Marketing to the different generational niches is a big subject right now. That being said, I have a different take on this, which I know will probably not be very popular. This is going to be a soapbox moment, so fasten your seat belts and hang on tight.
I truly don’t see that much difference between all these “generations.” I believe that people are basically people and they’re not that different from one generation to the next in their basic behaviors. It’s the tools they have to manifest their behaviors that make things seem different.
OK, so here are some examples I use (Keep in mind that I am the mother of a millennial and I see her and her friends in action. I also have clients who are Millennials and I know how I interact with them.)
Example 1: I keep reading about how Millennials want to set their own hours, be more self-driven at work and not feel like a job is their life. OK, how many of you pretty much felt that way when you were in your 20’s. How many of you felt that way about work when you were that age? Generally, no mortgage, no family to support, maybe not even a car payment thanks to that college graduation gift of a car and you’re more likely to be more lackadaisical in your approach to a work ethic. When you add a few years, maybe a spouse and/or kids, a mortgage and a car payment and things begin to change – yes, even for those Millennials according to an infographic I once saw about attitudes within the millennial generation. How much more important did keeping your job, keeping your boss happy and getting a regular paycheck become once you had adult responsibilities? I know it changed my mindset even back 25 years ago!
Example 2: OK, so technology has changed the way these folks do their research. Heck, it’s changed the way all but the most tech-resistant do their research. I contend that it’s the tools that have changed, not the attitudes. Most people like to remain anonymous when considering our options. We don’t want to feel like we’re obligated to buy or commit to anything until we feel comfortable with our decision. So, the internet works very well for that – we can go online and research out options and no one needs to know it was us. (Yes, there are tools that will tell the site owner details about visitors, but really, how many salespeople will follow up with someone who just visited a website, but didn’t initiate contact?) Anyone here ever go to a store where a CSR asked if you need help? Ever say, “No, thanks. I’m just looking.” That’s the in-person equivalent of going to a website to do research. We don’t want to be helped and feel committed to buying something we don’t really want/need/like just because someone helped us. Heck, my dad isn’t an internet kind of guy, but he gets at least as much information from researching stuff at the library! (And a lot of times, his information is more accurate!)
Example 3: See example 2 and then realize that people still want/need/crave human contact. Once they feel comfortable, they tend to make a commitment to you; kinda like dating. I have clients that are in their 60’s and older and clients in their early 20’s – they work with me because they know I have their backs and they don’t want to go anywhere else. Of course, if I mess up big time and don’t make it right, they’ll probably leave me. Again, there are price shoppers and relationship buyers out there – no matter what the age, price shoppers will never be loyal and relationship buyers won’t jump ship if the relationship is solid.
Lumping any generation’s worth of people together and expecting them to react the same is, in my never-to-be-humble opinion is ridiculous. I mean, seriously, to make generalizations about Millennials who are about 80 million people strong across many religions, ethnicities, family backgrounds and economic levels is ridiculous. Heck, I can’t even make generalizations about my parents and my in-laws who are all the pre-Baby Boom generation. People are people – some are lazy, some are hard-working; some are self-centered; some are selfless; some are sport fanatics, some don’t know a football from a basketball; some are wise (no matter how smart they are), some are just plain dumb (no matter how smart they are).
I truly believe that it’s not about generational marketing, because any given generation’s beliefs, affiliations, and attitudes will change as they age and their life priorities change. My priorities and attitudes from when I was young and single have certainly changed to today when I’m a wife, mother of 2 and getting worried about retirement (at least 15 years away).
I think we just need to learn to market ourselves appropriately in a wide variety of ways to appeal to a broad spectrum of personality types. (Hey, did you know that Millennials don’t like to be marketed to online, but love “giveaways.” Saw that in an article a few months ago. I wish I could remember where.) Human beings really don’t change that much from one generation to the next – it’s the reason we have the saying “history repeats itself.”
For an interesting blog on this subject, check out http://www.lindseypollak.com/what-is-a-millennial-everything-youve-always-wanted-to-know-but-were-afraid-to-ask/
Time to jump off my soap box and go cause trouble elsewhere!