Give in to Grups: Jon Cohen Offers an Inside Glimpse at a Generation-Blurring Demographic

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Call them alterna-yuppies or yupsters, but lurking just beyond the miasma of New York City hipsterdom is a relatively new adult target audience that should undoubtedly be raising marketers’ eyebrows.

Barely removed from the coveted 18-34 set, yet treading ever so lightly towards middle age, this peculiar demographic of successful urban professionals also known as “grups”—first brought into major focus via New York Magazine—is an anomaly within both pop culture and advertising circles. With music, art, style and even gaming tastes aligned with those of downtown’s teeming, asymmetrically-shorn young socialites, grups are a dualistic breed, somehow able to maintain a Peter Pan complex while taking on roles as moneymaking husbands, wives and parents.

In essence, this group—let’s say ages 35-40—has created a significant gray area when it comes to viable marketing opportunities. With most ad dollars being doled out in order to reach generation MySpace, though, it’s hard for some to pull the veil from their eyes and skew their strategies ever so slightly.

But is catering to this audience really a risk worth taking, or an investment worth making?

I recently had the opportunity to chat with Jon Cohen (left), president of lifestyle/music marketing firm Cornerstone Promotion, which beyond taking on creative agency roles for clients including Sprite, Diesel and Paramount, also serves as the parent company of hip-hop/indie music & culture publication FADER.

Cohen, himself being in his late 30s with a resume that touts 20 years of music industry experience, is the quintessential “Grup”. “[It centers on] the older, more established 30-40 year old that dresses and acts and has a lot of the same interests as a 20-year old despite the fact that he or she might have kids, or might have the right job,” he says. “I’ll admit, I’m guilty. I fit that category. I’m 38 years old. I wear sneakers, jeans, and a t-shirt to work every single day pretty much. I have my Xbox 360. I love playing it. I absolutely fit that description and I know plenty of people who do.”

With the lines ever-so blurred between Gen X, Y and now Z, Cohen believes the nuclear family archetype, especially in an urban sprawl like NYC, is fairly obsolete. “I think absolutely lines are blurred,” he reiterates from Cornerstone’s midtown NY headquarters. “I think in past culture, it was almost like you had to grow up. You maybe got to a point where you got out of college, you got a job, you had a family, and I think the American cultural aesthetic was to change your habits and lifestyle.”

Until the counterculture arrived in the 60s, that is. From the Haight-Ashbury hippies to the tumultuous civil rights uprisings, the notion of what mattered changed. Art and commerce clashed, cultural identity and loyalty was brought to the forefront, and the traditional values and mores of apple pie America were pushed to the wayside. “I think you slowly saw a transition where people really held onto their culture and the things that they were passionate about,” Cohen says.

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