How-tos for Generational Marketing to Millennials vs. Gen Z

Millennials and Generation Zers have both broken out of a shell that generations prior were determined to mold themselves to. This fact, along with their closeness in age, have led many to believe that they have a lot of commonalities that can accommodate similar generational marketing strategies.

Millennials and Generation Zers are both notorious for shaking up the status quo in more ways than one. They’ve both broken out of a shell that generations prior were determined to mold themselves to. This fact, along with their closeness in age, have led many to believe that they have a lot of commonalities that can accommodate similar generational marketing strategies.

While they are adjacent generations, the qualities in which they have gained notoriety differ, especially as consumers. The rise of the newest wave of consumers, who make up roughly 40% of all customers in the market, is certainly creating changes as Gen Z’s desires are not perfectly aligned with their older generational neighbors. The people who make up this group were born between 1997 and 2012.

At the same time, this does not imply that advertisers should stop pushing their marketing efforts toward Millennials. Simply put, Millennials largely contribute to the U.S. economic capital with a generational wealth estimated at $24 trillion. This group is made up of people born between 1981 and 1996.

With these statistics in mind, it is important that brands learn how to make the most of both unique generational consumer behaviors. Here are different elements advertisers should keep in mind when targeting a Millennial vs. a Gen Z demographic.

Similarities

Before we break down the differences these two generations have as consumers, it’s important to acknowledge they do still have quite a bit in common. First, both groups are well-versed in social media and the amount of time they spend plugged in doesn’t vary too drastically.

Even at an average of 20 minutes less per day, Millennials were young and impressionable when the age of the Internet came to be and, as such, they are just about as savvy in social media as is Gen Z.

Second, both generations place importance on diversity, equality, and progressive social values. In contrast to generations prior, Millennials and Gen Zers have questioned many social norms that Boomers and Gen Xers have accepted as reality.

Though there are undoubtedly many similarities in the grand scheme of things, these generational differences must also be considered in order for marketers to successfully cater to both.

Attitude Toward Spending

Interestingly, the way Millennials’ and Gen Zers’ finances differ is quite great.

Many Millennials were young adults when the Great Recession hit the U.S. in 2007. Growing up with a poor economy at large taught this group to place value on quality over quantity, as they remain mostly optimistic about their personal finances.

With Gen Z being quite young at the start of the economic downturn, this generation adopted the notion of practicality and financial preparation from an early age.

How Can Brands Successfully Cater to Both Spending Behaviors?

For Millennials, quality over quantity means they are looking to invest their money in brands that create a unique product or experience that will noticeably enhance their quality of living. Millennials are inclined to do significant research before making a purchase, ensuring they’ve found the most beneficial product or experience for them. This is good news for marketers, as Millennials are constantly on the lookout for the next best thing to help them in their everyday lives. All brands need to do is prove they are the ones Millennials should be investing their time and money in, and they may have customers for life.

For Gen Z, it’s best to get right to it. Let the consumer know exactly why the product or experience is the best one for them and why it’s worth the money. As previously mentioned, this generation is very focused on responsible spending as a result of their early memories of the Great Recession. So, if you want to sell to Gen Z, make sure you keep your brand’s feet firmly planted on the ground. Approach selling in a practical manner and make sure your product has a clear purpose for its consumer.

Feeling Connected Through Social Media

It is apparent that both generations are avid social media users, and the feeling of connection that social media creates is well enjoyed by both. However, the ways they best receive those feelings of connection vary.

Millennials feel most connected through the more traditional sharing, pinning, and forwarding; predominantly on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Gen Zers have had social media at their fingertips for the majority of their lives and, as a result, they consume more media on fewer platforms. This group is very visual and prefers rapid consumption, mainly through Instagram, YouTube, Snapchat and, most recently, TikTok.

How Can Brands Leverage Connection in Their Marketing Efforts?

Millennials prefer the more traditional social media platforms and sharing techniques, because they’re easy ways to feel seen and heard. Brands can leverage this in their customer journeys through interaction: asking consumers questions, encouraging them to communicate in comments sections, and more. This creates a space where Millennials feel valued and contributes to their attitude that a brand can better their lives on a deeply personal level.

