Are Generational Stereotypes Jeopardizing Your Marketing?

Marketing is not a one-size-fits-all approach. Adaptive messaging from generation to generation will afford you an additional tactic by which to create relevant and timely content to reach customers where they are and with a message they care about.

Overview- In this article we set up our series tackling generational stereotypes. We will discuss how generational stereotypes affect audience perceptions and how false targeting and inefficient audience insights could be jeopardizing engagement and reach. We will introduce the three generations that have market buy right now: baby boomers, gen X, and millennials or Gen Y.

Are you aware that the age of your customers plays a crucial part in your bottom line? 

During the next few weeks, we’re going to tackle generational audience segments and why they matter in your content marketing. Why does it matter? We’re glad you asked. 

Marketing personas are a pivotal part of creating content. A persona is just marketing speak for a fictional representation of your perfect customer. If you could dream your perfect customer into existence and give them value—this is your persona. One of the most overlooked characteristics of personas is the time period in which a customer was born. Yes, we often list age, race, gender, income, location and more. But common generational attributes are often left out of the conversation. 

Do you ever feel like you’re theoretically “banging your head against the wall” or worse, seen as irrelevant and untimely in your messaging? Relevance. Something we strive for as we create value in the marketplace. With relevance comes value, and with value comes common ground. Once you have common ground with your customer,the sale is already made. 

Relevance. Value. Common Ground. All things we can achieve by reaching the right audience—our audience. 

Relevance is reaching the right person with the right product at the right time in the right place.

Value is meeting a need or a want. 

Common ground is when we demonstrate to our customers that we understand them, having reached them through relevance and provided value. After common ground, we create loyalty. 

Common ground wins you a customer sale. 

Loyalty creates a customer and an advocate. 

Marketing is not a one-size-fits-all approach. Adaptive messaging from generation to generation will afford you an additional tactic by which to create relevant and timely content to reach customers where they are and with a message they care about. 

A great example of this in digital marketing is social media. Social media platforms offer detailed resources on user demographics. Audience segments differ greatly from platform to platform based on the value that each offers. Tik Tok is a great platform to reach younger millennials, but it wouldn’t necessarily be a great place to reach baby boomers or Gen X. Why? Because of the differences in platform value to user value. 

Three generational segments currently have market share: baby boomers, Gen X, and millennials. Baby boomers are classified as people born between 1946 and1964. Gen X are classified as people born between 1965 and1976. Gen Y, or millennials, are people born between 1977 and1995. (AdAge, 2020) 

Fast Stats

In the coming series we will break down these different generations. Here are the highlights of what you need to know: 

  • Baby boomers make up 20% of the population today in the U.S., but currently hold 54% of the wealth. They prefer a brick and mortar, but they aren’t timid about buying things online after thorough research. 
  • Gen X is the most overlooked generation in marketing but makes up 25% of the population and holds 31% of the wealth. They are the most brand loyal of any of the generations and are the only generation to be equally reached through traditional advertising and digital advertising. 
  • Millennials are stereotypically given a bad reputation for being lazy and frivolous, but these digital natives often research extensively before making a purchase and opt to buy based on more than price. Social responsibility, referrals, advocacy and environmental impact all play a role in their purchases. 

Using a generational marketing approach has numerous benefits, but it also can have risky implications if not done thoughtfully. Generational marketing needs to work in tandem with customer insights gathered from your market research. A healthy balance between the two will help you create a thoughtful approach with meaningful content and avoid numerous pitfalls that can arise with a polarized approach. 

Let’s Talk Tactics

Here are a few action points to help get you started: 

  1. Avoid stereotypes about each generation. Leaning into stereotypes lacks thorough research and often has an adverse effect on customers because they feel misrepresented. (e.g., Don’t just assume that because baby boomers are not digital natives that they aren’t tech savvy.) Stereotypes, by nature, are not based on facts—they are broad generalizations that are only sometimes true. 
  2. Identify the values of each generation. We’ve already discussed how important adding a value proposition is to your content, but as you identify the overall values, be sure to go beyond the broad scope and think about generational culture from a micro perspective (e.g., millennials are known to be environmentally conscious. That is a broad scope. Millennials care about sustainable, long-lasting materials, even if it comes at a higher purchase price because they value decreasing their carbon footprint and their own individual environmental impact. That is a micro perspective developed from the same idea).
  3. Go to them. Each generation consumes news and disseminates information in different ways. One of the most important parts of your marketing strategy is to utilize the platforms where your primary customer target spends the most time. (e.g., Statistics show that 95% of Gen X has a Facebook, while only 25% have Twitter. If research leads you target Gen X, you would prioritize Facebook above Twitter for the biggest impact). 
  4. Target subtlety. Content that is too “salesy” and obvious will likely be off-putting to the customer regardless of their age, so avoid using overarching generalizations in your content marketing in order to avoid appearing unsympathetic or callous. Instead, aim subtlety to find common ground with your target audience. 

Generational marketing doesn’t have to be difficult or overhaul your current marketing strategies. But with the help of market research and a few of these helpful tactics, you are well on your way to creating thoughtful and productive marketing plans. 

To learn more about these specific generations and how to effectively reach them, be sure to follow along with this series.