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Generational Marketing – because we’re not all the same!


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It’s hard to believe the way we communicate has changed so dramatically in just a few years. As technology continues to evolve, it’s becoming more and more important for businesses of all sizes – especially small-to-medium enterprises (SMEs) – to take notice.

Using targeted marketing strategies that segment your customer base by age cohorts is one way to stay relevant to your customers.

There are different things that each generation wants. And if you want to win, outflank your competitors and make sure you survive through these crazy times, then you’re going to need to adapt your business to meet the changing market.

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Generational marketing is all about speaking to consumers in a way that makes them feel comfortable, by tailoring messages and products for each specific generation.

By customising your message, goods or services for the different generations, you gain an advantage because it shows customers how much you care about their interests, speaking “their language”.

Including this strategy in your business – where you use a group’s preferences, attitudes and upbringing as distinctions rather than age alone – will lead potential customers down an optimal path tailored specifically to what people want from brands today: customisation and engagement!

Generational marketing has been around for decades but only recently have companies begun implementing these strategies into their day-to-day operations with great success.

In the marketing world, the most active living generations have been divided into 5 categories – and they’re the ones we’re going to cover in this article:

➔   Silent Generation – born between 1927 and 1945

➔   Baby Boomers – born between 1946 and 1964

➔   Generation X – born between 1965 and 1980

➔   Generation Y/Millennials – born between 1981 and 2000

➔   Generation Z – born after 2001

And why is it so important to understand that we now have five generations in the marketplace?

In all aspects of marketing, product distribution, or messaging, communication is crucial. 62-year-old war veterans and teenagers just starting out in college cannot be approached in the same way.

So, I want to highlight the importance of age and perspective diversity, because we’re facing challenges and unprecedented situations with five generations of buyers and employees.

Take a minute to think of someone you know from each generation as you’re reading through this. I want you to bring someone to mind (someone close to you, if possible), create a mental picture of them and start thinking about their world views, age, core values, beliefs, attributes, work ethics, communication styles, etc, while we explore each generation in more depth.

Keeping someone in mind will help you see why it’s so important to personalise our communication!

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The Silent Generation (which I like to call “the Builders”) are people who have endured the Great Depression and WWII. They were some of the population’s most hard-working citizens during their time, always striving for that next big thing in life.

As a whole, Silents tend to be among the wealthiest of the generations. Their life needs and priorities have strengthened and they remain active consumers of lifestyle and entertainment industries, healthcare, financial services and housing.

Great ways to communicate with this generation include direct mail or any kind of written words (newsletter, postcard, flyers). But pay attention to the visuals! Keep the layout simple – avoid multiple images or busy layouts that can confuse them – and make sure you use larger fonts.

Another tip: rather than using stereotypical images of aging peers, choose emotional pictures that play to what Silents value such as images conveying a sense of family or belonging.

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Baby Boomers were born between 1946-1964 and became the TV generation, viewing heroic broadcasts from the moon and the first ones to sing Beatle songs! Baby boomers own approximately 70% of the net worth and 80% of all savings today.

Baby Boomers were told to hide under school desks and fear cold-war nukes, as they wept over heroes gunned down. Many rebelled against their parents through long hair, loud music, public demonstrations, and the peace and love movement.

The Boomer generation saw a time of great change and uncertainty. Boomers in America, for example, began protesting and raging against “the establishment” after the Vietnam War, in which 50,000 Americans perished.

Until recently, they were the largest living generation. They retain the largest portion of disposable income and their counter-culture ways, which included drugs, sex, and rock-and-roll, have been replaced by the burden of responsibility.

Boomers are driven to bring about change and make their mark. They have a sense of loyalty that drives them through thick and thin, regardless of the difficulty of the process.

Having grown up in an era where conformity was more valued than individuality or creativity, Boomers were taught not to question authority figures but rather work hard for what they want (even if it means breaking some rules).

If you wish to communicate effectively with this generation, be aware they normally prefer face-to-face communication, resulting in a respectful, personal and direct relationship. Additionally, they value responsibility and loyalty toward others, along with the concept of working together for a cause.

Baby Boomers are defined by their work; it is an anchor in their lives. A commitment to career and advancement within an organisation typically results in many years spent at a company. That means they’re loyal when they trust you and your product.

But don’t let them wait! Make your customer experience and engagement a priority! Marketing materials and packaging need to be easy to find, read and understand, and, where possible, customise the experience.

It may take extra time, patience, and multiple touchpoints to engage a potential Boomer customer. Although this may require more time from you before a purchase is made, Boomers like to take their time deciding – and this extra effort will be worth it in the end!

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Gen X has more spending power than any other generation and they’re only about to get stronger as their peers (boomers) retire. However, finding success within this market isn’t easy. Marketers must understand the wants and needs of Gen-Xers.

Remember that this generation was formed by the events of a different time period with a whole new set of values, largely influenced by technology.

Generation X is characterized by hard workers who value flexibility and independence at work as well as maintaining a work-life balance. According to a recent Yahoo Advertising study, more than one-quarter of Gen Xers have started a business, and they make up more than half of startup founders.

This generation can be hard to pinpoint as far as purchasing motivations go. For some Gen Xers, their aspirations are fueled by meeting a need and buying with necessary products in mind like clothes or food.

Others may want something that makes them stand out from their peers – such as social media symbols on clothing rather than brands they’re associated with within today’s culture, where people feel pressured to wear certain items just because everyone else does.

