The notion that you have to promote to different age groups differently is accepted as a marketing truth. The practice of generational marketing had its genesis in the early 1990s when two historians, William Strauss and Neil Howe, wrote a book on generational history. They concluded that generations last the length of time of one phase of life, which is approximately 20 years. They also conclude that the members of a generation are forever connected by virtue of the fact that they share life-defining experiences during their formative years – world events, natural disaster, economic conditions politics and technology. Called markers, these common experiences create bonds that tie consumers of a generation together into cohorts with similar attitudes, values, and life skills that affect everything from how they spend, what they save, and if they become your customer.
So what are the consumer values that drive today’s four consumer generations:
Matures, sometimes called the Greatest Generation. Their attitudes toward life and work were formed in the throes of the Great Depression, the New Deal, two world wars, rationing, and the G. I. Bill. They were marked by tough times that required working together for victory. As a result, they value teamwork, self-discipline, sacrifice, hard, work and putting money away for a raining day. They believe in duty, institutions, authority, and patriotism, law and order. And, in their minds, rewards are earned.
Baby Boomers, sometimes called the Me generation. From the beginning, they have been a powerful economic force because of their sheer numbers and unprecedented buying power. Plus, they are set to inherit more than $10 trillion in the future. They were the first group of Americans to put their own needs and desires ahead of the group. They value individuality, personal growth, and involvement. They have high expectations and demand top service. Moreover, they celebrate youth, have a health and wellness focus, and will “retread” not retire. Their future is now. And rewards are deserved.
Gen X. This was the first group for whom TV served as a regularly scheduled baby-sitter. Most grew up after the Civil Rights and Gay Rights movements and in the beginning of Hispanic and Asian immigration. They were often latch-key kids marked by divorce and single parents. Crack cocaine, AIDS and missing children on milk cartons became part of their everyday experiences. Having grown up in a time of increasing diversity and broken promises, they are street-smart, ad-savvy and don’t have a lot of trust in institutions. They value directness, honesty, and promptness.
Gen Y, sometimes called the Millennials. This is the largest generation ever born, so they will be a very powerful economic force. The first generation to grow up immersed in a digitally-driven world, they are defined by technology and exploding media options. They value total 24/7connectivity with friends, family, and business. So the line between work and leisure has virtually disappeared for this generation. And all the media saturation has produced a generation of educated, savvy consumers with a global view of life, work, and consumerism. They want an emotional connection with your business. Their corporate uniform is jeans, sneakers, a hoodie and blazer.
Welcome to your future.