generational-awarenessKnowing generational differences can make you into a better content marketer. Being aware of what cultivates interest for a specific target audience can mean the difference between success or failure of a content marketing initiative.

Understanding generational characteristics are crucial when defining your target audience, allowing you to create and tailor content that will resonate with each segment, as well as presenting content in the right format, in the right place and at the right time to maximize engagement.

One Message Does Not Fit All

In terms of marketing, there is a world of difference between Boomers and Generation Z, the two ends of the generational spectrum. In many ways they don’t even speak the same language. Gen Zers grew up in a totally virtual world (digital natives) where a large percentage of their communication is in “code.” Texting and chat slang is how they communicate with each other and respond to experiences. Pinterest pictures, 140-character Tweets, six-second videos—this is how your average Gen Zer becomes aware of popular brands, subconsciously being drawn into the product offering and marketing strategy.

Contrast that to the educational and informational requirements of a Boomer who is more likely to do extensive online research and comparison, and you can see how content that will be effective for one will probably alienate the other.

In between are the Generations X and Y (or Millennials), each having their own defining characteristics that will shape how they respond to content marketing, so you know you have to do your homework!

Cultural Cues Can Build Community…or Not

Cultural cues are shared experiences unique to the generations. Use cultural cues when you want to instill strong emotion into your content with the desired outcome of driving behavior. The caveat here is making sure the emotion generated is the one you want, and that comes down to knowing your audience.

David Erickson of e-Strategy Internet Marketing Blog explains generational implications for the marketer this way: “One of the hallmark events of the Boomer generation was the music festival Woodstock. I’m a huge music fan, I absolutely love the music of the 60s and 70s and everybody that played at Woodstock, but Woodstock the name and certainly the whole idea of it almost evokes a “roll your eyes” response from Xers [like me]. So if you had in your messaging some reference to Woodstock, and you’re targeting Xers, they may just roll their eyes and dismiss the message simply because of the cultural cue.

So understanding those generational dynamics is key toward at least not making mistakes, but even more so evoking some emotional response that you may want to.”

Marketing Across Generations

Jay Ehret of The Marketing Blog did a series of blogs on marketing to the generations and pinpointed some important factors to consider when creating content:

Boomers (1943 – 1960)

  • Comprise 26% of the population, but account for 47% of the spending
  • Spend the most money on tech, spend the most money online
  • Talk about future, not past
  • Speak to their passions and deeper values
  • Want to stay young at heart, youthful
  • Prefer to talk on the phone or through email
  • Avoid texting and social media exchanges
  • Market to them on TV or online

Generation X (1961 – 1981)

  • MTV Generation
  • Statistically, highest education levels
  • Love smart phones, BlackBerries, email & texting
  • Distrust brand labeling
  • Research while shopping online
  • Like lots of details
  • Rate 75% of the mail they receive as valuable
  • 74% of Direct Mail readers read retail advertising mail
  • Market to them online & direct mail

Generation Y / “Millennials” (1982 – 2002)

  • Trust authority, institutions & like brands
  • Vision to change the world together, collaboration
  • Like technology & new toys
  • Respect Boomer parents
  • Spend more hours on internet than TV, radio & print combined
  • Market to them on internet and Facebook

Generation Z (2003 – 2023)

  • Very young demographic
  • “Digital Natives”
  • Prefer social media, highest number of friends on social networks
  • Watch twice as much mobile video as anyone else
  • Texting preferred method to communicate
  • Market to them: Text + Mobile Video + Sharing

The Bottom Line

The imperative for marketers is to stay abreast of which new (or old) channels are actually reaching the generations, and not assume that digital only works for the younger sets or that print is only for Boomers and older Gen X. The following graph by Hanover Research shows breakdowns for Boomers, Generation X and Generation Y of the marketing methods that may generate the best results.

Generational MarketingSo as a content marketer, the mantra for marketing across generations is still, “you need to understand who your audiences are.” Or as Peter Drucker said, “The aim of marketing is to know and understand the customer so well the product or service fits him and sells itself.” That is the imperative for any content marketing effort, to know what is of value to the customer/generations. Only by understanding the types of content that will resonate with each generation and customer will marketers be able to achieve their goals.

Join the Conversation:

  • What experiences have you had with generational specific marketing?
  • Has this information helped in framing a process for incorporating generational factors into your buyer personas?
  • Do the generations respond differently to the content you currently publish? For example, do Boomers love it and Millennials hate it or vice versa?

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