The term “generation gap” was invented 60 years ago to describe the differences in attitudes and sentiment between the World War II generation and the next generation, which eventually became known as Baby Boomers.
Since then, we have had Generation X and Millennials and Generation Z. A new generation comes along every 25 years, give or take. Differences exist between each of those generations, and between generations two cycles apart.
But, thanks to television, social media, and digital communication, the generation gap is not as wide as it was 60 years ago. Grandma knows how to look up her granddaughter’s TikTok videos on her smartphone these days, so there is some melding of people across the ages.
Still, there are generational differences, and those differences are highlighted in marketing meetings around the globe.
“Who are we selling to?” is a question asked in every board room and marketing powwow that takes place. There are some differences in gender, perhaps, and there are marketing variances based on hobbies and interests, but few businesses succeed by marketing to only one generation of potential customers. Intergenerational marketing is a complication that needs constant consideration.
September is Intergeneration Month, a celebration created by the Intergenerational Foundation to connect generations for various age groups. It’s a wonderful concept.
Can it work for marketers?
Intergenerational marketing, also known as multigenerational marketing, is the process of appealing to potential customers and clients who were born in different generations. For organizations with limited resources that want to reach consumers from different generations, this process requires a great deal of forethought, but produces great benefits.
Think now about the product or service you offer. If it is something that can be used by Baby Boomers and Generation Zers, then you need to think about how you present your goods to audiences of different ages to achieve the same result.
Watch your language – By far, the most difficult part of intergenerational marketing is how to express your message. Many words change meaning from one age group to another. These are often buzzwords rather than dictionary definition words, but marketing messages often use buzzwords to convey a sense of belonging and hipness. “Hipness’’ may be an example of such a word that either changed meaning or lost all meaning over time. As is often the case in marketing, communication skills, including exceptional writing ability, are key.
Keep generation out of the discussion – If you want to appeal to a variety of customers with no differentiation based on age, don’t differentiate your message. Don’t suggest that an older customer will appreciate the ease of use of your vacuum cleaner because it’s lightweight. That may turn off a Millennial who wants a sturdy vacuum. Unless there are features to what you do that appeal only to one generation, don’t mention the age of your potential customer or client in your marketing materials.
Don’t assume – You probably market your goods on a variety of platforms: print, TV, email, and social media. But you would be wrong to assume that only Boomers read magazines or watch broadcast TV, just as you would be wrong to
assume that only Generation Z use TikTok. If your goal is to create a marketing strategy for just one generation, specific platforms and language are useful. But believing that Baby Boomers pay no attention to Instagram is a mistake.
Exploit the multigenerational appeal of your company – Rather than worry about directing your marketing message to one particular generation of consumers, trumpet the fact that your product or service appeals to consumers of all ages. One of the greatest kitchen aids of recent years is the air fryer. Everyone has one or wants one. There is a multigenerational appeal to that product and there are conversations going on right now between grandmother and grandchild about how to best heat up french fries using that air fryer. If your product has multigenerational appeal, shout it to the rooftops. You can then provide examples of how your product or service functions best for potential customers of different ages.
Assuming your marketing budget is limited, you want to make sure you’re getting a return on the financial investment you make in your marketing. If there is any part of your marketing that is going to unnecessarily turn off a potential client because of his or her age, you are wasting your marketing dollars.
Successful intergenerational marketing requires forethought – lots of it. It is possible that every word and every image you use has different translations for your customer base based on their age. Marketing communication requires precision, and the intergenerational appeal of your business is in danger if you are not precise in your word and image choices.