Generation Marketing

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I recently read an article on The Huffington Post titled “Generation Next, Or Homelanders? Parents, Marketers Search For Generational Name For Kids” which, as you can probably guess from the title, explores the name attributed to the generation of kids currently in elementary school.   Besides the two names in the article title, I’ve also heard this generation referred to as Generation Z, Generation I, and Gen. Tech.  As the article states, this will be the tech savviest generation in the history of Earth. Frankly, I think that before people worry about what to call this upcoming generation, they settle on a name for mine.  I don’t know whether I’m Generation Y, Generation Next or a Millenial.  Heck, because I’m close to the cusp, I’ve even been grouped with Generation X before.  Talk about an identity crisis!

Classifications like The Greatest Generation, Baby Boomers, and Generation X are useful in isolating certain idiosyncrasies inherent in each group of people based on the economic and social factors of their times.  But marketers shouldn’t be bothered with such labels.  It isn’t wise to assume an individual will be interested in your product or service based on the year they were born.  It’s a hit-or-miss strategy that’s akin to dropping a net in the ocean and seeing how much fish you catch; some days are good and some are bad.  And if marketers are even confused over what to call the most recent generations and the years they span, how does that build confidence knowing you are reaching your target audience?  Besides, people just flat out don’t like being forced into a stereotype.

I still remember the commotion over Generation X as I was growing up.  The marketing industry was constantly talking about it, making the term almost as much an identity as the group of people it represented.  But while this may have been a successful strategy, just as the generations change so should the methods in which we market to them.

In times where marketers are being forced to deliver bigger results with smaller budgets, the money you waste having your message fall on deaf ears can be put to use identifying additional targets.  The advent of social media has undoubtedly affected the marketing landscape.  The tools are literally at our fingertips to reach a deeper level of consumers.  The beauty of all this is that the internet has provided the opportunity for people to seek out others who share similar interests.  They’ve done the hard work for us and essentially labeled themselves.  Instead of wasting precious marketing dollars to push Product A on Generation X, we can discover a more specific group of people that might even include members of the Baby Boomer generation and my generation.

Take Silly Bandz for example; these are the rubber bracelets you wear that when you remove them, reveal different animals and shapes.  What one would consider a product for this new Homelander Generation has become the must-have accessory of the summer.  Kids and teens love them for collecting and trading.  Adults love them because it’s something they can connect to their kids with.  Even Sarah Jessica Parker and Mary-Kate Olsen are using them to enhance their own fashion style.

So to the marketers trying to stick a name to the future generation still in school I say “forget it.”  It’s not worth it to throw your dollars away on a single generation.  Instead, figure out what it is about your product that resonates with people and use that to identify your audience.  What you’ll end up with is a well-targeted, cross-generational marketing strategy that genuinely connects with people and provides them with a product or service they’ll actually want.  They’ll love you for it, too.