How Publishers Should Tailor Their Marketing to Generational Preferences
I was recently at the Ricoh Marketing Innovator Symposium in Boulder, Colo., which attracted a range of attendees from the print, brand and agency worlds. One of the key takeaways from the event centered around the generational divide — different age demographics don’t just want different messages, they want different messaging platforms and different forms of communication altogether.
The reality is that age does matter, and using the wrong platform with the wrong demographic will ultimately hurt a publisher’s ability to effectively reach — and market to — those individuals.
With that in mind, noted Trish Witkowski, CEO, here is a quick look at what you need to know to effectively create content for — and market to — each demographic. And don’t discount the older generations, either. Baby Boomers, incidentally, still control more than 70% of the purchasing dollars in the United States today.
The GI Generation & The Silent Generation
31 million individuals
76-103 years old
These are currently the oldest generations alive in the United States today. They are frugal, practical spenders who rarely splurge on luxury items for themselves, but they will splurge on loved ones. They are loyal, tending to stick with familiar, well-established brands, but for those who can solve a problem for them, their business can still be won.
The GI and Silent Generation tend to be slow to adopt new technologies, and prefer traditional forms of entertainment, such as newspapers and magazines. They respond to a practical approach, simple visuals and traditional values.
For publishers targeting this demographic, think about content and campaigns that center around subjects like traditional family values. Other broad topics could include content about aging or health, that seeks to solve an immediate problem they could be facing today.
78 million individuals
54-73 years old
Don’t let their age fool you; Baby Boomers are a tech-savvy generation. 53% own a tablet, and 71% own a smartphone. They are extremely connected, and they are very comfortable adapting to new experiences. They are also in control of the purse strings today, yet they are also often an overlooked generation. Many brands and marketing campaigns target the younger generations, so giving this group some attention can really make a difference.
That said, don’t make the mistake of using generational stereotypes with this bunch. Baby Boomers are “kicking and screaming into old age,” and won’t be happy if it is implied they are irrelevant or elderly. 82% of Baby Boomers belong to a social networking site, with Facebook being the dominant platform. If this demographic is your target audience, that is a good place to find them. Baby Boomers also still love receiving and interacting with physical mail, however — direct mail, postcards, magazines, brochures, etc.
Another thing to keep in mind, especially for publishers creating content and campaigns for Baby Boomers, is that they are often caretakers for the GI and Silent Generations. Not only can content center around the lifestyle Baby Boomers are experiencing today, it can also target their needs and problems as they adjust to adding the responsibilities of caring for aging relatives to their daily routine.
65 million individuals
39-53 years old
Gen X is known as a “transitional” generation — they grew up with and love traditional media such as magazines and newspapers, but they are also actively engage on social and digital platforms. In fact, the term “Xennial” was coined as a micro generation, falling between Gen X and Millennials, born between 1977-1985. This subset had an analog childhood and a digital adolescence, so they truly straddle the line, making them a moving target when it comes to marketing or demographics.
This generation likes research: They read and carefully examine the options before making purchasing decisions, spending time reading both on and offline before making any purchase decisions. They are incredibly brand-loyal once their trust has been earned, but they are also a generation open to possibilities and opportunities.
This means the opportunity for ion-depth content around products, brands, experiences, and other lifestyle subjects can be very effective for this generation. Don’t be afraid to give details, since that is often what they are looking for -- Gen X doesn’t want carbon copy pieces telling them they should or shouldn’t purchase something. Rather, they want well-thought-out pieces based on logical arguments.
87 million individuals
18-38 years old
This is the “digital native” generation. Millennials have grown up using digital technologies their entire lives, and are one of the hardest generations for marketers and publishers alike to reach. They “live out loud” with their entire lives shared on social platforms for the world to see. They are multi-taskers, often using multiple screens; this is a generation for which personalized print content is a real attention grabber.
This is also the “experience” generation, which is prompting so many brands and marketing campaigns to shift from selling them products to selling them a lifestyle. Millennials want to spend their money on travel, eating out and enjoying their life, rather than on physical products. This is a generation that likes to communicate with brands, sharing and promoting those they like across digital platforms.
For publishers that have not yet launched events, this is the generation to start targeting. Because of their focus on experiences, Millennials will be more likely to engage with a brand or publisher in a live setting than other generations, whether it’s a small, focused event centered around a single sponsor, or a major event designed to draw huge crowds.
75 million individuals
3-17 years old
Many believed that Generation Z, or the iGen, would be “Millennials on steroids,” but the reality is that this generation is already shaping up to be somewhat surprising.
You might have noticed the trend, thus far, is for each generation to move a little further toward consuming their content and marketing messages on screens instead of on paper. iGen is bucking that trend. According to Eric Fahey, research manager for Mintel Comperemedia, 83% of this generation report that they love getting something in the mail — even if it’s marketing messages. They have grown up with digital communications, so for them, print is a novelty that stands out.
In addition, this generation is rebelling against the “live out loud” mentality of the one before it. They tend to be more private, sharing and interacting less online, and being less willing to share their personal information with brands or publishers. That said, they are still young, not yet considered adults, so they are also a generation that is still heavily influenced by their parents. It remains to be seen how that will impact their media consumption habits as they move into the workforce.
Right now, iGen doesn’t hold the purse strings, so they aren’t the ultimate decision makers in their households. However, this is also the prime time to start building brand recognition and brand loyalty. Publishers, in particular, are in a good place. By providing the meaningful content iGen wants to consume, the opportunities abound to begin cultivating relationships that will carry well into the future. Building a connection with free newsletters is a great way to initiate the relationship and build toward paid subscriptions once iGen’ers start making more of their own purchasing decisions.