I had the unpleasant experience recently in a situation, where one particular company harped ad nauseam about targeting the “millennials” in an expensive campaign, almost as if the rest of the generations are either irrelevant or non-existent. But the reality is that the millennials “Gen Y” make up only part of the consumer generation, and not more, or less important, than others.
The mainstream media is both a victim and a culprit of this problem. Marketers and communicators, and human capital experts like us, keep hearing the droning from the media about the millennials, as if suddenly the world has gone through a thermonuclear war and everyone has been wiped out except the fortunate few – millennials.
But wise and smart marketers know that there are specific needs of every age group, just as there are specific needs and desires for gender, culture, location, and so on. Marketing is not a single pill that promises to deliver the panacea to every conceivable need and desire. Every marketing campaign has to be nuanced.
Just recently, a colleague noticed that there are more Gen Z people who are “hanging out” with their parents (probably Gen X), then previous generations. This is a great thing, as families have begun to grow closer together due to the worsening global economy, and there are more and more instances of younger people living with their parents (including the millennials). Incomes are declining while costs are escalating, and governments generally are clueless when it comes to cost of living containment. They are also wanting stable jobs with steady incomes, just like their parents (Gen X), unlike the Gen Y (millennials) who favor the so-called “gig economy”.
I vaguely recalled reading that the Gen Z population tend to place higher regard to advice from parents and experts, rather than relying on advertising or celebrities. This is an interesting anecdotal situation where suddenly, marketers have to think about melding campaigns that will seamlessly reach out to the multiple generations (parents and children, and perhaps even grandparents).
Increasingly, the younger generation is again taking to prudence and thrift when it comes to expenditure, mimicking the spending patterns of the “babyboomer” and earlier generations when times were bad. At the same time, the younger generation is also more impatient, and more likely to install ad blocking software on their devices, compared to earlier generations, especially since the younger (Gen Z especially) are mobile-only or mobile-centric, and are digital natives since young.
What does it mean for marketers and communicators?
1) Short and sweet.
Gone are the days of laborious copywriting and scripts. Today, people are busy, stressed, and have no mind or leisure to listen or read. So any copy, articulated through on-screen or on-paper copy, or vocals, or role-plays, or even games, has to be bone-dry short and sweet to the core in a second. Marketers need to partner with copywriters who know how to condense a tome down to a single line and make it connect and engage. Those are the experts and gurus to keep.
There is no other way. Desktop targeting is dead. Focus all your primary content efforts on mobile, which means that your content has to be bandwidth-friendly, succinct, entertaining (i.e. fun and humorous), and has engagement outcomes that would entice your consumers to make decisions or face options. The younger generation favors advertising that allows them to make choices or to be engaged.
Nobody reads long copy or thick tomes these days (except for the eclectic few like me). Most people watch short-form video content, especially if it is marketing-related. In fact, the Gen Z will likely only watch up to 10 seconds of video advertising compared to earlier generations, and so your video has to reach this particular generation and still make sense for everyone else. Attention span is only getting shorter, so make your message count, and make it thought-provoking and entertaining. It is not about how much you spend, but how much you mind-meld with your consumers.
4) Elders and Experts.
While I am not entirely dismissing the notion of using celebrities, we know for a fact that celebrity-branding is a dicey business, especially when certain celebrities face personal challenges or public furore over certain things, and brands who used them have to suddenly divorce the relationship in a manner that makes both parties look sad. There is increasing research to show that the Gen Z actually listens to the advice of their elders (e.g. parents) and real experts much more than celebrities or advertising campaigns. So there is a great opportunity to reach out to multiple generations in one fell sweep, tapping on the increasing bond between generations. Marketers should therefore find ways to tap into the psyche of the elders and experts (usually Gen X or older), and invariably and indirectly, reach out also to their children (the Gen Z).
5) Classic advertising.
The classics are returning. The Gen Z are visiting movie theaters just as much as they love music. Billboards and outdoor advertising is once again getting some degree of acceptance especially since the younger generation commute through public transport and will notice such outdoor campaigns more than those who drive. As a smart marketer, we will not ignore the power of outdoor advertising, or the use of classic broadcast channels such as TV and radio, which still reach out to multiple generations (yes, including Gen Z). While many agencies go solely digital, and thereafter facing hurdles, a wise marketer will find holistic ways to reach out to as many people as possible, using a myriad of channels, whether digital or “analog”.
Marketers should never be seduced by flashy promises of going solely digital, or become tied to expensive large-scale media buys that practically suck a big chunk out of your hard-earned revenue. It all boils down to what is practically and optimally needed to get the job done. A surgeon will not use a hacksaw to remove a tumor, but a small sharp surgical knife.
Don’t be generation-specific marketer. The marketing channel does not matter as much as the sole purpose we should always remember – reaching consumers and making LASTING CUSTOMERS out of them.
Dr Seamus Phan is the Head of Content and CTO at McGallen & Bolden. He is an expert in branding, marketing, communication, leadership training, crisis management, and entrepreneurship. This article may appear concurrently on his blog. Connect on LinkedIn. ©1984-2018 Seamus Phan et al. All rights reserved.