Sunday, February 07, 2010

Generational Insight

from Villing & Company:

It’s a Wrap: Generational Marketing

Feb. 1, 2010

Lesley Langfeldt
Written by:
Lesley Langfeldt

Now that I’ve covered each generation individually in my three previous posts, it’s time to wrap things up. By understanding what motivates each generation, you are more likely to be successful when trying to find a message that resonates with them. The lifestyles and social values associated with each generation may have as much, if not more, influence on buying decisions as demographic factors like income, education and gender. These generational attitudes should also play an important role in balancing your traditional marketing factors such as product quality, price, promotion and availability.

I found the chart below on a MediaPost blog. It provides a good starting point for reviewing some of the major differences between Generation Y, Generation X and Baby Boomers.

Gen YGen XBaby Boomers
Celebrates diversityAccepts diversityAssumes diversity
Re-write rulesDesire rulesReject rules
Irrelevance of institutionsMistrusts institutionsTopples institutions
Nurtured kidsLatch-key kidsLaisse faire kids
High expectationNo link between hard work and successFreedom to seek to achieve
Future is openFuture is closingFuture is now
Personalization & customizationLabels (as security)Categorization (mass)

If you are in the retail world, another aspect of the generations you should be aware of besides their values and motivations is buying power. When you have flexibility in determining which generation to target for a certain campaign or promotion, buying power is an extremely important factor to consider.

  • Baby Boomers = $2.1 trillion (MetLife Mature Market Institute)
  • Generation X = $125 billion (Yankelovich, Inc.)
  • Generation Y = $172 billion a year (Harris Interactive)

As you can see, Boomers’ buying power is more than seven times Gen X and Gen Y combined. And, due to their much larger numbers, Gen Y has more buying power than Gen X, even though they are much earlier in their careers.

Based on these statistics, you may think that you should target everything toward the Baby Boomer generation. And, there’s certainly something to be said for that strategy. However, it would be short-sighted to completely ignore Generation X and especially Generation Y. Although these younger generations may not be as brand loyal, they will start to develop relationships with certain businesses and companies when they are younger, and if you wait until they have higher buying power, you may be too late.

When it comes to marketing to these generations, there are a few things you need to keep in mind:

  • In the past years of easy financial growth and seemingly endless consumer demand, general mass-market strategies were successful for marketers. Now, in times of less spending and more unpredictability, generational differences and more targeted messages must be considered before marketing dollars are spent.
  • Pick one or two of the generations to target, do your research, refine strategies, test, make adjustments and work on expanding market share. It is very difficult and expensive to effectively target everyone. More than likely, your product already appeals to one, possibly two, of the generations.
  • Those companies who can authentically target and service their audience are the ones that are going to have the most success.
  • Don’t forget that preferences vary within each generation as well. Understanding the general perceptions and differences of the generations will give you a good starting point for attracting these audiences, but it doesn’t guarantee that each member of the generation will respond to your marketing in the same way.
  • It might make sense to have a member of the generation you are trying to reach on staff. They can help provide crucial insights that someone from another generation might not be aware of. It also never hurts to do focus groups or other forms of primary research with your target audience to help get a better understanding of their preferences.

I hope you have found this series on generational marketing informative and helpful. If you missed any of my previous articles on each specific generation, you can find links below.

Note: On Tuesday, February 16, the Michiana Chapter of the American Marketing Association will be featuring a presentation on “Communicating Across the Generational Divide” by Ginny Baxter, Senior Manager, Workplace Dynamics at Herman Miller. For more information, visit the AMA Michiana Web site.

If you enjoyed this article or would like to receive your own personal "subscription" to Villing & Company’s News & Views, click here to get free updates by e-mail or RSS.

Sphere: Related Content


hetyd4580 said...

Interesting post, Lesley, but it’s missing an important part of the equation: Generation Jones (between the Boomers and Generation X). Given that GenJonesers are more than a quarter of all U.S. adults, and index highest in practically every category of income and spending among all generations, this is a key cohort which your readers should know about.

Google Generation Jones, and you’ll see it’s gotten a ton of media attention, and many top commentators from many top publications and networks (Washington Post, Time magazine, NBC, Newsweek, ABC, etc.) now specifically use this term. In fact, the Associated Press' annual Trend Report chose the Rise of Generation Jones as the #1 trend of 2009. Here's a page with a good overview of recent media interest in GenJones:

It is important to distinguish between the post-WWII demographic boom in births vs. the cultural generations born during that era. Generations are a function of the common formative experiences of its members, not the fertility rates of its parents. And most analysts now see generations as getting shorter (usually 10-15 years now), partly because of the acceleration of culture. Many experts now believe it breaks down more or less this way:

DEMOGRAPHIC boom in babies: 1946-1964
Baby Boom GENERATION: 1942-1953
Generation Jones: 1954-1965
Generation X: 1966-1978

ScLoHo (Scott Howard) said...

Thanks for the info. I guess I'm part of the Jones Generation too.