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

Omnichannel Marketing Is Preferred by 85% of Consumers

With the advent of the Internet and social media, choosing the right marketing channel to distribute your message to your target audience and create a stronger relationship with them is now more complicated. With all these choices, what’s important is to focus on selecting the right media channels for your customer base … both online and offline.

With the advent of the Internet and social media, choosing the right marketing channel to distribute your message to your target audience and create a stronger relationship with them is now more complicated. With all these choices, what’s important is to focus on selecting the right media channels for your customer base … both online and offline.

Last week, I had the opportunity to participate in a webinar with Liz Miller, SVP of Marketing from the CMO Council. She shared findings from a recent study done by the CMO Council in partnership with Pitney Bowes titled “Critical Channels of Choice.” The study surveyed 2,000 consumers across five generations (Gen Z, Millennial, Gen X, Baby Boomers, and the Silent Generation).

According to Miller, “Everyone assumes that Millennials and Gen Zers are all digital and that is the best way, and in some instances the only way, to communicate with them. The most critical finding from the study indicated that the channel of choice was in fact, omnichannel.” Consumers expect a seamless shopping experience, whether they’re shopping online from a desktop or mobile device, by telephone, or in a brick and mortar store location.

When asked to describe their communication preferences, consumers overwhelmingly agreed that one path to the brand simply isn’t enough … they want them all. Some 85% of consumers surveyed agreed that their ideal channel is actually a blend of channels, opting for a mix of both digital and physical experiences (Figure 1).

According to survey respondents, consumers prefer to have omnichannel marketing efforts directed toward them.
Source: CMO Council, Critical Channels of Choice, 2019. Click to enlarge.

Miller explained that print is alive and well. She said, “Perhaps most telling of this openness for omnichannel is that printed mail, considered by some to be one of the more ‘traditional’ channels in today’s marketing mix, is essential. It continues to be a highly valued channel of choice. One out of every three consumers surveyed expected printed mail to be part of their ideal communications mix. Brands need to reevaluate how they are leveraging and deploying all of the tools available in an omnichannel toolkit.”

While you might expect a divide across generations in terms of channel preferences, that isn’t the case. The research found that all respondents, regardless of age demographic, prefer a blend of digital and physical channels to pave their communications journey with a brand (Figure 2).

Based on key findings, there is a preference for a blend of digital and physical communications in marketing efforts, regardless of age.
Source: CMO Council, Critical Channels of Choice, 2019. Click to enlarge.

The study also pointed out that the deciding factors for channel usage by consumers include convenience, reliability, speed, personalization, and trust (Figure 3). Whether it is print, social media, or email, consumers are looking for channels that meet their expectations.

Critical attributes of must have channels.
Source: CMO Council, Critical Channels of Choice, 2019. Click to enlarge.

The Bottom Line

Given the drive for a seamless omnichannel experience, your customers will be looking for partners to help deliver the solutions consumers want. Print will continue to be integral to the marketing mix, but your offerings will need to be blended with social, mobile, and online channels, as well as brick and mortar point of purchase solutions. Service providers need to evaluate the role they want to play in an omnichannel world.

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?

The ‘Aging-in’ Opportunity for Healthcare Brands

Healthcare marketers might focus on the 65 and up segment because of perceived near-term needs that will generate revenue quickly, or they might target much younger adults to earn maternity and pediatric customers in the hopes of larger CLV. But there’s a middle group who may be more persuadable: The younger aging-in population.

Health systems increasingly use return on investment (ROI) metrics as a means of instilling discipline into the marketing function. In turn, a marketer might focus on the 65 and up segment because of perceived near-term needs that will generate revenue quickly, or they might target much younger adults to earn maternity and pediatric customers in the hopes of larger customer lifetime value (CLV) estimates. But there’s a middle group who may be more persuadable: The younger “aging-in” population.

I’m not referring to “aging-in” in the almost-ready-to-sign-up for Medicare sense, but rather to the 50-64 year old population that often seems overlooked in health system marketing plans. This demographic is working, has seniority with their employer, has favorable commercial insurance, and is starting to consume more health services. They are starting to pay attention to the health category.

This segment combines the tail-end of the Baby Boomers and the leading edge of Generation X. Their life experiences were shaped by hard rock, disco and pop music, political scandals, gas lines, economic booms and the Great Recession. And even though they may now take blood pressure or cholesterol medications, they maintain a self-perception of being younger and are looking forward to this window of time between the kids finally moving out and the contemplation of retirement.

