Optimize Your Marketing Efforts by Embracing Multiple Generations
Change is the law of life.
And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.
— President John F. Kennedy
It never fails. Every time things appear to be running smoothly, something comes along to disrupt the stability, throw a wrench in the works, and demand that we make a choice: either ignore the need for change and stagnate, or make efforts to adapt and evolve. Take a brand’s marketing, for instance.
The last two decades, businesses have had to find ways to compete in the suddenly all-important online landscape, adjusting their strategies to reach target audiences increasingly dependent on digital for their shopping journey.
Today, when many brands are just getting a handle on how to engage and compete online, on how to speak to boomers, Gen-Xers and millennials alike, here comes Gen-Z as the boomer population starts to diminish.
While longer lifespans have made for more independent, savvy seniors who are still significant consumers, target audiences are also expanding to increasingly younger audiences who spend enormous time on the Internet and are at least influential in convincing their parents to make purchases. Consequently, we’ve never quite had a time like this, when so many generations have had a similar share in the population and marketplace.
From Boomers to Zoomers
Today, there are four key generations to consider when crafting your marketing strategies — boomers, Gen X, Gen Y/millennials and Gen Z. The Silent Generation (currently near and above 80 years old) and the Alpha Generation (under 10) don’t makeup enough of the marketplace to put much effort into reaching, unless your product/service is specifically made for them such as senior living essentials or children’s toys.
Each generation has its distinct behaviors, beliefs, and preferences, as well as values and perspectives that may conflict with those of other generations. These generational characteristics are a reflection of the times they grew up in and the technology, politics, economy, and so forth which shaped them. Understanding these is critical to identifying with and motivating individuals to take action.
You’d think that most brands would do all they could to appeal and connect to every generation with money on the table. However, most brands not only neglect certain segments, they avoid some generations altogether, especially boomers. Whether they don’t know how to reach them or don’t feel the need to, these brands are at a disadvantage to those who explore connecting with multiple generations.
There’s a good chance your brand’s target audience spans or has the potential to span more than one generation. To optimize your marketing efforts and connect with as many potential customers as possible, you should strive to embrace generational disruption, speaking to the differences while bridging the gaps where and when you can.
Understand Generational Differences
Offering key insight and uncovering new opportunities, market research is essential when trying to dig deep into who your existing and potential audiences are, how they think, and what they truly want and need.
(21.16% of population, according to the U.S. Census Bureau in 2021)
Born between 1945 and 1964, this segment was named for the boom in births following WWII. For now, baby boomers are still among the biggest spenders in the country, yet they remain woefully neglected by brands, especially on digital channels. Growing up without many of the conveniences we have now, this generation places great value on work ethic, loyalty, and discipline. They are competitive, process-oriented, and goal-centric, with self-worth closely tied to their job.
As you might expect, boomers prefer phone calls and face-to-face conversations to texting and social media. Most are less proficient with modern technology like the Internet, smartphones, and streaming services. Having parents that grew up during the Great Depression, they tend to be much more careful and deliberate with their money.
(19.83% of population)
Between 1965 and 1980, there was a significant drop in birth rates, but those born during that era are known as Generation X. While boomers may “live to work,” Gen-Xers are more likely to “work to live.” During their youth and early adulthood, they experienced some of the most dramatic and quick shifts in culture and technology ever — from rotary phones to smartphones, black & white TVs to HD big screens, from encyclopedias to Wikipedia.
Add to that the divorce surge in the ‘70s and ‘80s and Gen-Xers are highly adaptable to change, self-reliant, and good multi-taskers. Results-focused and eager to learn, Gen-Xers gravitate toward flexibility and multiple options. While they crave independence, they’re more cynical than others. Exhibit A: grunge music.
Gen Y / Millennials
(21.75% of population)
Generally, millennials encompass those born between 1981 and 1996, though some separate them into two categories: Gen-Y and “true millennials,” or those born closer to 2000. Not surprisingly, they’re very tech savvy, and screen time occupies a great deal of their day.
Fun-loving, ambitious, and transparent, they value diversity and desire to make an impact in the world. While they thrive working with detailed instructions and in non-traditional environments, they are more self-focused, don’t like to waste time, have shorter attention spans, and often require frequent feedback and validation.
(20.67% of population)
Never knowing a world without the Internet, Gen-Z, or Zoomers, were born in the late 1990s to early 2010s and are virtually technology dependent. While much of their world revolves around digital interaction, they’re realists who have an entrepreneurial and inventive spirit and like to make things — hence why Lego is one of the most popular toy brands in the world today after almost crashing and burning in the ‘90s.
Though more accepting of others than most previous generations, they tend to share some specific traits with each of them including their competitiveness, transparency, and individualistic nature. Having grown up through an economic recession, most are less optimistic about the future and their economic outlook.
Offer Inclusive Options Along the Customer Journey
Knowing the unique characteristics of each generation helps you better appreciate, relate to, and tailor your marketing strategies to the people within each one. While some of it seems like common sense, acting on that knowledge is what’s really important.
Each generation is at different stages in their lives, so obviously it helps to know that in order to understand what types of purchases they’re more likely to make. For instance, boomers would be more interested in retirement assistance and products that improve their health and quality of life as they head into retirement. Meanwhile, millennials might be looking to buy the newest electric car or their first house.
Timing is also a factor in reaching different generations successfully. Working Gen-Xers and boomers tend to do in-store shopping, digital surfing, and research outside of working hours, while younger generations are browsing and searching all throughout the day. Many Zoomers spend much of their day at school, so they too are easier to reach later in the afternoon.
Not surprisingly, when it comes to communication channels, millennials and Zoomers are more likely to prefer digital means, whether through their smartphones, iPads, or other streaming devices. While Gen-Xers and boomers can also be tech-savvy, many favor traditional channels like in-store shopping, mailers, and customer service over the phone. Ignoring digital or traditional methods can be the difference between losing customers who prefer and sometimes demand them.
With the rise of social media, millennials, Gen-Z and Gen-X have become increasingly reliant on the purchasing opinions and advice of social media influencers. Brands who use this powerful marketing tool have a huge edge over their competition, especially when their key target audience falls in these generations. With the recent rules legalizing NIL deals, young athletes are now bringing influencer opportunities to brands across the country.
Savings and deals are especially effective with boomers who are more financially conservative, so it can take more effort to get them to purchase items, especially non-essentials. As they say, with age comes wisdom, which is why boomers and Gen-Xers, who have been around longer and been burned by more poor customer experiences, tend to do more research before making larger purchases.
Boomers and older Gen-Xers who have more conservative beliefs appreciate more sophisticated and straightforward marketing tactics and can be turned off by more edgy, abstract ones. With younger Gen-Xers, millennials, and Zoomers, the opposite tends to be true.
Millennials especially don’t like to waste time, so grabbing their attention quickly is a must, which is an art in itself. Meanwhile, ESG — a company’s approach to environmental and social concerns — is especially important to millennials and Zoomers.
In a 2022 global consumer report, over half of Zoomers said companies should take a stance on social issues; were more likely to purchase from a company that treats its employees well; and said that recommendations from influencers are one of the most critical factors in their purchase decision.
These are just a few examples of how to make your marketing and communications more inclusive to different generations. The more you dive into what makes each generation tick, the more opportunities you’ll find to connect with them when, where, and how they prefer. This also goes for your workplace culture and client relationships.
At M:7 Agency, we’re experts at doing the research, creating the strategies and standout deliverables to help you use generational disruption to your advantage.
For help adding more inclusive customer options to your customer journey and speaking to different generations when, where and how they prefer, reach out to us today!