Should You Market to a Generation?
I was on the panel during a Q&A session at the Master Your Remodeling Business Workshop this January past. One of the questions thrown my way was, “Now that the boomers are moving out, how do we market to the other generations?”
Having just recently written the PowerTip article 4 Tips to Connecting with Millennials, it was pretty fresh in my mind. So I began rattling off some characteristics, “Millenials value engagement, transparency, philanthropy…” and so on.
After I was done announcing my less-then-inspired list of traits, a hand shot up, “Yeah, but what about Generation X?”
“Generation X?” I thought. “Oh right, what was the deal with them again?” I started thumbing through my mental Cardfile for descriptors for this group of people. “Let’s see, they were born between the Boomers and the Millenials, so they’re 60’s and 70’s kids. They grew up in turbulent economic times … blah, blah, blah.”
I just wasn’t feeling it. I ended up simply suggesting he “not worry about Gen X,” and we moved on.
As Judith Miller fielded the next question from the audience, I thought about my response to the followup question. It immediately occurred to me that I should have explained why he should not worry about Generation X.
You see, it’s not that I think Gen X-ers are not right for him. It’s that I don’t think he should be targeting the generations.
And so, today’s PowerTip was born.
Why use generational marketing?
According to Brandeo:
Generational marketing proponents believe that the generation in which people are born significantly influences who they are, what they believe, what their values are, life skills, and ultimately, what they buy. Members of a generation share the experiences of their formative years, including cultural, economic, global, political, and technological influences.”
Makes sense I suppose.
But here’s the thing; these “shared experiences” aren’t as clear as they may have been in 1950. From cable TV to 24-hour news channels to the internet to social media to smartphones, we’ve got shared experiences coming out of the wazoo.
The truth is; the world has been shrinking at an exponential rate over the past 40 years. I don’t think this type of market segmentation is relevant anymore. Certainly not at the level that you’re focusing on: local.
Let’s take a quick trip. I want you to think back to your high school years. Think about all the different cliques.
To borrow a line from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off:
Oh, he’s very popular Ed. The sportos, the motorheads, geeks, sluts, bloods, wastoids, dweebies, d**kheads – they all adore him. They think he’s a righteous dude.
You remember them from your school? Do you think your marketing message will resonate with them all? More importantly, do you even want it to?
And consider that this is a group of people that grew up within four years (maybe five for the wastoids) of each other. This is a much more focused demographic than the 18 to 25-year spans that The Generations cover, and still it’s doubtful that the broad characteristics will apply.
But what about life stages?
Whenever I ask remodelers to identify their target market, one of the most common responses I get is income level. After some prodding and poking I’ll get a life stage. Things like “Their last child is heading off to college,” or “they’re retiring in the next couple of years.”
That’s great! The problem is that “life stage” has been erroneously linked to The Generations. This simply isn’t the case.
I’ll give myself as an example. I have two friends; both named Mike. We are all the same age and fall in the Generation X bucket. Mike “A” has two kids one preparing for college and the other following right behind.
Meanwhile, Mike “B” is expecting his first child in 4 months.
And that’s the point.
We’re no longer on the same timeline. We’re not following “the rules” anymore.
Get married young? Have 2.3 kids right away? Work in the office Monday through Friday? Retire at 65?
That’s all gone.
So what’s the verdict?
Generational targeting is an outdated practice. Maybe if you’re a billion-dollar global enterprise it still has a place, but for remodelers? No.
Sure it can be an interesting read. And don’t get me wrong; it’s okay to have a sense of tendencies for a generation (i.e., my millennials post). But don’t base your marketing strategy on generational segmentation.
Drill down deep into YOUR target market and identify the buyer persona that you want to go after.
Is your target persona a recently remarried women who used to work but has decided to stay home and care for her newly blended family? No problem. You can find her!
Is your ideal client a married couple that never had children and instead call their two dogs “the kids” and take a tropical cruise every January?
Go for it.
We live in an amazing time where you can identify and reach your ideal clients down to the granular level (if you choose).
Don’t focus on messages that satisfy a generation. Focus on connecting with your target customer.
What about you?
I’d love to hear your thoughts on the topic! Are you using generational marketing techniques? If so, has it been successful? Do you think it’s a viable option for the years to come? I look forward to reading your comments in the section below.