Gen Z’s short attention span makes their marketing needs exclusively geared toward them. Cut to the chase and get down to benefits of the product — this is the best way to reach them on their preferred social platforms. Utilizing influencers for brand marketing is an effective way to connect to this audience. With 10-second Instagram stories and #sponsored posts, brands can use their preferred social platforms to connect in a unique way that feels authentic to Gen Z.

Embracing Generational Differences as Marketers and Advertisers

As two groups who came one after the other, it’s no surprise that Millennials and Generation Z are very similar. Both known for questioning common ideas the predecessing generations easily accepted, the two generations have redefined marketing in a new era for brands. They value authenticity, social responsibility, and inclusion. But both have different consumer behaviors when it comes to their finances and how they connect. For marketers, it is more important than ever to optimize and strategize based on their ever-changing habits as consumers

How to Perform Generational Targeting in Direct Mail Marketing

Generational targeting in direct mail can be instrumental in increasing your response rates. As brains age they change, and the way we need to target people also changes. Because the majority of the buying public falls into three generations now, we will focus on Boomers, Gen X and Millennials.

Generational targeting in direct mail
Credit: Getty Images by Jasper Cole

Generational targeting in direct mail can be instrumental in increasing your response rates. As brains age they change, and the way we need to target people also changes. Because the majority of the buying public falls into three generations now, we will focus on Boomers, Gen X and Millennials.

Generational Targeting in Direct Mail

Boomers — As we age, it becomes hard to filter out distractions. This means that your direct mail should have a clear message in a big font. Do not clutter the mail piece with tons of copy and a bunch of images. Include white space around your copy and images to allow time for absorption without distraction. Because older brains filter out negative messages, you should accentuate the positive benefits of your product or service. They have time and, therefore, value more information before making a decision — unlike Gen Xers and Millennials. Make sure to respect their intelligence and include details about your product or service that are relevant to them. The more they are exposed to a message, company and brand, the more it becomes true for them. So make sure that your messaging on your mail piece matches your message on other channels.

Gen X — The first thing we need to note about Gen Xers is that they are very busy people; you will need to grab their attention quickly. Coupons are a great way to reach Gen X. They love a good deal. They love companies that do “good for society.” So when they make a purchase, they can also help out others. They like loyalty programs that help keep them on track through busy weeks and months. Keep in mind that this generation loves direct mail. Of course you need to send them mail pieces that are relevant, but you should expect good response rates from them. Because lack of time is an issue, make sure that you go with less copy and get right to the point of how your product or service can help them.

Millennials — The most important thing to know about Millennials is that they value social issues over economics. So you need to make sure that your messaging taps into that need. Another factor is innovation. This generation is always looking for the next best thing. How can your product or service fix their problems in a new way? Millennials love reviews, so make sure you provide real testimonials from customers on your direct mail pieces. They, like Gen X, are big on loyalty programs; so make sure you have a robust program.

Conclusion

Keep in mind that each generation is comprised of unique people; not everyone will respond the same way. Don’t replace your other demographic targeting and segmentation strategies. These notations should help you shape your direct mail concepts, but by no means should they become the “be-all, end-all” strategy. Are you ready to get started?

Medicare Marketing: 3 Strategies to Address Acquisition Declines

If you’re responsible for Medicare marketing, you are most likely already prepping for the eight weeks in the Fall that have become pivotal to your business strategy. It’s the only time of year that most seniors can make a change to their Medicare Advantage coverage so the noise during this timeframe has built to a crescendo. But beyond market competition, you face another challenge. In recent years the rate of seniors who switched plans has plateaued or outright declined. You need to rethink your approach.

If you’re responsible for Medicare marketing, you are most likely already prepping for the eight weeks in the Fall that have become pivotal to your business strategy. It’s the only time of year that most seniors can make a change to their Medicare Advantage coverage so the noise during this timeframe has built to a crescendo.

