VP, Director of Marketing Strategy & Business Development
Talkin' Bout My Generation
As brand marketers, one of our more sophisticated tasks involves dividing big populations into smaller groups so we can better understand our customers—and ensure that we’re speaking their language as often and as effectively as possible. We do this with multicultural marketing because we know that using imagery and language grounded in specific cultural traditions is a must in the total market. We do the same when we segment by age group in what we call generational marketing.
Generational marketing has been guiding brand articulation for decades—from the Silents (1929–1942, nuclear families, fax machines) to the Boomers (1943–1963, helicopter parents, personal computers) to the Gen-Xers (1964–1976, latchkey children, mobile phones)—but recently all the attention has been focused on the pesky Millennials (1977–1996, boomerang kids, the Internet). Right now, late-wave Millennials are college-age. Most of them have entered or are about to enter the workforce, so marketers are doing everything they can to gain their loyalty—and, along with it, access to some rather sizeable wallets.
At this point, Millennials have been thoroughly poked, prodded, and picked apart by brand marketers—so we thought it’d be fun to shift attention to the generation to come. No one can seem to agree yet on what it should be called—Post, Plural, Homeland, Gen Z, Gen S(creen), Gen 9/11, Re-Gen?—but there’s a lot of anticipation building around what its members will be like and how they’ll shop.
Does your brand have what it takes to captivate the next wave of consumers? Here’s a more detailed look at four of the biggest factors that will drive the purchasing patterns of the TBD generation.
The events of 9/11, the Great Recession, and the increasing number of weather disasters linked to global warming will have profound effects on the upcoming generation of consumers. They’ll have a lot in common with the Silents, who came of age in the shadow of the Great Depression and World War II. All signs point to a risk-averse, conservative approach to financial matters and an unflappable dedication to improving the environment. Naturally, they’ll inherit some of their Millennial predecessors’ bravado—because of proximity more than preference—but we’ll see a strong movement away from large credit-card purchases and high debt and towards saving for expensive indulgences, also known as good, old-fashioned frugality. The brands they’ll value most will accommodate their desire to play it safe.
Transcending ethnic and religious differences is the Millennials’ biggest claim to fame. What will distinguish post-Millennials will be a near-total break from what it means to not be diverse. In other words, cultural pluralism becomes not something to pat themselves on the back for—but rather a plain-and-simple reality. Contact with inequality based on race, gender, or religious or sexual orientation will come almost exclusively from their history books, and their children will be born into a majority-minority America.
Traditional notions of ownership have been taking heavy fire for some time, so it’s a sure bet that companies offering unlimited access to Cloud-based services will absorb more and more cultural consumables in the post Millennial marketplace. As with diversity—where discrimination becomes more stupefying than offensive—the next generation won’t necessarily shun ownership, they just won’t have a need for it. Legal battles over digital rights management (DRM) will most likely remain unresolved, with content creators and providers facing off against unrelenting advances in technology—and an entire generation that’s hardwired to “own” every piece of music ever recorded for $9.99 a month. It’ll still be the Wild West—for product and service providers as much as for artists—but the higher stakes will only make the necessary evolutions in brand marketing that much more remarkable.
This is where we start to see a pattern arising. To say that the next generation will be “always on” is essentially the same as saying they’ll be accepting of cultural differences and opposed to ownership. These things are already true about Millennials; their successors just turn the volume all the way up. More than “always on,” they’re “only on.” Ubiquitous sharing, nonstop connectivity, and total lack of privacy rule the day. Those who do make the effort to “tune out” will still be on camera everywhere they go—even in modestly populated areas. The brands these consumers will respect most will be right there by their side, at all times, in for the long haul—fully accessible, uncompromisingly transparent, only on.
For more about demographics and market segmenting, check out our recent article on the total market. And as always, don’t hesitate to reach out to us by phone or email—or on social media—for information on how Medallion Retail can help your brand win the future.