So, how do you persuade them? Targeting from a media perspective is relatively easy. The harder part is avoiding the clichés of ‘senior marketing’ that turn-off this segment. Here are three tips:

  • Don’t overly focus on age as part of your visual or narrative message. This group intellectually understands they are getting older, but attitudinally pushes back on messages that seem designed for the ‘senior’ set. This is an important distinction from older segments that embrace the ‘senior’ designation and silver-haired imagery.
  • Focus on their motivations. These prospects are interested in experiences large and small that they may have previously delayed. The emphasis is on the ability to ‘do.’ This is strongly tied to a person’s motivations for new experiences and why your clinical service line needs to be in the context of enabling an engaged lifestyle with minimal disruption.
  • They carry a sense of responsibility. This segment will go online to do research and can be cynical about superficial content, so make sure there’s a “there, there” when they land on your campaign page. This group solves problems at work and will approach a service line in the same way. Once they land on your page, your content needs to be structured to allow for deeper dives into volume/quality, return to work speed, how to access, cost considerations and next steps.

The 50- to 64-year-old aging in place segment represents a strong segment with favorable income and insurance, rising health needs and an increasing wiliness to listen to your message — as long as you don’t make them feel old.

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?

Millennial Irony: Now They Eat Out Too Much

Two weeks ago, I blogged and did a video about the report that Millennials are “killing” casual dining restaurants. The whole idea sounded like something made up by a fired Fridays manager. Well, today, we got some new information that’s a real head-scratcher: Now Millennials are spending too much money eating out!

Two weeks ago, I blogged and did a video about the report that Millennials are “killing” casual dining restaurants. The whole idea sounded like something made up by a fired Fridays manager.

Well, today, we got some new information that’s a real head-scratcher: Now Millennials are spending too much money eating out!

The new information comes from a survey by BankRate. And they at least had the sense to let a Millennial break the news to her fellow Millennials. Apparently Millennials money woes shouldn’t be blamed on avocado toast at all, it’s all the happy hours. (The Yahoo Finance article the video comes from had additional commentary on it as well.)

(Aside: Is she talking to me? Born 1977, am I Gen X, Millennial or a damn Xennial? I can’t freakin’ tell! Can we please make up our minds at least about this? Studying generations is like discovering a very uncomfortable version of time travel at 40. Like trying to Instagram while spinning in one of those old, banned metal merry-go-rounds. … I do not cook at home a lot.)

Let me tell you folks, I am SHOCKED!

Me, every time conflicting information comes out about Millennials.
Me, every time conflicting information comes out about Millennials.

Every time one set of data comes out saying this is what Millennials are and the impact they’re having, just wait a couple weeks and a new set of data will say the opposite.

So, are they killing restaurants or keeping them in business? And if they’re out eating and drinking multiple times a week, but classic bar and grills can’t bring them in, is the younger adults’ faults?

One thing’s for sure: They are spending money. In fact, judging from that video, Millennials are spending money more freely than just about any generation in history. So if you’re not getting a piece of that, that’s on you.

One other thing I’m sure of: Even though almost all the Millennials are out in the workforce now, a lot of corporate America and the researchers feeding them data still don’t know Jack about who this generation really is or how to reach them. (“Us”? I still can’t tell.)

The Making of a ‘Perfect’ Mobile Ad

The Verve whitepaper, “The Rise of Mobile Prodigies™: Millennials, Gen Z and the Future of Mobile Marketing,” provides some useful insights on engaging younger cohorts on smartphones (Millennials now have buying power of between $200-600 billion and Gen Z currently has $44 billion, according to the report).

Deliver_Brand_In_Digital2-2(1)While I was attending LiveRamp’s RampUp 2017 Summit last week, I attended a session on the “Skeptical Consumer,” which included a reference to recent research: “The Rise of Mobile Prodigies: Millennials, Gen Z and the Future of Mobile Marketing” (Verve, 2016). A good part of this session — which included speakers from the Digital Advertising Alliance, Venable, TRUSTe and Gap, as well as Verve — focused on how brands can overcome consumer skepticism over data collection with regard to digital/mobile advertising. (There’s much hope here.) The Verve white paper provided some useful insights on engaging younger cohorts on smartphones (Millennials now have buying power of between $200 and $600 billion and Gen Z, currently $44 billion, according to the report).

There’s a bevy of insights in the research, but I was particularly intrigued with one finding: What Makes a More “Perfect” Mobile Ad, as reported by these Mobile-First (mobile-only) users:

Source: “The Rise of Mobile Prodigies,” Verve, 2016, p 11.
Source: “The Rise of Mobile Prodigies,” Verve, 2016, p 11.

Too often, mobile is not driving most marketers’ brand engagement strategies — but not for long. These “Mobile Prodigies” are here and now, and they’re spending up to 90 percent of their smartphone time in the app environment — perhaps the majority of these apps are financed by advertising.

