of full-freight paying foreign students is suffering in the new Trump era. (See: "The Falling Stars and Stripes.") Squeezing Boomers with means (the annual "Boomer" tuition at Stanford is $65K) is probably a smart move. Get the money they didn't already spend on their own kids.
Most Boomers look back with fondness on their own college years and many college towns are successfully marketing themselves to Boomers as a toney and high-minded retirement locale. Will another year in college train them for an "encore career"? Perhaps. Millennials generally get along with them--so Boomers can always teach.