For acquisition marketers, the stakes are high and your goals are clear. Entice eligible seniors to switch to your plan during the Annual Enrollment Period (AEP).

But beyond market competition, you face another challenge. In recent years the rate of seniors who switched plans has plateaued or outright declined.

As recently as 2015, 23% of seniors switched plans. Today, it’s a mere 9%. What does a decline like this mean? If you apply the 9% to your marketable universe before calculating your expected return, the math itself will demonstrate the problem.

You need to rethink your approach to Medicare marketing.

But before you move to a new strategy, let’s dig a little deeper into the data. Turns out, the Medicare switchers are largely, if not exclusively confined to those who had an event or interaction that would predispose them to switching during the year.

It could be a customer service issue, a price complaint — or something else entirely — either way, it points to the conclusion of Deft Research that “switchers are not created during the AEP. A combination of consumer experiences and insurer outreach throughout the year creates them.”

How best to react? Embrace the challenge with a proactive approach to change.

3 Strategies to Address Medicare Marketing Declines

1. Rethink seasonality — Only 88% of seniors who had decided to switch plans by the start of AEP, actually switched. Similarly, 90% of those who decided to stay with their same 2017 coverage ultimately did. What does this data imply about seasonality? Although transactions occur during the AEP, the real work –relationships with members are year-round endeavors.

2. Engage with your audience — Embark on a strategy to build or establish a relationship ahead of the transactional AEP. Since today’s 65-year-old was in their mid-40s when the Google search engine launched, they are internet savvy, social and will engage. There are lots of ways to keep them warm, informed and connected.

3. Get to know the “new” senior — Could it be that the new senior audience is misunderstood? Let’s think about that… while “misunderstood” is a term usually reserved for teenagers, today’s Boomers see themselves, and aging very differently. They are dealing with their own version of being underestimated by today’s businesses. The boomer generation is dedicated to changing the way society thinks about retirement and aging. Loyalty is a two-way street with this audience. While the “old” senior citizen may have been known for their loyalty, the new senior is discriminating and looking for value to support their lifestyle — their needs come first!

While switching has been down — shopping behavior has not.  This dynamic leaves the window open for more change to occur, especially if you take their lead and engage the new seniors outside of a transactional and limited approach.

Xennials: How They’re Different for Marketers

Generational differences in attitudes can be helpful to marketers, but the line between generations can’t be defined by a single point in time. It’s fuzzy. Does the recent buzz about the micro-generation born between 1977 and 1983, the Xennials, create opportunities for marketers to target this demographic?

Xennials
“Xennials,” Creative Commons license. | Credit: Flickr by Ron Mader

Generational differences in attitudes can be helpful to marketers, but the line between generations can’t be defined by a single point in time. It’s fuzzy. Does the recent buzz about the micro-generation born between 1977 and 1983, the Xennials, create opportunities for marketers to target this demographic? First coined by Sarah Stankorb in an article for Good magazine in 2014, the term Xennials refers to those who straddle the later years of Gen X (1977 to 1980) and the early years of the Millennials (1981 to 1983).

Let’s start with the size of this group. There are roughly 25 million Xennials, some 8 percent of the U.S. population, less than half the size of all of the named generational segments — except the oldest. Embracing this named generation would also reduce the populations in the segments it cannibalizes. Removing the number of births from 1977 to 1980 reduces the Gen X cohort from 55 million down to about 42 million, and removing the births from 1981 to 1983 reduces the Millennial number to about 55 million. Note that these numbers are based on births only and don’t account for deaths and immigration.

There are actually more Millennials than Boomers now — 75.4 million vs 74.9 million. And interestingly, embracing this new micro-generation would negate the Millennials claim on the largest generation — at least for the time being.