More than 55 percent of these consumers are using ad-blocking software and 82 percent delete apps that they perceive to fail to deliver value for the data collected … but oh, what relevance can do! Six in 10 would download more free apps, connect apps to their Facebook accounts, share location data and even share fitness and sleep data in exchange for a personalized experience. One in three say they reverse opt-out permissions when personalized ads, based on context and behavior, are offered.

Verve writes, “If we serve Mobile Prodigies best-in-class mobile experiences, they are willing to share their personal information — their permission comes down to relevance and reward.”

That sentiment actually mirrors that of Generation X and Baby Boomers. However, how that value is demonstrated in mobile requires a whole new level of branded experiences for Millennials and Gen Z, with a demand to use data in highly relevant and creative ways that still largely remains elusive on smartphones. Perhaps that’s why 2,500 were in San Francisco to examine better ways to deploy data in service to consumers, and 108,000 were in Barcelona a few days before — in part, in quest for the perfect mobile ad.

Disruption: A Concept to Embrace Out of Love or Fear

“Change” is ever-constant in life and marketing — like births, deaths and taxes. But what about “disruption?” I hear a lot of references to it these days. This higher usage of “disruption” in our vocabulary is not a re-statement about change, it’s about the magnitude of that change.

Online Marketing Strategies That Work“Change” is ever-constant in life and marketing — like births, deaths and taxes. But what about “disruption?” I hear a lot of references to it these days.

This higher usage of “disruption” in our vocabulary is not a re-statement about change, it’s about the magnitude of that change. Change is incremental. Disruption is game changing. Disruption today is seemingly everywhere — in politics, in social and economic ebb and flows, in business — and certainly in marketing.

Are we ready for disruption? Do we not only accept disruption’s emergence, but also expect it, learn from it and truly embrace its challenges (and opportunities)?

That’s not always easy to do. However, disruption is the new normal. Did those of us in the world of direct marketing — who perhaps knew from the start that digital marketing was “direct marketing on steroids” — truly foresee the disruption that digital business models would wreak? Venture capital and Silicon Valley certainly placed bets on monetizing data and they have prospered. Still, traditional direct marketing has had to adapt to digital, social, local and mobile — our marketing discipline’s “own” digital disruption. We’ve had to anticipate disruption or pay the price, much like everybody else.

Most CMOs have to manage disruption, digital and otherwise, but today’s CMOs are rarely recruited from the data-rich realm of direct marketing. Branding still dominates CMO ranks. Branding budgets still drive the bulk of ad spending — even as data collection and analysis now influence more and more of that spend. The labels of “direct marketing,” “digital marketing” and even “integrated marketing” are now simply “marketing.” CMOs, with their dashboards, need to account for all they spend and the value that spending creates. Labels tend to reflect silos that stubbornly hang on but can mire the overall customer experience. Managing customer experience is managing disruption.

Millennials in the workplace are another disruptor. I thank them for the insights they bring to our business, and for the focused coverage and research their presence creates. They should dominate our imaginations as Baby Boomers and Generation X before – but we should resist classifying them with our prejudices, and rely on the data that the marketplace provides (as a target market) and their insights (as members of our marketing team).

Next week, Marketing EDGE will bestow its inaugural EDGE Awards in New York CityLester Wunderman, MediaMath, Wharton Customer Analytics Initiative and six “Rising Stars” will all be in the spotlight. The first three honorees are disruptors in their own right, while the six “Rising Stars” actually have “disruption” as a criterion for their recognition. Marketing in the age of disruption may scare, carry risks, spur failure – but survival is the payoff if you’re lucky, and true innovation if you’re really lucky. What choice do we have but to embrace disruption?

How We Get Generations Wrong

The idea of a generation isn’t actually meant to be a label. No one who studies the topic considers your generation to be what you are or expects all individuals in it to think or act the same. That’s not the point at all.

Thinking about Millennials a couple weeks ago got me deep into a sidetrack: What the heck is a generation, anyway?

The idea of a generation isn’t actually meant to be a label. No one who studies the topic considers your generation to be what you are or expects all individuals in it to think or act the same way. That’s not the point at all.

That’s why when you start talking about “Millennials” in a room that actually has some, the first thing you hear is “Hey, we’re not all the same!” They’re not alone, “Doesn’t feel like they’re part of a generation” is one of Gen X’s iconic traits.

So what is this idea that describes people even when they swear it doesn’t?

What Makes Your generation Unique?
How the generations think of themselves. (Circa. 2010)

Generations are really a shorthand way to think about the shared experiences different age groups have had, and the way those have influenced many in that group.

Some things are unique compared to the other generations: The Vietnam War and the draft for Baby Boomers, broken homes and latchkey kids in Gen X, or growing up with smartphones while graduating over-indebted and underemployed for Millennials.

Other experiences echo in different forms for each generation: The John F. Kennedy assassination, the Challenger disaster and 9/11 serve as similarly dark, childhood/teen traumas for each respective generation.

