The 1969 moon landing remains a vivid memory. Snacking on peanut butter sandwiches, I was transfixed by the stuff of science fiction unfolding live on television.
Aged nine, I was probably as (if not more) excited about the rare treat of staying up late as I was about witnessing history in the making.
But the event embedded within me an early realization that the unthinkable could be achieved. And, as the world begins its long slog to recovery post-Covid-19, that moonshot mindset is precisely what we need right now.
Cusper curiosity: The source of future endeavor
Life-changing impressions such as the moon landing can occur in a nanosecond, helping to shape generational mindsets and behaviors. Only by segmenting generations can we identify links between people’s formative experiences and their values, viewpoints, and visions today.
Would a person born in 1946 (the first Boomers) cite the same influences as somebody born in 1964 (the tail end of the generation)? Absolutely not. Lumping everyone born within a span of 18 years into a single generation ignores the cultural and societal shifts that took place across that expanse of time.
When I look at the visionaries at the vanguard of progress today, many bear the indelible marks of the summer of ’69 and the space age begun a decade earlier. I think of those in the second half of the Boomer cohort as “cuspers”—men and women who sit on the cusp between the older Boomers and Gen-X. Others refer to them as members of. Whatever one terms them, this group came of age with a moonshot mindset and the knowledge that big dreams can become big realities.
Unlike the early Boomers—many of whom protested for their freedom by burning bras or Vietnam-era draft cards—the cuspers were more curious than rebellious. Many of the best-known were studious, cerebral, and bookish types—unconstrained by geographic borders. To them, nerds were the new rock stars. I don’t consider it a coincidence that Tim Berners-Lee, Steve Jobs, and Bill Gates were all born in 1955 and entered high school around the time Neil Armstrong left those historic footprints on the Sea of Tranquility.
As a child, I had friends living on the same street as legendary NASA astronaut Wally Schirra. In 1959, the year I was born, Schirra became one of—America’s first bid to send humans into space. Suddenly, nerds of notability were being immortalized in the pages of history and, in my case, living just blocks away.
When the space age arrived in our homes
In this post-war period of unbridled promise, there was plenty to pique the curiosity of cuspers.
First, there was the moon landing; then the space age came down to Earth.
Throughout the late ’60s and ’70s—formative years for cuspers—we hadmarketed as a “space-age drink,” cooking food to readiness in a near-instant, recording our favorite shows, delivering instant cash into our hands, providing music on the move, adorning our wrists … the list goes on.
These otherworldly innovations spread from patent offices to populations in rapid succession, each one moving the cuspers closer to the future the Jetsons cartoon series had led us to consider our due.
Small steps and giant leaps
Powered by the progress of the past, cuspers are now rewriting the rules of the present. They are leading efforts to combat climate change, innovating to serve and protect consumers, conducting business through a more global, equitable, and inclusive lens, and collaborating to disrupt outdated status quos.
Like Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong before them, the cuspers I cite below—among countless others—are taking giant leaps for mankind:
- Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla, 59, led a global effort—with German company BioNTech—to produce a Covid-19 vaccine against the clock. Not only did the moonshot come to fruition, it was the first vaccine to be authorized by regulators.
- Nike Foundation founder Maria Eitel, 58, is leveraging innovation to improve the lives of 600 million impoverished adolescent girls through the initiative.
- Reed Hastings, 60, co-founded Netflix and disrupted the entertainment industry.
- Vince Dale, 59, is a -turned-owner of British green electricity company —inspired by science and the late ’60s peace movement.
- Biochemist Jennifer Doudna, 57, with French researcher Emmanuelle Charpentier, was awarded the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 2020 for her pioneering work in CRISPR gene editing.
Tune in to the tuned-in
In their capacities as leaders, innovators, and consumers, cuspers and older members of the Baby Boom generation zealously gobble up information and put faith in scientific and technological innovations capable of tightening our grip on a better tomorrow.
revealed that Boomers are the generation most likely to get a Covid-19 vaccine and most in favor of mandatory vaccinations for on-campus students. And they’re discerning about whom to trust when it comes to information about vaccines, with ; this compares with just 44% of Millennials and 37% of Gen-Z who do so. Baby Boomers are also the generation most likely to buy from a brand that supports pandemic mitigation efforts by offering discounts to vaccinated customers (68%).
For marketers, grasping the nuances of the cuspers and the impact formative experiences such as the moon landing have had on the generation offers pathways of insight and connection. Only by understanding the unique set of commonalities that color each generational cohort can we provide products and services that resonate. This is especially critical in a time of pandemic and radical change—a time ripe with opportunities for marketers and visionaries to map the moonshots of the future.