Generations: The History Of America's Future

I’ve been meaning to start a list of essential reading for Internet marketers in particular and strategic communications professionals in general.

So, today I start with one of my favorite books, period; not just a favorite marketing book: Willam Strauss and Neil Howe‘s Generations: The History of America’s Future.

I love history and have read countless history books and have thought about the so-called tides of history but no other book has better illuminated how the forces of history work than this one.

Most people think out of context. If you don’t understand how you got to the present point in time, how can you possibly reasonably anticipate and plan for the future? Anticipating and recognizing trends is a crucial skill for any successful marketer and understanding the forces of history is half the battle.

Further, as we get ever more precise in our micromarketing efforts, understanding generations is vitally important to communicating with them.

The central theory of Generations is that a given generation is not defined by the rather arbitrary dates into which a generations members were born, so much as it is by their cultural touchstones and shared experiences.

The character of a generation is formed by these shared experiences and their reactions to events are informed by these experiences. Their reactions in turn affect and help shape subsequent generations.

Each generation tends to overreact to the excesses of the generation preceding them and this dynamic creates cycles of history that produce four distinct generational types with identifiable characters. Likewise, this dynamic tends to create similar distinct periods of history that recur regularly.

I recommend the book to everyone. Just ask any of my co-workers. You can find Generations at Google Books.

This is a 1998 C-SPAN Booknotes episode interviewing the authors about the book:

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