The interesting thing is that Gen-X represents a useful group for companies looking for consumers who could present product ideas and those who want more personalized shopping experiences.

They’re tech-savvy and they love it! A wearable gadget (particularly one that can keep them physically and mentally fit) is essential for them. They grew up with the Internet – but they can still remember life before it!

With advancements like smartphones being so prevalent, technology has become increasingly personal for them in recent years and is part of their daily lifestyle.

The GenXers are comfortable in both the digital and analogue realms. During prime-time evening hours, they might switch between different devices, but they still watch TV, listen to the radio, and read the newspaper. This means an all-of-the-above strategy is best for marketers hoping to reach this elusive generation of consumers who can be loyal lifelong customers if you give them a quality product that they’re satisfied with.

They do their research before buying and they know what it means for marketing when brands don’t seem sincere or trustworthy. They are regular online shoppers, and product and service reviews hold sway with them, as do website ratings.

What works really well with them? Gen X’ers love coupons, so introducing coupons, subscriptions, and loyalty schemes can have a huge impact on your business strategy.

Additionally, this generation is also drawn to brands that reflect their values of gender, race, and cultural diversity.

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I am going to tell you right off the bat that there is disagreement about which birth years are associated with Millennials, but there’s a general consensus that people born from the early 1980s to the late 1990s fall into this generation.

Digital natives, this generation believe that access to technology makes life easier and more productive, and it is nonnegotiable for them. A survey by Microsoft found that 93% of Millennials said modern technology was one of the most important aspects of a workplace.

Remote working and flexible schedules give millennials the opportunity to maintain balance in their personal and professional lives while allowing them to grow in experience and responsibility as desired.

They also expect to be mentored by more experienced colleagues, especially when it relates to technology. The opportunity of learning about something unfamiliar sounds like it would make any millennial’s day!

53% of Millennial households already have children and they tend to take a balanced approach to parents, with considerably less adherence to traditional gender roles.

Marketing to this generation can be challenging, and many brands have failed to adapt to it. Some ads are so poorly done that they’re downright offensive while others feel completely out of touch with Millenial consumers’ tastes and beliefs.

Millennials are living in a constantly changing world, and they’re willing to spend more than previous generations on health and wellness because they understand healthy lifestyles better than any other generation.

They want more than just gym memberships and trendy sneakers, they want organic produce from local growers and fairtrade products too. The millennial generation understands its responsibility to the world and expects brands to have greater purposes as well.

To put some context around the Millennials’ power, last year Gen Y spent about 2.5 trillion dollars and they are very confident, self-assured, upbeat and receptive to new ideas and lifestyle changes.

To market this generation, you need to focus on innovation. Think about the product you want to offer them and answer the questions: What’s new about it? What have I done differently? Why is it different from something else?

And it’s not just on the surface either, but right through from manufacturing to distribution and every level of the product design. If it’s in fashion, stitch count quality! Where’s it come from? Is it a good brand, organic, ethically sourced?

Delivery dynamic content to them – and make it highly customised!

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Gen Z has lived in a world in which political and cultural change has been massive since 9/11. Their entire reality is different from the generation before them and their parents, with modern conveniences such as smartphones, cable internet since birth making this the youngest generation of technologically savvy individuals.

This group spends large amounts of time on social networks including TikTok, YouTube, Instagram, Twitch – all of which are intertwined through GenZers’ lives to create one big virtual society that can be accessed at any given moment from anywhere.

While it may seem like there’s an overabundance of information out there for these young people, they actually spend hours upon hours looking up everything possible about themselves or others online because they want answers right away when something important happens.

Gen Z is the future of business. With only a few members have entered into the workforce, they often get lumped together with Millennials in surveys but this isn’t always wrong since many are very similar to their older counterparts.

Communication and honesty rank high on GenZ’s list of qualities for an employer. Like Millennials, they want effective communication from leaders followed closely by kindness – evident in their desire to work face-to-face rather than via email back and forth like other generations or just using phone calls sometimes.

Gen Z is an up-and-coming generation with more than $44 billion in spending power. This means marketers can’t ignore them. Communication with this generation needs to be in real-time and immediate and they expect fast, reliable, bite-sized information.

Expect a spike in video clips, memes and gifs as their influence on the market continue to grow. Gen Z values authenticity – brands need to be transparent, honest, real and approachable if you want them paying attention at all – but this doesn’t mean you can expect them to develop loyalty to your brand.

They will be looking at bloggers, YouTube influencers, social media posts from other peers and the key here is authenticity – if you’re not honest in your marketing messages or dishonest with reviews then this demographic won’t give you space. They’ll definitely call you out for using overly photoshopped models or sharing something that can be offensive.

They place more importance on fashionable design than any other generation and see themselves as joining a brand rather than simply wearing it. When you’re promoting your brand to this generation, you need to be talking about your philosophy, your mission statements, and what your brand is doing to make the world a better place.

Moreover, they believe that they are the ones going to fix the world that was messed up by their elders, while millennials only believe that 39% of them are going to fix it.

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In your Google Analytics, you can now truly understand who your customers are, which will help your marketing strategy be more effective. Now you can convert your customers into brand ambassadors by speaking their language.

If you know how to work with the latest technology, adjusting to generational marketing shouldn’t be an issue when writing ads or copy, choosing products or sending emails.

The more personalised your communication is, the more loyal customers you’re going to have!

If you need help with Generational Marketing, get in touch! I have many ideas I would love to share with you!