The Dangers Of Lazy “Generational Marketing”

I saw a post on Marketingland recently that was talking all about Gen Z now being 26% of the US population and they, along with Millennials, now account for 48% of the population. If you have been in marketing for more than a couple of months, by now surely you are as sick of hearing about how to market or sell to Millennials as I am. Well, get ready for all of the same push about Gen Z to start coming your way.

I am a huge proponent of knowing your audience when it comes to marketing – digital or otherwise. How can you possibly begin to know how to position your product or service to people who might buy it if you haven’t the foggiest what might motivate them to do so? It is sound marketing to understand what your product or service does and the specific problem(s) it solves. It is also critical to understand the makeup of the population who considers the issue your product or service solves to actually be a problem.

The best approach for your marketing is to think about the product or service you are selling and then essentially reverse engineer all the way back to the problem it solves. Then, you need to figure out who experiences said problem and create messaging aimed at them. This may be a bit of an oversimplification, but it really does boil down to this process.

After that, it is all about putting that appropriate messaging in places where those people are most likely to see it.

The part about treating generations as monoliths bugs the hell out of me though. Are there certain general characteristics that might be held by a large portion of a generation? Sure. But, do they always apply to the majority of people who happen to fall into a particular set of years of their birth? Probably not. To be clear too, the age ranges of these generations are pretty wide to paint them all with the same brush:

  • Generation Z – Born between 1995 and present
  • Millennials – Born between early 1980s and 1994
  • Generation X – Born between mid 1960s and early 1980s
  • Baby Boomers – Born between mid 1940s and early 1960s

Sometimes, the messaging is pretty much the same for all of your potential customers, regardless of their demographic cohort. Sometimes, it is not. Sometimes is can be obvious that there needs to be different messaging for different subsets of your potential customers and in that case, I highly suggest building and structuring your campaigns around that fact. Other times though, you have to figure out if you need more nuanced messaging to reach people most effectively. This is where I think social advertising is great. You can try different messages targeted to different demographic groups and see if any seem to resonate. I don’t necessarily mean with sales, per se. You can get a sense of engagement without having actual sales via social too. What you learn there can then be taken to other platforms where purchase intent is hotter and you can test the more sophisticated messaging there.

I am a Gen X member, so we don’t get the same level of attention when it comes to “how to market to a generation” that Millennials do (and it seems Gen Z is about to). But, if I were a Millennial, it would irritate me on a regular basis all of the things I see spouted about the magical keys to selling to me. I know this, (a) because I am a functioning human and (b) because I see my Millennial friends posting such things regularly!

Bottom line – don’t do lazy marketing. Lumping all of your customers into monolithic profiles is just that, lazy. Blindly following the “best practices” for marketing to a particular generation without verifying how those techniques or targets ACTUALLY perform for your brand is also lazy. The good news for marketers willing to do some work is that an awful lot of us are not willing to do that work. So, with the amazing amount of data that is available today, you can really move the needle by simply paying attention and feeding data back into your efforts!

What about you – have thoughts on this topic? As always, sound off in the comments or hit me up on Twitter (@NeptuneMoon).

 

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