If there is one thing that is a certainty in the world of marketing, it is that nothing stays the same. The consumer of yesterday is not the same as the consumer of tomorrow. As one generation ages and enters the realm of retirement, another sprouts up in its place. As a result, marketing and business executives must remain hyperaware of fluctuations in marketing trends and changing consumer needs.
Every generation can be characterized by a variety of common traits and expectations. The three generations that make up the bulk of today’s consumers are the Baby Boomers, Generation X, and the Millennials (also known as Generation Y). Each group of people carries with them different expectations, attitudes, and behaviors. It is therefore imperative that a company understands each generation as it pertains to consumerism.
The Baby Boomers were born between 1946 and 1964. In general, they:
- Are defined by their careers
- Value individualism and hard work
- Desire quick fixes that require little change and instant improvement
- Are less price sensitive when it comes to a superior product and a good value
- Like options and flexibility
- Value family, personal gratification, and public recognition
Next on the generational ladder is Generation X, made up of people born between 1965 and 1980. Although they share several characteristics with the generation above them, they are distinctive in their own right. Generation X:
- Was born during difficult economic times
- Understand that success is not guaranteed
- Values family first
- Do not feel group or company loyalty
- Are less traditional
- Believe that nothing is permanent
- Consider globalization and the removal of geographical boundaries normal
- Are highly educated and questioning of conventionality
The last group of people, the Millennials, makes up the biggest section of today’s market. In addition, they are the ones who will be purchasing goods and services for the next sixty or seventy years. As a result, they are the group that is currently the target of the most studies and reports. How is marketing to the Millennials different from marketing to Generation X or the Baby Boomers? The answer lies in an analysis of just who the Millennials are.
The Millennials are characterized by a variety of traits. In short, the generation is:
- Used to immense and fast-paced change
- Well-grounded and wise
- Accustomed to a diverse world
- Self-absorbed and results motivated
- Image driven
- Of the belief that the end justifies the means
- Technology dependent and obsessed with the next new product
- Characterized by a belief that they can make a difference
- One that values structure and stability
The Millennials are the first generation to grow up entirely online. How does this information affect marketing efforts? This population group expects, with no demands, a marketing mix that is as evolved and revolutionary as they are. The marketing mediums that were successful even a few years ago are now seen as dated and even obsolete.
Millennials spend more time online that any group before. It is not uncommon for members of this generation to log onto their Twitter, Facebook, or Snapchat accounts upwards of ten times per day. They are not spending a great deal of time watching traditional television. In a world where Netflix, Hulu, and YouTube reign supreme, they don’t have to. As a result, the thirty-second commercial is losing some of its foothold in the advertising world. Online advertising strategies are becoming a vitally important part of any marketing philosophy.
Marketing executive can discover valuable information simply by monitoring the online activity of the Millennials. No other generation has been as willing to share personal information to virtually anyone. As a result, it isn’t difficult to find out what Millennials are talking about. What do they like and dislike? What are their needs? What products are they looking for? The answers are generally only a few clicks away.
Millennials also want to know that they are valued and respected, maybe more than any other generation. Companies that understand that are more likely to build long-term relationships with those particular consumers. Social media has created a generation that is obsessed with the opinions of others. The need to be “liked” is an underlying factor in just about every decision Millennials make. As a result, they rely more on customer reviews than any generation before them.
Marketing to the Millennials is not difficult as long as one understands that the strategies of the past will not necessarily work. The way to attract the market’s youngest generation is by understanding who they are and what they expect. Sure, there are similarities between the Millennials and Generation X. The differences, however, are what are going to make or break your marketing efforts. The Millennials grew up in a world that was not even conceptualized when Generation X was born. The crazy thing is that the same will likely be true when Generation Z hits the market. As I said, the only thing that is certain in this line of work is change.