A marketing continental divide.  

Or is it?  

Is the youth of today so different than the youth of past generations?  Each group of youngsters have considered themselves rebels.  Striving for change and pushing for their ideal world.  Are Millennials so far off the mark from yesteryear? Marketers everywhere are trying to tap into the up and coming buying power of the Millennials.  Generation X is truly seeming like a “lost generation” as marketers are forced to change their ways for the first time since the Boomers came to buying power.

Article published in Columbia Business Times Magazine

Written by MayeCreate’s founder Monica Pitts and originally published in Columbia Business Times magazine. Check out the Columbia Business Times for interesting profiles, news, updates on developments and important local issues.

Boomers

Boomers are primarily categorized as people who were born between 1946 and 1964, they are over 50 and up to 70 years old.

They’re called Boomers because of the noticeable post-WWII population increase as, according to History.com, older Americans, who had postponed marriage and childbirth during the Great Depression and World War II, were joined in the nation’s maternity wards by young adults who were eager to start families.  They experienced the civil rights movement, women’s movement, Woodstock and the risk of drug experimentation and sexual freedom.  

People born in this time period are characterized by their individualism and self-fulfillment values and associated with a rejection or a push for the redefinition of traditional values.  Watergate and the economic struggles of the oil embargo of 1979 further enforced the “I’m out for me” attitude for later Boomers.  They were the first TV generation, as well as the first generation where divorce was socially tolerated.  (I bet you’re not seeing any correlation to these attitudes and behaviors to the Millennial stereotype at all.)

Generation X

Generation X encompasses people born sometime between the years of 1965 and 1980 and are currently between 35 and 50 years old.  

Stuck in the middle of two much larger generations Generation X is often called the “lost generation” and is  noted for rocking the MTV stage…not the boat.  They embrace technology and, like their Boomer parents, value freedom and independence.  Many were “latchkey kids exposed to daycare and divorce promoting the generation to form families with a greater level of caution than their parents.  

Generation X is more ethnically diverse than the Boomers and were also raised to be accepting of other cultures and lifestyles.  The US Census Bureau reports Generation X also holds the highest education levels. They also have the lowest voting participation rate of any generation.

A stereotypical X-er will be family oriented, savvy, skeptical and self-reliant.  Younger members of the generation have been inundated with marketing since childhood and may seem immune to traditional marketing and sales pitches.  They tune into only what interests them, a trend supported by the rapid expansion of Cable TV, satellite ratio and the internet .  

Millennials

Then there’s the Millennials or the “everybody gets a trophy” generation,  born from the early 1981 to 2000, they are up and comers at 16 to 35 years old.  

Though generally referred to as Millennials because they saw the turn of the millennium the names Generation We or the Net Generation seem more fitting in my opinion.  They are the most likely to self-identify as liberals and are more likely to support same sex-marriage and the legalization of marijuana.  As they forge a less linear path through adulthood and life stages the generation is considered the most non-traditional so far.  And it comes as no surprise they also value individualism, diversity and are more concerned with happiness than the older generations.

Millennials have been weaned on technology and are less worried about obtaining material goods and more concerned with experiencing life first hand.  Their entry into first jobs has been set back by the Great Recession and they are living with their parents longer than previous generations.

An “Individual” Generation of Marketing

With X going steady filling the gap between Boomers and Millennials the two seem worlds apart.  While I think in truth they would have been friends if they were both the same age in similar life stages.   Weren’t boomers pushing our social status-quo for equality between people in much the same way Millennials are thumbing their nose at the traditional meaning of family and path to adulthood.  As I review the tendencies of generations I find more and more similarities between the behaviors of each generation in similar life stages.  

From a marketing perspective the last major marketing shift before the onslaught of the Millennials came when the Boomers reached the same phase of life as Millennials occupy now.  In the 1950’s television became the primary medium for influencing public opinion, changing how many corporations spread their message to the general public.  Now Millennials, raised with remote controls, only choose to consume messaging that’s important to them.  Making it more important than ever to intimately know your target market.

The more you know about your audiences the more prepared you are to connect with those in the buying power:

  • Treat each audience like an individual, not a mass recipient, shake their hands, make eye contact, treat them like they’re the only person in the room.
  • Speak to each based on their values – not yours.
  • Strive for an authentic message not a watered down sales pitch.  The snake oil salesman has officially retired.  
  • All generations reported appreciating a brand with personality.  Though each generation wants to identify with a brand who appeals to their personality.
  • Use the marketing mediums best suited for your audience, and even consider segmenting within each medium.
  • Support something bigger than yourself that tugs at the heartstrings of your audience.
  • All buyers appreciate company values such as open-mindedness, creativity, social responsibility and environmentally conscious.  

As sales and marketers it’s time to embrace the differences of the demographics and stop trying to be something to everyone and start being everything to someone. 

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