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Part Two of Two – Generational Marketing – Do you serve ALL your customers? — The Baby Boomers, Generations X and Y

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BABY BOOMERS: 1943-1960

Baby Boomers are ages 38 to 55. The first Baby Boomer in fact applied for their social security yesterday on line and like so many of us doubts they will ever see a payout. They have an idealistic personality and tend to be dreamers. They are the country’s most nurtured generation. They had stay-at-home mothers who tended to their every need.The generation was born after World War II, when the population exploded. As Boomers aged, job markets grew increasingly crowded. Never before had so many people been competing for the same jobs at the same time.

Boomers’ are nicknamed “The Me Generation” because it partially reflects their early, nurtured status and partially the fact that they were forced to focus on their own needs in order sustain themselves in an overly competitive environment, Ann Fishman says.

This generation had to ask themselves: “How can I be different?” and “What must I do to separate myself from the pack?”

Boomer personalities include Hillary Clinton, Oprah Winfrey and Spike Lee.

Thanks to their nurtured, protected childhoods, Boomers have an overwhelming sense of entitlement. They have been taught that they can and should have it all. They are also better educated than any generation before them.

Marketers can appeal to Boomers’ sense of entitlement with campaigns that reinforce “You deserve it” ideas and themes. Essentially, Baby Boomers want the answers to two questions from marketers: What’s in it for me? and How do you see me?Boomers’ purchasing habits are values-driven.

Example: Saturn automobiles captured this in its commercial spots that discuss the company’s values and the good folks in the Tennessee town who make the Saturn car.  

Boomers also respond to nostalgia. 

Example: Mercedes Benz made an effective appeal to Boomers with a commercial built around the Janis Joplin song, “Mercedes Benz.

This generation is busy. They are juggling kids, parents, jobs and spouses, so anything that will help make their lives easier or more convenient will appeal to them. Yet as you know, this generation also gets a lot of mail. In fact, they probably get the most direct mail of any generation ever. They don’t have time to read lengthy, misdirected marketing efforts. If you don’t capture their attention within seconds, you’re going to lose them.

GENERATION X: 1961-1981

Gen Xers are age 17 to 37 and have a reactive personality type. They are most widely known for rejecting the status quo to create something new, and are also our most misunderstood generation.

They include such personalities as Eddie Murphy, Brooke Shields, Leonardo DiCaprio, Michael J. Fox, Whitney Houston and Tiger Woods.

Historians have nicknamed this “The Street-Savvy Generation” because they’ve endured divorce, one-parent families, step families, working parents, latch-key lives, violence on television, violence in the streets, and a breaking down of traditional values and sources of comfort.

They’ve grown up in a world in which sex can kill you and in which government entitlement programs for older generations will make their taxes go sky-high.Yet this is also the most surprising generation, because they are creating their own generational patterns. They don’t want to work the long hours set by their predecessors, because they want to spend time with their family and friends.

They’ll accept a lower salary if it means taking a job that fits their interests. They want to succeed because they are doing what they love.

Gen Xers are doing this not just for the sake of rejecting tradition, but because they believe that the older generations have made a mess of things.So what does this generation want from you? They want pared-down lives that work. They want real-life fundamentals. They long for a sense of belonging and family, because they have been unfairly short-changed in this area.

The best metaphor for this generation is derived from one of the toys that they cherished: the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The tale behind these turtles starts when people, who did not have time to care for a group of baby turtles, flushed them down the toilet. The turtles grew up in the sewer system, where they lived on a diet of nuclear waste and junk food, and not only survived but became stronger. Gen Xers identify with these turtles.

The ramifications of generational differences really become clear when you imagine the difference between communicating with a person (The GI Generation), who as a child identified with Superman  — able to leap tall buildings in a single bound — and a person who relates to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles!Generation X is also a multicultural generation, which is key to understanding them.

Once again, Saturn provides a great example of how to use what you know about a generation to reach them.

