When you were born says a lot about you.
The longer people live, the more distinct generations converge, requiring marketers to translate brand messages across multi-generational audiences. Adapting relevant marketing strategies to the particular needs and behaviors of individuals within multiple generational groups is now unavoidable.1 Every generation is unique; each with their own values, lifestyles, expectations, experiences, and historical events that influence their buying habits and behaviors, and each with their own ways of communicating and responding.
The major generational segments today are the Baby Boomers, Generation X, Millennials, and Generation Z. The following table provides an overview of the broad generational characteristics unique to teach population:
Connecting with every generation.
These generational differences make universal communications programs even more difficult to create and manage. To really connect, marketers must craft their messages (and channel strategies) to each of these key audiences:
Baby Boomers: Face to face communication.
Baby Boomers enjoy things that are relevant to them and appropriate to their life stage, not necessarily their age. Gaining knowledge straight from the source to influence their purchase decision is key – think what car companies do with test-drive campaigns. Although this generation wasn’t born during the rise of technology, they engage with it more than we think. Boomers enjoy the convenience and customization of the Internet, especially for product and/or brand information. Even though statistics show this group engages with social media platforms such as Facebook, they respect and are most responsive to face-to-face communication, such as social gatherings, promotional events and professional seminars. TV, radio, direct mail and telephone calls remain the major media routes to address to them.
Generation X: Give them what they need.
Gen X-ers constantly interact with screens: personal computers, e-mail and iPhone apps, all of which help them accomplish whatever tasks come their way. Even more than Baby Boomers, they enjoy the convenience and handiness of the Web, but don’t like being invaded by sales tactics. See how Nespresso’s 9-year old “What Else?” campaign featuring George Clooney and Jack Black (among others) subtlety integrates their product sell into everyday activity. The most effective communications strategies for Gen X combine traditional marketing with digital/social promotion.
Millennials: Personalize it and make them feel like they are part of it.
The key to success among Millennials is a strong online presence, which includes blogs, microsites and all social media channels. Marketing messages should be real and connected to real-life events that Millennials can identify with, such as World Wildlife Fund’s Snapchat campaign, #Lastselfie. Being personal, creative, innovative, and adopting the latest technology trends is indispensible, so viewers should be able to access all communication platforms (i.e. traditional, mobile, digital, etc.) from any device. And not to forget, customer service must be responsive and thorough, whenever its audience needs it.
Generation Z: Get connected with them and to them.
The most recent generation is the very first in history never to have lived in a world without the Internet and all its corresponding technologies. For them, email and responsive websites are passé, and they’re active on no less than two social platforms (Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, YouTube, Facebook…the list goes on). In many cases, emojis replace emotional conversations and pictures replace words. Now you can order Domino’s by simply texting or tweeting a pizza emoji to them. (Hey! @Dominos ?). As with Millenials, Gen Z expects marketers to have a ubiquitous online presence, communicate creativity using the latest tech trends, and most important: Be connected constantly and respond immediately.
Coca Cola: The brand for every generation.
Coca Cola has successfully maintained strong relationships across multi-generational audiences, not only by adapting their marketing messages, but also by developing different types of Coke that fulfill different peoples needs. Their 2015 campaign “Share a Coke” campaign bridges countries, markets and generations. See a name on the bottle, and share it with someone you know. Simple, personal, beautiful.
According to Shahrzad Warkentin, there are four key principles to the iconic company’s strategy:2
- Simplicity: Their message is simple – have a Coke and experience happiness.
- Personalization: Regardless of its size or status, Coca-Cola finds a way to connect with their audience on a personalized and localized level. What’s more personal than a product with your name on it?
- Socialization: The “Share a Coke” campaign drives users to a microsite, where you can design your own bottle. Next, they encourage their audience to share their experience with others on social media.
- Experience: Coke owes much of its success to its marketing strategy, which focuses less on the product and more on the experience. They’re not selling a soft-drink; they’re selling “happiness.” There are hundreds, if not thousands of soda and drink choices on the market. An initiative that solely focuses on their soda would be impossible to execute and return little value. Instead, Coke sells an experience, if not a lifestyle, to their consumers.
Coke’s strategies of making human connections, remaining innovative while staying true to simple principles, and creating branded experiences may just be the secret to generational marketing as well. Being sensitive to each generation’s characteristics and psychographics builds human relationships. Personalizing innovative or unique features to the audience needs creates relevance. And keeping everything simple, clear and customer-focused makes people feel that your brand (and your product) is created especially for them.
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1Williams, Kaylene C., and Robert A. Page. “Marketing to the Generations.” Journal of Behavioral Studies in Business 3 (2011): 2. Web.
2Warkentin, Shahrzad. “What Makes Coca-Cola a Global Marketing Success?” Smartling. N.p., 18 Dec. 2014. Web. 02 Dec. 2015.