Persona Marketing: A Much Better Idea Than Generational Marketing
Generational marketing seems to be the new buzzword amongst recruitment professionals, and indeed marketing specialists: they’re all a-twitter about how best to market to the new generation of workers; how they need different things from their jobs than those who came before them.
We call nonsense. Generational marketing is a facet of persona marketing, which is to tailor your marketing to the demographic or audience you’re trying to reach. Persona marketing is a good thing. Generational marketing, however, focuses on only one aspect of that demographic or audience, and it’s an aspect which can often completely fail to tell you anything vaguely accurate about the target audience.
Generational marketing is predicated on the idea that those who grow up around the same time hold similar values to one another because of the shared experiences their lives have afforded them. This may have been true in bygone eras, when, as iMedia points out, ‘media was so limited and controlled that people truly did seem to share only the experiences that made headlines - wars, presidential elections, national tragedies etc’, but the proliferation of the wider media into all facets of our lives means that almost all experiences are now shared, across all generations. The differences between ‘generations’ are becoming less and less marked with each passing year, and more importantly, the year of a person’s birth is becoming less of an indicator of who they are. Indeed, the very idea of a ‘generation’ is becoming less applicable to today’s society, as persons young and old interact, converse and find common ground with one another in a way, and on a scale, seldom seen before.
Age is something so very personal to each of us – one person might find themselves thinking about career plans and mortgages at 16, while another doesn’t think that far ahead until they’re approaching thirty – or even older! It follows, therefore, that to create a marketing strategy based on the assumption that all of the members of one generation find the same things appealing, and that those things are different to those which appeal to a different generation, is setting yourself up to fail before you ever place an ad.
Another really good reason to get rid of the generational marketing nonsense is that no-one can actually agree any more on when each generation begins and ends. For example, the Pew Research Centre describes the millennial as those born after 1980 and the first generation to come of age in the new millennium, and this Wikipedia entry on Millennials states that their birth years range from the early 1980s to the early 2000s. This is a twenty-year age gap, which is simply insane from a marketing point of view – how can a group of people with nothing in common but their age, and that age group spanning a twenty-year period, possibly be marketed to as a single group?
Even if you’re fine with a generation spanning twenty years’ worth of births, you’re going to struggle to work out which label to use – the ‘generation’ known as Millennials are also known as Generation Y, the Me Generation, Echo Boomers and the Net Generation, to name just a few.
There is also some danger in labelling people as falling within certain demographics, particularly the ‘Millennial’ group, as some do not appreciate having certain values and ethics – or lacks thereof – attributed to them solely on the basis of their birth year: for example, many ‘Millennials’ take umbrage at being labelled such, because the term carries with it connotations of laziness, self-entitlement, narcissism and a poor work ethic alongside a lack of initiative and loyalty. Is it any wonder they (or should I say we?) don’t like being called Millennials?
Of course, generational gaps do exist in some areas, but it is unwise to say the least to assume someone’s opinions, standpoint or beliefs based purely on their age.
Generational marketing is, at best, a misguided attempt at targeting, and at worst, it’s damaging stereotyping which could lose you a fantastic hire.
So, what should you be doing instead?
No-one is saying you shouldn’t be targeting your advertising. Choosing your marketing avenues and strategies based on what your consumers or audiences like and where they digest their media is obviously the smart move. Basing everything simply on how old they are, though, and what someone’s decided that means about them – not enough, I’m afraid.
What you should be doing is tailoring your advertising based on your target audience’s persona profiles, not their generational profiles. This means finding out who they are, what they want and what makes them tick.
Look into your target audience or demographic in a little more detail than their age. Find out who they really are – what do they like, who are they inspired by, what excites them? The best way to do this – and it’s possible now, thanks to the Internet and social media – is to ask them. Tweet your question, or post it on Facebook or Instagram or SnapChat. Asking the question directly shows that you know they’re all individuals, with different opinions, interests and passions, that can’t be categorised by one simple metric. This also has the added bonus of showing your customers or clients that you care about what they think – and they can then see the evidence of this when your next ad campaign or marketing strategy reflects what they told you. They’re happy, they buy your product or service, so you’re happy – everyone’s happy!