For example, one Saturn commercial features Jenny, a white Xer who comes to pick up the keys to her first new car. An African-American salesman gives her the keys, congratulates her and brings over the sales staff, who also applaud and congratulate her.

In an earlier era, a family would have been depicted gathering around Jenny to celebrate this occasion. Here, the Saturn company and its employees act as a substitute.

Have you ever wondered why Xers date in groups? Why friends are so important to them?

Friends have become the support system that family wasn’t quite able to be. Think about the popular television shows that feature Xers. The program “Friends” is just one example of how this generation has substituted friends where family has failed.In other words, if you want to market to Generation X, treat them like family. Yet, you’d better make sure that your approach is honest and straightforward, and that your product or service is sound.

Gen Xers are the savviest generation of shoppers.

This group began shopping at a young age, to help out working parents. They want value and quality for their money. Malls were, and still are, a central part of their social lives, but they also shop off the Internet and over television. Marketers who try to use traditional tactics or tricks with this group will fail. Xers see through all such attempts, and are repelled by hype and phoniness. If you burn them once, they’ll walk away-and it will be a long time before they’ll consider coming back.

They want practical information about what your product can do for them. Will it improve their lives? Will it give them quality and value? Xers hunt for quality investments. They read the small print.

Having been raised with a lot of stress, Gen Xers also respond to genuine initiatives that help them reduce anxiety and retain peace of mind. Guarantees and easy cancellation policies should be staples for publishers targeting this group.At the same time, this generation craves new experiences, which help them create their self-image. They’ve always looked past traditional limits to seek out the new.

This is the generation that went beyond bungee jumping, to extreme sports. That’s why J. Peterman offers Xers a new twist in the form of stories that accompany each of its products. Xers say that they love this catalog because it gives them a new shopping experience.This cataloger, and other companies that are successful in marketing to Gen Xers, also recognize that these people, who grew up in front of the television, need visual stimulation and expect great visuals.

They appreciate the work that goes into exciting Web sites and printed materials. Smart marketers have Gen X employees critique their Web sites, direct mail and other promotional vehicles, and follow through on their feedback.

GENERATION Y: 1982-PRESENT

Like their GI Generation forbears, members of the newest generation, age 16 and under, are characterized by a civic personality orientation and a “can-do” attitude.

The major differences are that they tend to view the world more positively, and growing up in a globally connected world has molded their behavior.

This “Millennial Generation” is accustomed to receiving the same messages across many media. They talk across oceans and cultures through the Internet and email. They converge in “chat rooms,” in addition to malls.

If this generation likes your product, people around the world will know it. What’s hot in Beverly Hills today will be hot in Buenos Aires tomorrow.

This group loves fashion and dressing up. Rejecting the Generation X “grunge” look, they have gone to the opposite extreme. As Barron’s recently noted, “Generation Y girls have had it up to their carefully plucked eyebrows with flannel shirts and grubby jeans.”

Members of Gen Y also have the money to demonstrate their fashion sense. In fact, they have more financial power than any previous young generation. According to Women’s Wear Daily, their number-one choice for spending their discretionary income is clothing. For these reasons, it’s a big mistake for marketers to assume that they can use the same approaches with Gen Y as they do with Gen X.

For example members of Gen Y are attracted to publications and other products that have an image of being cool and cutting-edge.

Influenced by their brand-conscious Boomer parents, they are attracted to brands at an earlier age.

For example, they seek out teen fashion catalogs such as Dellia’s and Zoe and also favor clothing by Wet Seal, Abercrombie and Fitch and Old Navy.

UNDERSTANDING THE DIFFERENCES

I hope that these insights and examples have driven home the very real and very significant differences among the various generations to whom we are marketing today. While these differences certainly make marketing challenging, the marketer who understands them and creates tailored, coherent strategies for each group will thrive in the years ahead.

Until next time.Dr. Darryl

L. Darryl Armstrong

ARMSTRONG and Associates

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