By: Matt Hogan
Read time: 5 minutes
“We want to target millennials.”
Too often, we as marketers fall victim to generalizing a generation as one group of people. Millennials are this. Baby Boomers are that. If we’ve learned anything from this recent pandemic, it’s that not only is each generation affected differently by these life-changing events, but groups of people within these generations are affected directly.
In other words, these life-changing events create ‘generational fractures’ that cause groups within a generation to think differently about what they value and how they view the world.
No really, what is a generational fracture and why should I care?
While the ages of generational divides can be a little blurred based on source, consumers have assimilated into the generations they were born into—from socially savvy Gen Zers to industry-crushing millennials.
To really understand a target audience, marketers need to dive deeper to recognize what makes these consumers tick and what major events have shaped their world views. That’s where generational fractures come in. A generational fracture is a large-scale event that touches all parts of our lives and affects how people interact with the world around them forever in the wake of this event. Some generations have lived through multiple generational fracturing events, but every generation has experienced at least one.
Depending on the age someone is, they will have a very different reaction to the event. People who are technically the same generation but at different stages in life will have different reactions to the event and therefore different worldviews and value systems after.
How can I apply generational fractures to my target marketing?
Evolve generational definitions
Generations are defined when they are still being formed, which creates massive gray areas in terms of age. In the media planning stages, don’t be afraid to move an age cohort from one generation to another when these generational fractures exist.
In doing so, don’t focus on secondary data alone. It’s important to use the information you already have on customers and potential customers (look-alike, competitive, etc.) to make the best judgement on who these generations are, how they should be divided and how they should be targeted.
Target life stages, not generations
“Married with young children” is a life stage that could apply to someone 25, 35 or 45, but each of these age groups are closer in needs than they are to someone the same age who is single without children. Marketers may find more commonalities in life stages than they do in generations.
For example, a Gen Xer who recently purchased a new home may have more in common in terms of purchasing behavior with a millennial who just purchased a home than with another Gen Xer who has lived in the same home for 15 years. Identify different life stages in each generation and the generational fractures that separate their values to best target and understand each audience.
Remember to avoid stereotyping generations and don’t try to be ‘hip’ or ‘cool’ just to appeal to a younger audience. It’s alright to evolve, but not to change the brand identity overnight.
Grow with the generations
If your definition of a Millennial was formed ten years ago, it’s time to revisit the definition. That 25-29 year-old single urbanite could now be approaching 40 with kids, living in the suburbs and facing a whole new set of challenges, behaviors and purchases. After a generational fracturing event (like the pandemic) and every 3-4 years, marketers must take the time to reevaluate how their target audiences within each generation have changed.
And as the generations grow, don’t rule out the older, shrinking generations. Baby Boomers, for example, only make up 21% percent of the population but still manage to hold 54% of all U.S. household wealth.
Looking for more on generational fractures? Stay tuned for a deeper dive into how these fractures affect different industries like travel, healthcare and more in the coming months. In the meantime, check out our award-winning work for clients like Wahl Clipper Corporation, Montana Office of Tourism and Business Development and Napoleon.
About the Author:
As part of the CIX group, Matt works to uncover key consumer insights that are used to set branding direction, adjust messaging and targeting, and create content. He develops customized, proprietary quantitative and qualitative research studies and is the agency’s resident expert on competitive analysis research for current and prospective clients.
Matt plays a large role in research and reporting for our largest clients including Montana Office of Tourism, Wahl Clipper Corporation, Yamaha and Napoleon.