Why Generational Marketing Is Too General For Its Own Good

If you want to serve your customers well, don’t merely paint them into age-based boxes.

Why Generational Marketing Is Too General For Its Own Good

Marketers can’t stop talking about Generation Z, otherwise known as the Founders. These kids grew up on the internet, and they’re some of the savviest tech users the world has ever seen. So it stands to reason that they’d require particularly sophisticated marketing strategies—or at least different ones from their older siblings and parents. Right?

But marketers shouldn’t hang their hats on generational segmentation. It’s true that people born after 1980, especially those who have never known a world without the internet, are particularly adept at using new technologies. But the tech saturation in our culture has leveled the playing field, especially in terms of media consumption and sharing.

Aside from outliers at the extreme ends of the age spectrum, most people (whether they’re part of Gen X, Y, or Z) use similar digital media sources to access news and entertainment.

Generational marketing can be useful, but only to a point. It would be naïve of me to deny the differences between generations—but the conversation doesn’t end there. People are unique, and you cannot define them solely based on “the sum of the shared experiences of their peers.” If you want to serve your customers well, don’t merely paint them into age-based boxes. Dig deeper.

Segments Within Generations

Companies get hung up on Gen Z because it’s an extremely connected demographic. But Gen X, Gen Y, and even the generations before them are extremely connected, too. So is Gen Z really more tuned in than others? People of all generations access media on a variety of platforms across several different devices. We should be focusing on identifying their interests and figuring out how to reach them through multiple channels on their smartphones, laptops, and tablets.

Cultural commentators are keen to dissect different age groups, but doing so often misses the bigger picture. Advertising technology is giving marketers ways to slice and dice different pockets within each generation, forcing them to rethink this traditional way of looking at customers. Analyzing the opportunities inherent to the ad tech revolution proves far more powerful than putting Millennials in one bucket.

Reframing The Marketing Conversation

In client conversations, we’ve seen recurring themes that illustrate how our mindsets are shifting, beginning with our account strategy and early media planning. There are a few strong ways to adapt:

1. Use client data sets: You already have the tools to conduct an advanced segment analysis. Customer data provides powerful insights into how and when people interact with your brand. Categorize your audience members by their behavioral patterns and preferences, regardless of age. Marketing to them based on their actual behaviors will be more effective than generalizing by generation.

Keep in mind that generational messaging can be valuable once you dive deeper into a platform, particularly when it’s coupled with life stages. For instance, Facebook allows you to promote content to people based on certain life events or circumstances. An ad targeted at an empty-nester who makes more than $100,000 a year will differ from one you show a new driver or recent college graduate.

However, according to data from GlobalWebIndex, all generations are using Facebook, so you need a more nuanced strategy than assuming only a certain portion of your market segment is on the network.

2. Analyze tech adoption trends: You need to use the right tool for the job, so study which devices your audience members favor. Maybe some of them prefer to browse your site via their laptops, while others exclusively use your app.

Those patterns should dictate how and when you reach out to them, as well as which types of content and offers you push. Advanced analytics and cross-device targeting technologies help you create personalized user experiences across screens, which are crucial to long-term brand loyalty. Show your customers that you see them as individuals with unique desires, rather than faceless numbers in a sea of sales.

Experimentation is key. Once you’ve identified trends, test to see how different types of targeting perform. For example, a major retail client of ours used a variety of platforms and, throughout the campaign, optimized ad spend based on real-time performance.

3. Develop customized marketing campaigns: Once you’ve completed an advanced consumer analysis, you can tailor your message to different groups. Considering that Accenture found that 64% of customers demand relevant interactions from brands, this is quite important to your long-term success.

You’ll get more positive responses and increased sales when you dig a little deeper and start crafting smarter campaigns around your customers’ data.

Ad tech allows you to unearth patterns among your users to both automate and personalize your marketing strategies. But those patterns don’t only fall along generational lines, and you’ll find far more interesting trends when you look beyond someone’s age. View your audience members as individuals as much as possible. They’ll benefit from the improved service—and so will your brand.