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Artifacts: What The Beatles Tell Us About Generational Divide & Universal Connection

By Mike Fox

February 9th, 1964, four kids take the stage on the Ed Sullivan Show to make their U.S. debut. Primly clad in dark suits, mop-top haircuts — surrounded by hysteria. As Sullivan put it, “this city never has witnessed the excitement stirred by these youngsters from Liverpool who call themselves, The Beatles.”


One night, a combined 5 minutes of music, a watershed cultural moment that reverberates to this day. We watched hype and anticipation from across the pond shift into a worldwide phenomenon in a single telecast. It sparks the British invasion and inspires legions of proceeding artists. The show helps to heal a nation still rattled by President Kennedy’s assassination. 


Backwards and forwards, a moment captured us. A moment moved us. A moment shaped us. 


We are made by the moments we live through, but it’s difficult to notice that until after the moment passes. It’s natural that behavior ensues before it’s recognized. Less naturally, and unfortunately, it gets judged by others before it should too. Whole generations are quickly and tenuously labeled and given sweeping narratives without much consideration. Life deserves more consideration. It’s there that we won’t find fearful resentment, or cheap nostalgia, or misplaced blame — but truth.  


At Hyperquake, we pay close attention to the shifting values across generations and how they shape behavior. We reject the argument that people don’t change. In fact, the data says otherwise. While there are certain habits or personality traits that stay with us, the events we live through, big and small, provide perpetual amendments to our independent constitutions. From moptop to Rubber Soul, we find the meaning in our experiences and change accordingly. 


Brands who stay present with these shifts are able to build deeper relationships with consumers. The values shared between brand and consumer is a gateway to loyalty, advocacy, and love. There’s skepticism for brands that try to build relationships with people using emotional values formed from cultural events. That’s fair, if it’s done opportunistically with cheap and shallow commitment to back it up. You can’t forge this. Using a consumer’s emotional value and sharing a consumer’s emotional value are two different things. The latter is held through behavior, not what sounds good on your “About Us” page. Consumer affection is earned. “Can’t buy me love”, indeed. 


Brands are the encapsulation of your behavior. You don’t go from hype to Beatlemania without writing and performing great songs people relate to. Values reflect actions. “And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.”


So how have our values evolved, and what shaped that evolution? When we look at MNI’s year-to-year tracking of generational values in parallel to major historical and cultural events of their lifetime, it tells a story of increasing fluidity. 


Source: MRI-Simmons, 2021

Younger generations have always demonstrated a propensity for disrupting the status quo and rejecting orthodoxy, but what’s interesting in the overall arc of the last 80 years is that for every living generation right now, from the youthful and dynamic GenZ to our inspiring elders in the Silent Generation, we are all contributing to an increasing fluidity in the way we act and the values we live by. 


The demise of monoculture, the proliferation of information (for better and worse), the exposure of cracks in our infrastructure (figurative and literal), the change in climate, the widening lens of our experiences, and the…well, you know, global pandemic, all contribute to a value system that accepts greater vulnerability, complexity, and perspective when we choose growth and reject cynicism.


We certainly have clear markers for when, where, and how we diverge, but the overall arc of our value shifts show a migration away from fruitless rigidity and into a place that can be more volatile, but also more accepting and resilient. As Paul put it, “Take a sad song and make it better.” 


At its essence, this evolution is guided by the fundamental values innate to the love we have for people. “Come together, right now…”


In less than a decade, John, Paul, George and Ringo created music that serves as allegory for both the separation and commonality of our living generations to this day. There is no truer arc of the fervency and anguish of youth to the wisdom and acquiescence of old age than a discography that starts with the plea of Please Please Me (1963) and ends with Let it Be (1970). 


As part of our fixation with trends and the stories that connect us, Hyperquake’s Artifacts series will look at the evolution of each of our living generations and how that’s impacted their top values reported in the MRI-Simmons’ National Studies annual survey of approximately 25,000 consumers. As respect to our elders, we’ll begin our series with our most senior living generations, the Pre-Boomers, dubbed the Silent Generation, and The Beatles’ own, the Baby Boomers. What we live through shapes who we are and how we govern our lives, from career and family down to the brands we add to our shopping carts. 


People set out on unique paths filled with very different barriers, detours and opportunities. But ultimately, we’re all guided by values that show us “there’s nowhere you can be that isn’t where you’re meant to be.” The more we pay attention to how this shapes our behavior, the more we recognize what unites us in real time. Different paths, and yet we can always find each other. We just have to look. “Living is easy with eyes closed.” Keep your eyes open. 


That’s the power of attending to values and understanding differences before neglecting or patronizing them. Your brand is your values in action. Your consumer is who embraces it. And in that union, great music starts to play.  


“All these places have their moments

With lovers and friends I still can recall

Some are dead and some are living

In my life I’ve loved them all.”

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Joe Fox
Joe Fox
1 year ago

So, from this aging boomer:
When I was younger, so much younger than today,
I never needed anybody’s help in any way,
But now these days are gone and I’m not so self assured,
Now I find I’ve changed my mind I’ve opened up the doors.