Thursday, 11 March 2010

The Generation Game

It's popular to believe that different generations have fundamentally different social values.   Understanding what these different social values are can be very helpful in setting your strategy and in particular your marketing strategy for reaching different socio-generational groupings.   It is particularly important given that mature businesses tend to be run by older, more wealthy men who can be out of touch with their younger markets.   Understanding socio-generational groupings can help to bridge that understanding on an intellectual level, even if executive are not able to bridge it on a personal level.

As an example of how generations differ, here are some research results reported in Newsweek in The Real Generation Gap:

Millenials (age 18-29)Generation X (age 30-45)Baby Boomers (age 46-64)WWII and Depression Generation
(age 64 plus)
Have a tattoo: 38% 32%15%?
Have a social-networking profile:75%50%30%
Have posted video of self online:20%6%2%
Are veterans (normalised for age):2%13%24%
Are more liberal:
Favour gay marriage:50%?33%25%
Oppose interracial marriage:5%??26%

On a more general note, it is likely that different generations have different attitudes towards authority and respect.   Whilst older generations were taught to respect their elders, more egalitarian younger generations believe that respect has to be earned.   If true, this has a number of important implications for marketing, not least of which is that, for example, Gen X hates sales people.  This may explain why social media is having such a profound effect on marketing as Millenials and Gen X seek to engage with brands that had previously been sold to Baby Boomers.

Equally interesting, there were a number of social metrics which remained consistent between generations, such as:
  • the importance of having a successful marriage; and
  • the importance of home ownership
It's also popular for older people to complain that younger people have no work ethic, and for younger people to complain that older people are fossilised.   But it is much more useful to understand others as different rather than necessarily better or worse, and an understanding of socio-generational data can help to accomplish this.

I'll publish any additional socio-generational research and insights I find, but if you have any of your own, please feel free to drop them in the comments below.