Marketing used to be so simple. You had a product or service, you created some nice packaging or some sales literature, you might have bought some advertising, and you were done. The money rolled in. And all was well. For a while.
Until the mid-twentieth century, there were two generations—children and adults. But times changed. The availability of television to the masses created an entire generation of people who wanted more, better, bigger and brighter goods and services than their parents had, and they wanted it their way.
As the Baby Boomer generation
grew up, their relative sophistication befuddled their parents and challenged marketers until the Boomers were old enough to market to themselves, and the face of marketing was changed forever. Then there were three generations: Matures, Boomers, and kids.
As the largest generation to ever walk the Earth, we Boomers mistakenly assumed that we were the last new generation, but our younger siblings and children have minds of their own. Enter Generation X, with their own experiences, which were much different that ours. And now our children, the Millennials, who have grown up in a world far more sophisticated and complicated than ours.
It would be easy to assume that kids are kids, adults are adults, and seniors are seniors, and that they will all respond to the same marketing techniques used for previous generations, but that would be a mistake.
Today there are four major generational groups: the Matures or Silent Generation, born 1925-1945; Baby Boomers, born 1946-1964; Generation X, born 1965-1979; and Generation Y or Millennials, born 1980-present.
What makes a generation is not an age, but birth year cohorts and the shared experiences of each group. It is important to recognize that each generation is unique, and that each generation has its own purchasing power.
The secret to successful marketing to any generation is to understand its unique perspective, wants, and biases, and to realize that the individual generations do not mature into the next generation, but remain a single generation throughout their lives.
Successful marketing to each generation combines awareness of those concerns, dislikes, and desires with generationally appropriate messages and media.
The success of any marketing campaign relies on the correct alignment of three things: the market (meaning the target purchaser), the message (meaning the approach and the offer), and the medium (meaning the placement of the message, such as an ad or a web site).
The best creative campaign will tank if the market is poorly defined, or the medium is incorrectly chosen. The good news is that a weak message can be compensated for with a tightly targeted market and the right medium, but still, it is a waste of time to produce any campaign without all three elements in harmony.
While all four generations use the web, for example, how they use the web to find what they are looking for varies dramatically, and what you need to say (and how you need to present it) to capture each generation’s attention is also miles apart.
While the medium may be the same, the message needs to reflect the communication styles and preferences of each specific generation. Matures and Boomers are interested primarily in useful information presented in an easy-to-read format, while Gen Xers’ and Millennials’ attention is captured by graphics, color, video, up-to-the-minute info bites, and interactive community or feedback mechanisms.
Marketing targeted at Boomers often features music and images that reflect the shared social history (did you ever imagine that you’d see a Cadillac commercial with a Led Zeppelin sound track?), while that aimed at Gen Xers and Millennials often offers increased social networking opportunities, such as the pages for movies and bands in MySpace
Bottom line, understanding which of the generations you wish to target, and developing specific messages delivered in the proper mediums will produce better results than trying to be all things to all generations.
In many ways, marketing hasn’t changed, but the evolution of the generations and new technology has given us better and more targeted ways to connect more persuasively with our markets.
My Generation to MySpace: Secrets of Generational Marketing © 2007-2011 Veronika Noize. All rights reserved.
About the author
Veronika (Ronnie) Noize, the Marketing Coach, helps small businesses attract more clients. Visit her web site at www.VeronikaNoize.com, or call her at 360-882-1298.