Xennials chart
Credit: PewResearch.org by Pew Research Center/U.S. Department of Health

The vanguard of a new generation and the rear guard of the old will always create some heterogeneous space between the arbitrarily drawn generational lines. The rise of technology as the defining moment between Gen X and Millennials is a fuzzier line of demarcation than the end of World War II, the moment that defines the line between the Silent Generation and the Boomers. Yet based on my personal experience, there were certainly members of the early Boomer generation who clung to the values of the Silent Generation as others embraced the counter-culture of the late ’60s. Some opposed the Vietnam War, while others found antiwar protests unpatriotic. Some went to Woodstock; others eschewed the rock music played by long-haired hippies in favor of more mainstream artists like Frank Sinatra and Brenda Lee.

The key distinction attributed to Xennials by Professor Dan Woodman is that they had an analog childhood and a digital adulthood. But does this distinction change how we, as marketers, reach them? Does it affect their media consumption habits? Consider that the median number of Facebook friends for a Gen Xer and a Millennial is not all that different — 200 vs. 250. So while Gen Xers came to Social Media later in life, they’ve embraced it nonetheless.

While the idea of the Xennial micro-generation is an interesting one, the implications for marketers are limited — in my opinion. Crafting creative appeals to them would be problematic. Surely, there are Xennials who demonstrate the characteristics of one generation or the other just as in the early transition between the Silents and the Boomers included the vanguard and the rear guard. And no one has put forth the idea that Xennials demonstrate any marked differences in their media consumption habits.

For marketers, the differences among the members on either side of the generation dividing line become less important as the line moves farther into the past.

Consider what Xennial coiner Sarah Stankorb, born in 1980, wrote three years ago for Good magazine:

“When I was a young teen, I desperately wanted to be a Gen Xer like my brother, with all their ultra-chill, above-it-all, despondent counterculture. (Of course, wanting to be counterculture makes you anything but.) With the rise of Millennials and the sheer tonnage of articles on their character, their trophies, their optimism, their creativity — a little part of me hoped I could consider myself a Millennial, to be so shiny, so new. But the label fit about as comfortably as a pair of skinny jeans.”

Gen Xers were counterculture? I thought the Boomers owned that.

I think as a named generation, the Xennials are a short-lived phenomenon. What are your thoughts, marketers?

Millennials, Music and Marketing

Music is a powerful marketing vehicle that fits neatly into the social media space. Big brands have aligned with celebrity artists to reach Millennials in their native social media milieu. Taylor Swift is the face of Keds and Diet Coke. Impresario JayZ has a multi-million dollar deal with Samsung, and Katie Perry is on board with H&M to name just a few. Music festivals have become mega-marketing events with a complex web of social sharing opportunities.

Music is a powerful marketing vehicle that fits neatly into the social media space. Big brands have aligned with celebrity artists to reach Millennials in their native social media milieu. Taylor Swift is the face of Keds and Diet Coke. Impresario JayZ has a multi-million dollar deal with Samsung, and Katie Perry is on board with H&M, to name just a few. Music festivals have become mega-marketing events, with a complex Web of social sharing opportunities.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gpsVax8h7gw

This relationship between big brands and celebrity musicians is symbiotic: For the brands, music can be the relevant tie that binds them to an audience that’s skeptical of traditional advertising. For celebrity musicians, brand endorsements are not only a lucrative revenue stream, but also an important platform for extending their reach.

But it wasn’t always this way. In the 1970s, most boomers would have called a rock star who endorsed products a sell-out. You would never see anything like The Grateful Dead endorsing Fritos back then, but now we even have Bob Dylan on TV for IBM’s Watson.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pwh1INne97Q

The evolution of music into a marketing vehicle has been a long, strange trip. Music has always been a shared experience, but there’s a huge difference in the way young people share between Millennials, the current largest generation, and boomers, the previous largest generation.

From my teens through my 30s, it was cool to have a high-fidelity stereo system (tuner/amp, three-way speakers and turntable) to play vinyl records at high volume and fill a room full of friends with music. Music listening was a social thing, something to be shared live and in-person. The listening unit was an album side, usually start to finish, but occasionally someone would take the trouble to play an individual cut, carefully using the turntable lever to drop the needle in the space between the grooves of the spinning vinyl platter. These precious vinyl disks were handled very carefully to ensure that they didn’t collect oily fingerprints, or God forbid, noise-producing scratches.

