When it comes to the consumer purchase path it's no surprise that each generation has its perspective. So how does someone effectively market to them? Well, that's a great question as it all depends on the generational lens you are looking through that will determine your outlook.
Let's start 'big picture". Humans live on this planet with an average of 76 years for men and 81 years for women, depending on your gene pool and your appetite for deep fat fried foods (I know I'm not the only one who loves french fries!). The point is, we are always welcoming in a new generation and welcoming a generation that is coming of age. For those of us that are older, this means we are for lack of a better term, 'aging out" while the rest are somewhere in the middle.
Not every generation is alike, nor should they be treated the same way by marketers. Multi-generational marketing is the practice of appealing to the unique needs and behaviors of individuals within more than one specific generational group. This "group" is defined as individuals within 15 to 20 years apart. When a marketer factors in the different characteristics and behaviors of the generations, it should be easier to build relationships, gain trust, and ultimately close the sale. Unfortunately, too often, we marketers assume that one message is all that is necessary to reach the potential customer—kind of a one-size-fits-all mentality.
Today's purpose is to encourage future marketers to learn to recognize and celebrate these differences in the various audiences that make up our recruitment strategy. So, lets' get started as there are currently seven living generations inhabiting our planet today. They are:
- The Greatest Generation
- The Silent Generation
- Baby Boomer
- Gen-Y Millennial
For our purposes we're going to focus on just four of these generations including Baby Boomers, Gen-X, Gen- Y, and Gen-Z.
Baby Boomer (1946-1964)
Baby Boomers make up the largest demographic in our nation's history until they hosted a baby boom of their own; we call them millennials (more about them later.) The leading edge of the boomer generation is represented here by Donald Trump; he'll be 74 years old this year, trailing edge will be 56 represented by Michelle Obama. And smack dab in the middle is Oprah; she'll be 66 this year. While boomers are an aging generation, they keep redefining it by living longer and healthier lives. Currently, they represent 25% of the workforce.
Boomers represent the wealthiest of all generations controlling 70% of disposable income and they also control 47% of all income in the United States. There will be an estimated 161 million 50+ consumers by the year 2050, that's a 63% increase from 2010! They are an aging society so you better be prepared to meet their needs.
Tips On Marketing To Boomers:
- Boomers are huge on brand loyalty. You will need to prove that your product is great quality and will be necessary for an indefinite about of time.
- Go for the up-sell. Boomers like to know the value for the service they are getting. If buying more will save the in the end, they will do it.
- Don't be too automated. Boomers like to speak with a live person when they are making a purchase.
Gen - X (1965-1979)
This group is the smallest of the generations but has been the most influential in changing America's workplace. They are the "middle child" of generations. Divorce increased during this time and as a result a large number of Gen Xers were raised by a single parent who worked outside of the home. Kids came home from school to an empty house and learned to fend for themselves. The practice was so prevalent that they had to create a name for them, the "Latchkey Kids."
While Boomers looked at business as a winner take all proposition. Gen Xers view was that career is important, but so is family. And if all things are equal, the family always comes first. So, they introduced concepts like "work-life balance", "job sharing", "4-day work week", and "flextime" into the modern work vocabulary.
As a customer Gen X tends to be a skeptical consumer, they read reviews and visit more opinion sites than any other generation. They often share social and political viewpoints with their Baby Boom counterpart, but they are much more similar to the Millennials when it comes to comfort in all things digital.
Oh, and write this down, Gen X does not want to be sold. If you attempt to force a heavy sales pitch on them, they will withdrawal in the opposite direction. They prefer you to educate them into making the purchase. You've got to teach them to reach them. Soon they will represent 29% of the U.S. workforce and will also be entering their peak earning potential. Their kids are graduating college, moving out and making our Gen Xers newly minted empty nesters. This is just like getting a raise! They will be purchasing new homes, traveling, purchasing furniture, and tackling remodeling projects.
Tips On Marketing To Gen X:
- Use discounts/coupons as this generation loves them!
- Email marketing works great for this generation.
- This generation is big on giving back to help others. Think of brands like "Toms" or "Honest". When you buy from them, a percentage of their profit goes back into the community.