When computers and the Internet emerged, and what they meant on a personal level, was different for each generation too. For the Baby Boomers, computers were technical disruptors of their adult lives (though not necessarily unwelcome). For Gen X, they were the cutting edge tech as they entered the workforce, and a good handhold to climb into the workforce. For Millennials, they’ve been a constant feature since childhood, no more exceptional than TV or the refrigerator.

What if this generation's dad humor is just washed-up Internet memes?
This! … actually really worries me.

Regardless of the different shared experiences, though, some age-based traits are constant. Younger workers as a whole always seem lazy, disinterested in work, and distant from their elders. That’s not a generational trait, that’s just how young people in any age enter the workforce. Not every young person, but enough that elder generations notice and complain about it, so these adjectives get attached to every new generation.

New workers don’t necessarily understand how to get along in the work environment yet; that’s just what it means to be new and inexperienced. (Frankly,  I’m just shocked the people who say it about Millennials now don’t remember hearing it about their cohort when they were young.)

The thing to remember is this: A generation isn’t a label, a category or a demographic. It’s more like a type of behavioral targeting. It’s studying how people react to their lives, and praxis is figuring out what that means to your marketing. It’s real people, and the specific events they experienced. Don’t focus on who you think that makes them, just focus on what you know: What they’ve been through and how they’ve reacted to that.

Understanding that is the difference between creating ads that speak to your target market in a specific generation, and ads that blatantly pander and make them mock you.

Supremely Better: A Multi-Generational Workplace

Personally and professionally, I get a lift from counting among my colleagues Baby Boomers, Generation Xers and Millennials — and I definitely am more aware by encountering, engaging and collaborating with each, individually and collectively.

I’ve never enjoyed hanging out solely with people just of my age group.

Personally and professionally, I get a lift from counting among my colleagues Baby Boomers, Generation Xers and Millennials — and I definitely am more aware by encountering, engaging and collaborating with each, individually and collectively. And that’s just counting “age” as diversity. There are many other components of diversity: gender, race, religion, politics, geography, national origin, veteran status — but I’ll focus on age here.

Mentoring is increasingly a two-way street, and even better a hub-and-spoke. As seasoned marketing and communications professionals, we have a lot of experience to share. But better believe it, I learn every day from younger colleagues — and I appreciate every lesson I get. Likewise, there’s always someone with more experiences (or different experiences) to keep an open door to. Here, too, I sponge. Simply said, there’s very little to “grow” by surrounding yourself with people exactly like yourself.

Yes, there’s community in like-mindedness.  But even recognizing like-mindedness means continually challenging and exploring other points of view.

Here’s What I Learned in 2015….
• Student debt is burdensome: There’s no sense in comparing your experiences as a Boomer new graduate years ago to those entering the workforce today. Unless someone enjoys a full-tilt academic or athletic scholarship, chances are young adults are carrying a hefty amount of student debt.

Education inflation has far outstripped the cost of living — college costs today are a world away from what I experienced just three decades ago. As a result, very few grads can stand on their own at 21, even if they want to. Few starting salaries allow them to live on their own, while repaying debt. Families with grown children are staying together for longer, as an economic reality, at least financially so.

Is there a professional takeaway here? I’m not altogether sure how this affects risk-taking, or the timing to pursue advanced degrees, but the zeal to contribute in the workplace, and receive commensurate compensation, is perhaps heightened.

• You really don’t [have to] retire: On the other scale, woe to any business that sends senior execs packing prematurely. Some businesses might offer early retirement packages to move more expensive workers off payroll, or just lay folks off — but are they harnessing all that experience before they do so? Is there a knowledge sustainability plan? “Peak earning years” must translate to “peak productivity” — the dynamics of business no longer allow anyone to rest on his or her laurels and nominally contribute.

Alternatively, I’ve come across more and more firms who are “hiring back” would-be company retirees as contractors, and as project and long-term consultants. For the aging, many of whom have under-saved for retirement, this removes the shock of a suddenly missing paycheck and a perception of being no longer valued, enabling them to contribute to business growth while softening the financial blow. For business, where experience is a teacher, common mistakes of the under-experienced are avoided. The bell curve of post-peak earnings, and the idea of “retirement” are being redefined, out of necessity.

• Mentoring should be bi- or omni-directional: When a project team, or workplace environment, is cross-generational, there will be better outcomes. In marketing, where target audiences may involve one or more age (or other) demographics, it simply makes for a more informed strategy to have architects who share personal knowledge and experiences of the market. So older teaches younger, vice versa, with in-betweens, too. I know of agencies pitching new businesses who ensure such diversity is “built” into the campaign planning team. That’s smart.

Here’s to a healthful, prosperous New Year, at any age.