Generational marketing: how to apply it in your brand communication?

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Petra Lilwo the strategist

Brands today strategically create products to cover multiple segments and target groups commercially. We know this, for example, as fashion brand houses bringing together a range of brands from the most expensive to the mainstream. Every generation is different in their buying preferences and to create quality marketing communications, it is more than good to understand these generational differences.

What is the definition of generation?

A generation is a group of people who were born around the same time and grew up in the same place. People in this "gender cohort" (group of people) exhibit similar characteristics, preferences and values throughout their lives. Generations, of course, are not a box, but they can be a vital aid to connecting brands' marketing with people of different ages.

There are differences between generations, which also influence purchasing preferences and therefore brand marketing.

Logically, the link between geography and generations is also significant. Interestingly, millennials, for example, are the most consistent generation globally. However, there are still major differences between millennials raised in urban environments versus those who grew up in rural areas or those who have moved to a new country.

Why is so much attention being paid to millennials in particular today?

Over the past two years, millennials have become the largest generation of employees and are also the fastest growing generation of customers in the market. What's key: millennials are displaying markedly different attitudes to employment, sales and marketing compared to previous generations, challenging many traditional strategies and approaches.

No wonder everyone is talking about them. What's more, millennials have brought another generation into the world: generation Z, iGen, or Centennials, causing once again a great deal of movement in all sorts of areas, including parenting, education, employment, business, marketing, politics, religion, and more.

Generation = target group

Each generation plays an active role in the labour market and in communities. However, depending on the particular employer, the workforce can span up to three or four generations in a single company.

Generational marketing strategies were born when marketers realized that each age group responds to different messages in different channels. Each generation uses social media differently, and some are more brand loyal than others.

Attempting to target all generations at once can lead to ineffective marketing, so it is important to understand how to effectively target each generation.

Classification of generations: dating back to the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries, but we will only look in detail at the current 5+1 generations.

Lost generation, born 1883-1900

G.I. generation  - approx. 1901-1924

Silent generation / Generation V, approx. 1925 – 1945

Baby boomers – approx. 1946 - 1964

Generation X – approx. 1965-1979

Generácia Y – Mileniáli, cca 1980-1995

Generation Z / iGen or Centennials, approx. 1996 – 2009

Generation Alfa, approx. 2010- present 

What are the marketing preferences of the current Generations?

Silent Generation, approx. 1925–1945 

It is currently the oldest (marketing) defined generation. This CS prefers products and services that make life easier. They are loyal to the brands they spend money on and value their stability. This generation values respect and values stable customer relationships.

Communication channels: TV, press, radio and direct mail such as postcards, newsletters and leaflets.

They respond best to simple, straightforward content. This generation values family, community and respect.

Baby boomers, approx. 1946-1964

Post-war children as a target group are characterized by higher numbers. They grew up in the post-war period of economic growth. Because of their age and time spent in the labor force, they have the greatest purchasing power and discretionary income. Baby boomers have lived most of their lives without modern technology, but have embraced it through the use of social media, mobile devices, and online shopping. They are motivated by bargains and can be loyal to the brands they buy from.

They work well with traditional advertising such as print, radio and TV; loyalty programs that drive in-store purchases and personal interaction; and social media as an entry point into brand or product research and easy online shopping.

They respond best to quality customer service and understandable content.

Generation X, approx. 1965-1979

Generation X is the smallest generation and grew up during the recession. They are careful with money and more skeptical of brands. This generation is more hesitant to change and innovate, preferring to stick with what they know. Members of Generation X respond well to word-of-mouth advertising and reviews from other users. They use modern technology for much of their lives.

Rather, they respond best to traditional advertising, loyalty programs, word of mouth, email and social marketing, and incentives such as discounts, free services, and coupons.

Millenials, approx. 1980-1995

Also known as Generation Y, they were the first generation to grow up with modern technology. It's the largest generation in history, so brands need to invest in a larger target audience. Millennials place a premium on authentic brand messaging and seek out brands that support social and environmental goals. This generation relies on user-generated content and the value of word-of-mouth advertising. They prefer brands that offer lower prices, rather than price cuts from offers and deals.

What works for them: multi-channel and digital marketing, user-generated content, influencer marketing, social media and content marketing. They are most sensitive to brands that support causes and "honest brands", study reviews, address value for money.

Generation Z, approx. 1996 - 2009

Generation Z is the most diverse and also the most technical generation. Although many members of this generation are still young, they have great buying power. Generation Z values financial stability. They rely heavily on reviews and recommendations through social media more than other generations and engage with brands that use social selling techniques. Members of Generation Z are also less likely to sign up for loyalty programs, despite looking for ways to save money.

Influencer marketing, reviews, videos, TikTok, Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube, mobile interactions all work well for them and are also the most responsive.

Bonus microgeneration: the Xennials, approx. 1977-1985

With such a wide span of years of one generation, it happens that a group of people find themselves exactly in the middle. There is no clear boundary as to who should belong where, and so a microgeneration is created. People born at the beginning of the millennium or at the end of Generation X make up the Xennials microgeneration. This group grew up with technology but did not have social media in their childhood and adolescence. They were also more mature and aware of what was happening after September 11, 2001 than most millennials, who were barely teenagers at the time.

There are unique approaches to marketing toward Xennials because they like financial flexibility, are entrepreneurial, and make travel a priority.

Xennials, after all, value time most of all as a luxury. Many of them work in jobs that require busy schedules, so mobile and quality customer service are key for them. They are not digital natives, but they have adapted to technological advancements and embrace technology in their purchasing decisions and value transparency.

What works for them: traditional and digital marketing, social media advertising, subscriptions, loyalty to proven brands, relevant and up-to-date content.

Valued services such as home delivery of large items, health and self-care have a firm place on the value ladder.

So what is generational marketing?

we talk about it when communication is generationally targeted: each generation has its own set of beliefs, preferences and shared experiences that influence the way they think and act. Technological developments, financial stability and education all influence how these generations approach interactions.Each generation has different attitudes and it is their mindset that determines who they are as individuals and consumers.

Some groups respond well to technology and innovation. Others prefer their comfort zone with products and services that they wish to remain the same, with little change in offerings or sectors.

For example, up to 57% of Generation X say they are still recovering from the recession and are saving for retirement rather than spending their disposable income because of financial concerns. 75% of millennials and members of Generation Z, who grew up with modern technology, use smartphones to shop online.

However, a generational marketing strategy should not be a company's only approach to audience segmentation. The more traditional customer segmentation factors commonly used by media agencies for planning, such as geography, demographics, income, interests and behaviours, are still key attributes of successful marketing targeting.

Marketing penetration of generations: honesty and email

Each generation has its own specificities and preferences, but they also have something in common that can be called marketing penetration: honesty and integrity are qualities that consumers look for in brands across all generations. Directness in communication and in offers leads to a stronger relationship with the market.

They all also favour personalised communication and personal brand experiences. While not every channel will appeal to every generation, a good classic email, for example, is one of the key ones that we all expect the most personal communication from.

Source: Griffin LaFleur, Swing Education a The Center for Generational Kinetics, Wikipedia

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