Marketers must go beyond generational targeting – or risk alienating the audience
Marketers are still committed to a reductive understanding of generational identity. Jane Hovey of the Vivaldi agency argues that to reach the right audiences, communication professionals need to move beyond generational generalizations.
Virgin Media’s recent commercial, “Faster Brings Us Together,” refreshingly celebrates the intergenerational musical connection, spotlighting a father and daughter coming together around a mutual love of music. Unlike so many brands today, Virgin Media has avoided the pitfall of generationalization.
Much has been written about generational differences over the years. But while the terms baby boom, millennial, and generation Z may be useful in describing a particular age group, they also help fuel sweeping generalizations, creating stereotypes that can make a marketing campaign ineffective and risk alienating people. .
Tiffany’s recent campaign, âNot Your Mother’s Tiffany,â was created with the goal of refreshing the brand for a younger audience; However, in doing so, they managed to anger existing customers who felt rejected by the brand, while scandalizing a younger, more politically correct audience by creating a clear demographic divide. Speaking in the wrong voice, condescending or demeaning an audience can have damaging consequences. Brands need to be careful in their approach.
One of the biggest frustrations when taking a customer brief is when you are told, “We want to target millennials.” Within this segmentation there are many points of difference ranging from where you live, your interests and passions, whether you are a homeowner, parent, working full time or studying, etc. There are far too many people in the Millennium Cohort for brands to establish any form of meaningful relationship.
Generalizing generations and targeting such a large audience is lazy thought, resulting in disengaged audiences. So how can brands maintain their relevance and engage more intimately with audiences?
Attitude groups are more effective than generational categories
Rather than lumping people into large generational groups, brands should take a closer look at attitude groups, which relate to people’s passions and interests. Across age groups there are silver threads that unite audiences, such as whether you are a fashionista or a foodie, what sports you practice and follow, what artists you broadcast, etc. These so-called fandoms can incorporate different age groups, connecting people by their passions and interests, and activity can be measured by the websites you click, the games you play online, the products you click. you buy and the YouTube videos you watch.
Gardening brand Scott’s Miracle-Gro has successfully harnessed this concept by uniting its audience through guerrilla gardening – a growing movement that spans generations. By launching Black Magic Potting Mix, Scott’s introduced new, premium compost for young urban consumers who grow plants and vegetables, disrupting an industry that had historically attracted older generations. By working with micro-influencers, the campaign garnered hundreds of thousands of views and engagements, inspiring people to develop the city of tomorrow and – significantly – to click to buy the product on Amazon.
To build a more intimate relationship with customers, brands need to listen, learn and think. It’s about digital ethnography, spotting trends, and designing what your audience wants in the future, not just the present.
Marketers need to connect with their audience
Deodorant brand Impulse has cleverly co-created a range of new fragrances in collaboration with teenage girls. By engaging its target audience throughout the innovation process, Impulse has developed a series of weird and wonderful scents, such as burnt marshmallow and leather jacket and whipped cream and microchip, that no branding expert experienced could not have created.
By listening to and empowering their audiences, brands include them in the innovation process, rather than simply offering them content. It’s about intimacy and co-creation and not just relying on data to design products and strategies because you just can’t understand what people are really passionate about by just looking at the points of view. data they click on through advertising.
In order to truly engage consumers, brands need to understand what kind of relationship their audience wants to have because, in truth, not everyone wants an intimate engagement with their favorite brand. What is a negative or a positive brand experience has so many different dimensions depending on the audience, and this is where effective interface design and user experience innovation come in.
In short, brands need to stop generalizing generations and grouping segments, and instead listen to what their passions are. It is this greater sense of belonging that adds real value to consumers, not sweeping generalizations and stereotyping. Ultimately, brands should make friends, not alienate people.
Jane Hovey is Director of Communications Strategy at Vivaldi.