Back then, creating a playlist was not a drag-and-drop task. It was a longer-than-real-time event. Using a reel-to-reel or cassette tape recorder plugged into the same amplifier as the turntable, the playlist maker would push the record button, drop the needle for each track, play it through, pause the tape, carefully change out the vinyl record, and then record the next track. The advent of the compact disc made this a bit easier, but it was still a real-time event.

For Millennials, music is still a shared experience, but it’s shared on social media rather than in-person. Rather than being an onerous task, the easily generated playlist is now a common unit of listening. People share playlists through Spotify and Pandora, and can instantly share snippets of music they’re listening to on Spotify or Apple Music using Facebook Music Stories. And music consumption is high. A study by Vevo found that Millennials spend an average of 25 hours per week streaming music.

But rather than filling a room with music, much of music listening today is a solitary activity, using earbuds and mobile devices. High-fidelity systems are a thing of the past – people 18 to 34 are about half as likely to own a receiver/amplifier as those 55 to 64 according to MRI+ data. And while 11 percent of 55 to 64 year olds still have a turntable, only 2 to 3 percent of Millennials own one. Meanwhile, Millennials are about 50 percent more likely to own an mp3 player docking station (with tiny little speakers) and 40 percent more likely to own earbuds than their older counterparts.

The biggest change, however, has come in the area of music festivals. Last year, 14.7 million Millennials attended music festivals. Face-value for Coachella tickets was $349. The festival grossed over $84 million. And brands like Coca Cola, Red Bull and TMobile pony up about $1.4 billion annually in festival sponsorship money. Why? A study by live promoter group AEG and branding company Momentum Worldwide found that 93 percent of those surveyed stated that they liked the brands that sponsor live events. Eighty percent said that they will purchase a product following a music festival experience, as opposed to 55 percent of those who were not in attendance, and those who attended a music festival with brand sponsorship walked away with a 37 percent better perception of the company.

By contrast, Woodstock, the watershed music festival of 1969, was attended by about 500,000 people. Not all of them had the three-day festival ticket that sold for $18. Corporate sponsors? Really?

Baby Boomers, Gen Y Embrace Personalized Online Ads

This past week, I came across a new study by Q Interactive, an advertising network specializing in predictive behavioral targeting. It found Generation Y Americans (individuals born between 1982 and 1995) and baby boomers (individuals born between 1946 and 1964) are the two most active generations, with the greatest willingness to provide information online in exchange for more personalized advertising.

This past week, I came across a new study by Q Interactive, an advertising network specializing in predictive behavioral targeting. It found Generation Y Americans (individuals born between 1982 and 1995) and baby boomers (individuals born between 1946 and 1964) are the two most active generations, with the greatest willingness to provide information online in exchange for more personalized advertising.

The study’s core finding showed that when given the choice, 63 percent of Gen Yers would provide personal data in exchange for targeted advertising. In addition, 53 percent of baby boomers would do the same.

The study surveyed more than 1,500 consumers on their feelings about targeted online advertising, and these groups had the highest percentages.

“The findings were surprising to us, because they go against a lot of perceptions advertisers have about what consumers will provide in order to receive personalized advertising,” Q Interactive’s President/CEO Matt Wise told me this week.

It’s little surprise that Gen Yers are used to providing personal information on social networking sites such as Facebook and MySpace, Wise said.

But baby boomers’ comfort with providing this type of information online was more surprising, Wise said. “Baby boomers finally really understand the value proposition of offering personal information online in exchange for something now,” he said. “If we surveyed them in 1999, I’m sure we would have gotten a different response.”

The study also found consumers, as a whole, value online advertising targeted to their individual needs and interests. Additional findings from the survey included the following:

  • 56 percent view advertisers “favorably” when ads are tailored to a personal interest; and
  • approximately one in three Gen Yers and baby boomers feel more relevant ads tailored to personal interests improve their online experiences.

So, if you’re targeting either Gen Y or baby boomers, try testing a program that offers more personalized advertising in exchange for their information. But make sure you do it the right way by following behavioral targeting best practices.