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My Generation

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Knowing the demographics, influences, and ways to reach each generation within your target market could prove beneficial to your bottom line.

By:  Janelle Mascarenas

Knowing the demographics, influences, and ways to reach each generation within your target market could prove beneficial to your bottom line. By Janelle Mascarenas
Think you know who you are selling to? Think again. There is not just one generation to target, but a total of four different generations to satisfy. With those various age groups, each member has a diverse set of interests and needs. Small business owners must understand and acknowledge these distinctions in order to succeed in today’s marketplace.

Linda P. Morton, Accredited in Public Relations (APR) and creator of the Strategic Marketing Segmentation process, classifies the four adult generations as the WWII Generation, Baby Boomers, Generation X, and Generation Y.

So, who are these generations exactly? The pivotal events that these groups experienced since birth help shape their perception of the world. The more you understand about these influences, the more you can utilize these differences and tailor them into your marketing campaign.

The WWII Generation 

The World War II or Veteran generation, those born before 1945, lived during an era of war and survived the Great Depression. In a period when times were tough, members of this generation spend conservatively. Low confidence in business and bank institutions influenced this generation. The veteran generation valued every penny and did not indulge in frivolous purchases.

According to Susan Weinschenk, the Chief of Technical Staff for Human Factors International, Inc., savings hold a high priority for this age group, especially how most of them are entering retirement now and living on a fixed income.

“In general, this group has an attitude of ‘sure things are fine now, but you never know,’” Weinschenk said.
As the oldest age group, these seniors value structure and developing strong loyalties to their institutions. This generation’s world revolves around family, friends, and their home. Morton mentions how combining entertainment and education effectively appeals to this group because this keeps their minds active. Programs such as informative tours abroad really hit the mark with these mature individuals. Not to mention, health care and the desire to remain active plays a major role in this generation’s purchasing choices as they age. If marketers can see these characteristics, they can help provide the wants and needs for this age group.


Baby Boomers

The Baby Boom generation, those born between 1945 and 1965, has stable careers and tend to be established now. These postwar members lived through every significant cultural and marketing trend for the past 50 years, and they worry about caring for their children as well as their parent’s well being.

“Baby Boomers are much more social and cause-oriented as we know,” Morton said.

Stress about retirement comes to the forefront because of these financially trouble times. While the population of this group is starting to decline, an increasing number of them are starting to become technologically aware.

As they grow older, into their 50s and 60s, this generation stays in the workforce longer. “They want to think they can beat the odds, live long and be rich,” Weinschenk said.

A generation filled with hope and optimism, this age group likes to take control of their lives. Morton’s market segmentation research states that Baby Boomers believe they are important. This generation gives in to their impulses and do not shy away from spending excessively. Although this age group wants control over their finances, this group tends to get into credit problems. Currently, living through these hard economic times makes this age group rethink their choices. Marketers should focus on the message of empowerment and the ability to make a difference. This group is intelligent and values customer service as well as customized products. Marketing to Baby Boomers require special attention to detail and understanding how they differ from the other generations.  

Generation X

Living through their first real financial crisis, members of Generation X, those in their 30s and 40s, need to adapt and cope through this frustrating period. This group grew up in a time where success was a matter of personal willpower.

“This is a shock for them, because they came in an age where if you work hard, you will succeed and do well,” Weinschenk said.

Gen X believes that endless opportunities can be found everywhere and that they can depend on these opportunities always being there. The nation’s current economic standing gives this age group a brush of humility and a new look of reality.

Marketing towards this age group should focus on originality. Gen Xers value individuality. “They do not like being grouped or classified in any way,” Morton said.
This group grew up with technology, and marketers should appeal to this generation’s strength in multimedia.

Generation Y

Generation Y, or Millennials, individuals in their 20s and younger, are perceived as being cynical and pessimistic about the world. To the contrary, this group has strong views on hope and empowerment. Gen Yers actively engage in social communities and having the sense of belonging. They have great involvement in their local schools and towns, and enjoy being connected and working together. The recent presidential campaign of 2008 reflects these sentiments in that a large number of young people eagerly participated as volunteers.

Generation Y also grew up during a time of instant gratification. The current financial crisis has produced a major reality check for this age group as more and more companies resort to massive layoffs. The generation entering the workforce are anxious about making a living. “They have never seen anything like this,” Morton said.

Millennials tend to be harder to reach, but they are also free spending. Marketers are attracted to teenagers trying to keep up with the latest trends. The problem with this group comes from a lack of knowledge in targeting this generation. Some people label this group as the “unreachables” because their personal tastes frequently change. Gen Yers heavily rely on their social network of friends or groups. They value close relational testimonials as opposed what the media presents.

The success in marketing towards this age group comes from earning their trust. The mass of information coming through the mass media sources has become a challenge for Gen Yers to filter in order to find legitimate resources. Each generation developed their own meaning of an expert. Where most Baby Boomers see authority figures and people with high credentials as specialists, Gen Y looks at individuals with vast knowledge in their field despite their age as an expert.

Marketers must understand the characteristics and mindset of a targeted generation. According to Dave Stein, CEO and Founder of ES Research Group, a connection made through common ground will help build a relationship with different age groups. Most situations do not establish common ground; the possession of knowledge and understanding of a customer’s generation will help produce a mutual understanding.

Stein recommends setting aside a couple of hours monthly to study the different generations and learning how to apply this information in everyday interactions with people. There is plenty of information available about the different age groups in books and dependable, online resources. Professionals and experts continue to research behavioral patterns across generations, and finding out this information gives marketers a competitive edge in catering to the appeals of the targeted generation. Take the initiative to learn.

“It is easy to miss the mark with generations because you are looking at each generation in your own framework,” Weinschenk said.

Do not assume you “know” what the other generation wants. Research must be done on the specific target market you are interested in. Take the time to converse with that particular age group and see what they desire or devote time in learning about these different market segments.

“When you market to everybody, you market to nobody,” Morton said.

 

 

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