Generation Y (1980-1994)
Also known as Millennials, a term by now that by some consider negative, will be 26-40 years of age and represent 46% of the U.S. Workforce. This year alone, they will spend $600 billion on consumer products (crazy, right?!).
They have been considered flighty and transient in years past as they would tend to stay with a job for two years on average. Compared to five years for Gen X and seven years for boomers. Gen-Y had the misfortune to graduate from high school and college at the height of the great recession (you all remember the great recession, right?). It wasn't that great. There were no jobs, and the jobs available either had no benefits or low pay, which created instability. Couple that with the fact the Gen-Y lacked experience, and they did tend to job hop which is understandable. For this reason, a lot of Gen-Y went back to school, making them the most educated generation in our nation's history 79% hold a bachelor's degree or more. And in addition to their degree they earned debt as the average student loan is around $40K. Because of this, members of Gen Y tend to lack trust in big corporate America. They prefer to shop locally with people that they know and trust. The entire Shop Local movement was initiated and championed by Gen-Y. Remember the old TV show Cheers? The guy would walk in the bar, and everybody yelled "Norm!". Well, this is the Norm generation. They want to do business where everybody knows their name.
What is most notable about this generation is their desire to give back to the community and the cause partnerships that are important to them. 86% regularly donate to a charity, which they began while in high school. I told you that they are a kinder, gentler version of the Boomer. If your advertiser is actively involved with the community, they need to be loud and proud. This is important to Gen-Y baked into their D.N.A.
Tips On Marketing To Gen Y (Millennials)
- Focus on technology as they love the next big trends!
- Share reviews as this generation loves to hear what others are saying about your product. 68% of millennials report that they will not make a major decision until they have researched and/or spoke with friends first.
- Use rewards and loyalty programs. Think of Chipotle or Starbucks, each purchase earns you points towards a free drink or meal (and who doesn't like free food!?).
Gen Z (1995-2009)
This generation is re-writing the rule book of connectivity. Think about it each of our previous generations began life in an analog world. Digital Native Gen-Y Millennials were pioneers in the digital age. Gen-X wrote the software for the digital age Boomers created the hardware. Gen Z was born into it. Again, they woke up one morning found an iPad lying next to them in the crib, and they instinctively picked it up and ordered a pizza.
Gen-Z is creative, confident, and with an amazingly strong work ethic resulting from more mature Gen X parents and the economic downturn. They are also resourceful, 75% feel there are alternatives to college. Do I need tens of thousands of dollars in student loan debt? Or are there other alternatives like grabbing general education courses at the area community college and entering into a professional trade?
Gen-Z will readily shop online, they've had Amazon available to them their entire life, but 73% are still happy to drive to brick and mortar stores. Their reason, they like to discover new products in stores. Shopping online is convenient but lacks the tactile feel of getting to know the product.
Although this is the most digitally connected generation ever, something is missing. Even with thousands of Facebook friends, Gen-Z often describes themselves as lonely. 58% say that browsing the store allows them to disconnect from the digital world. Retail Therapy!
Gen Z are bargain hunters very cautious spenders. OK, they're kind of cheap and are much less willing to take on debt than any other generations discussed today. As we enter the 2020s, Gen Z will account for 40% of all consumer spending. And because of the size of this generation. That percentage will continue to grow. They, too, want to keep it local; they share this trait with their Gen Y predecessors. A great way to appeal to them as consumers is to offer interest free-lay-away programs and online/in-store loyalty programs.
Tips On Marketing To Gen Z
- Sell experiences, not products. They know how to research about the product so it is your responsibility to share with them what it will do for them.
- Use video marketing. They love to watch demonstrations on Instagram, YouTube and other social media platforms.
- Use influencers. In 2018, it was predicted that brands would spend $1.8 billion on Instagram influencers, with more than 14.5 million sponsored posts, and counting.
- Highlight your dedication to privacy. A recent report showed that 88% of Gen Zers value privacy. They don't want their information sold to other people.
Whew! This was a lot of information, and we only covered four of the generations, but do you feel like you have a better understanding on how to market to each generation? Are you looking at how you market your product and services in a new way? We hope the answer to these questions is "yes". If you still need assistance on how to reach these demographics check out our courses Marketing to Millennials or Selling to Generation Z and Marketing Essentials.
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