“We’re faced with two compelling generations. One: The Baby Boomers who’ve lived through decades of excess and indulgence. Two: The Gen Y children of Gen X, who have been taught that they can do anything and don’t settle for mediocrity. Kind of Hubris meets Machiavelli. Why wouldn’t we expect a cross-generational collusion that diverts mass media?” – Marie Lena Tupot.
The convergence of two consumer groups, Gen Y and Baby Boomers (which came two generations before them), lend a unique spin on generational marketing.
Where the two groups converge and diverge has significant implications for a brand. Going singly after one group or the other will fall short of their requirements. The trick is to rein the duality of young adults coming into their own and mature adults approaching seniorhood into one cohesive momentum.
Now that we’re well into Web 2.0 and social networks are forming closed tight-knit bonds both online and offline, we’re quickly moving beyond the effectiveness of generational marketing. Consumers stay younger longer, while youth gains its access to information earlier than ever before, placing them in the same ballpark.
Stay with us as we explain. This is not an issue of ageing consumers vs prime of life. And it’s also not an issue of maturing parents and the preferences instilled in their now grown children. In fact, the most compelling targets for a brand manager today are the Boomers and the Gen Yers who are their grandchildren, rather than their offspring. These are the parts of the market that hold the most weight. They need the most, expect the most, and collectively spend the most.
From granddaughter to grandmother, each generation has taken on its own view of the world around them. Of course, they are at contrasting life stages. Gen Yers are entering adulthood, likely to be starting a family, and consequently, budget- and nutrition-conscious. Meanwhile, Boomers are at the ‘empty nest’ stage, likely to be heading toward retirement. But they’re also budget-conscious and health-concerned. And so begins the allegiance. What differentiates the two are between-the-lines nuances.
That said, leveraging the limelight should work both ways. Think about it, Baby Boomers face one of the most curious ironies: They are ageing out of the very youth-oriented advertising and marketing principles created decades ago to target them. Which means, everything from TV series to magazine ads are focusing on the needs of younger consumers. But, armed with youthful attitudes and bursting bankrolls, baby boomers are not prepared to shuffle off pop culture’s centrestage without a serious fight. Indulged during a time of excess and extravaganza, Baby Boomers enjoy the element of surprise and being in the know.
Meanwhile, Gen Yers have been coming of age during a time of easy access. Everything from extensive encyclopaedias to likeminded peers is at their fingertips. They crave delight. Eighty-one per cent of 18- to 25-year-olds surveyed in a Pew Research Center poll said getting rich is their generation’s most important or second-most-important life goal; 51 per cent said the same about being famous. While experts say it’s natural to seek attention, these young people revel in it. They’re accustomed to being noticed, having been showered with awards and accolades since birth.
Without question, the inter-changeability of the consumer’s need and desire plays a critical role. The duality is the nature of demographics.
Typically, Boomers and Gen Yers are defined by the contrast of their demographic labels. It’s the age-old phenomenon: You define your identity by not being your parents or their parents.
Yet, now we have a case where the generations are fundamentally united and driven by two of the same forces: technology and economics. The difference is that Baby Boomers use these forces to gain control and security. Gen Yers use the forces to gain freedom and expression.
The fascination with Gen Y is evidenced by increasingly clever ads and viral marketing. However, marketers have spent the last few decades investing in Baby Boomers. Why lose any ground?
To gain Gen Y does not mean turn-coating on the Boomers. The pattern of interplay across them can be worked to a brand’s advantage. Gen Y is not a completely new animal. Sure, they differ. They differ from Boomers in their narrow window of access and their fluid understanding of functional technology. But there is a common ground.
- Baby Boomers (born 1946 to 1964)
- Generation Y (born 1982-2000)
- Activation that leverages ironies.
- No one wants to be marketed to in regard to their age anymore. It’s insulting.
Strategies that Cross the Generational Divide
- Leverage the ability to collect, aggregate and share information that can then be turned into something useful for users, such as for decision making or to find information.
- Leverage the confidence required on the part of the consumer to consciously make strategic decisions involving brand cherry picking, as well as mix-and-matching price points.
- Leverage that it is okay to celebrate yourself, however you want to be. It’s the authenticity that matters.
- Leverage the great amount of effort that goes into the seeming ‘basics’. Sometimes, it’s the smallest tasks like finding real food or moving money that trip us up. These are the times when we don’t even think to ask for help.
Trend Forces at Work
As co-existing drivers cross over the generations, they’re creating trends emerging out of a see-saw effe