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Product developers at Thor Industries Inc.’s Airstream subsidiary now think in “psychographic” instead of demographic terms, because the company’s products span the generational divide separating Baby Boomers from Gen. Xers and the World War II generation, Airstream President Dicky Riegel recently told the Harvard Business Review.
The Business Review suggests Airstream’s products are different from other RVs because “Airstream trailers have become so cool that MTV bought one for its lobby.” Which raises the question: “How did the RV maker turn its aluminum oldie into a hip new thing?”
Early in 2002, Airstream introduced the CCD series of travel trailers, named for San Francisco-based architect Christopher C. Deam. It has cutting edge features such as flat screen TVs, exposed aluminum and backlit Plexiglas.
“We expected it to appeal to a much younger audience and, indeed, the first buyer was a 28-year-old single guy from New York,” Riegel told the Business Review. “But the second guy was 71. The third was 45. And so on.
“Pretty soon, we found that there is no accurate demographic description of these buyers,” Riegel continued.
According to the Center for Generational Studies, the youngest Boomers were born in 1964 and the oldest Gen. Xers were born in 1965. Boomers are defined as the 77 million Americans born between 1946 and 1964, added Robert Wendover, managing director of the center, who spoke during the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) annual meeting last month.
But Riegel, who was an advertising agency executive before entering the RV industry, believes Airstream buyers are “design enthusiasts with an urban sensibility.”
“Although there’s no clear Airstream buyer demographic,” he said “there are three distinct psychographics: design enthusiasts; traditionalist customers, who include what we call ‘retrofurbishers’; and value customers whose needs can’t be met by typical RVs but still approach their purchase on a budget.
“Even though these groups are made up of very different sorts of people, they all consider themselves part of the Airstream community. “A 30-year-old design enthusiast from New York and a 65-year-old retrofurbisher from Michigan can pull up next to each other at a rally and find they have a lot in common.”