Debunking Generational Misconceptions
In 2008, CRM magazine ran a report on consumer attitudes and buying behaviors of the largest U.S. generations ("Generational Spending," November 2008). Four years later, we published a similar report ("Talkin' 'Bout My Generation," February 2012). So it seems fitting, after another four years, to once again investigate generational differences with this month's feature package, "The Cohort Report." And it's a good thing we did, because people's behaviors change over time, which can challenge long-standing views often held by marketers. We've identified some of these changes in this special report.
For example, Millennials for years had the unfortunate reputation of being fiercely disloyal. The ease at which a product or service could be replaced on the Internet undoubtedly nurtured this behavior. But you might be surprised to know that their disloyalty toward brands has not translated to their careers, with many choosing to stay at their first job longer than their predecessors. The reasons for this and other Millennial behaviors are explained in our feature story "Generation Y: In Control, Content, and Community-Minded," by Associate Editor Oren Smilansky.
Perhaps an even bigger miscue is the woefully inappropriate term often used to describe Generation X. I've never liked the smug and condescending moniker "Slacker Generation." Call a Gen Xer a "slacker" and you might find yourself wanting to rename this cohort the "Smacker Generation." Many in this group, who are struggling to support their children and their aging parents, are hardly slacking off. As a Gen Xer, I can tell you we resent the slightest suggestion that we are. To better understand the changing attitudes and behaviors of this generation, read our feature story "Gen X Experiences Middle Age," by Assistant Editor Sam Del Rowe.
When it comes to Baby Boomers, the biggest change has little to do with the behaviors and attitudes of this group and more to do with marketers' perceptions of it. Yes, many of the oldest members of this generation have already retired, so their spending habits have likely changed. Nevertheless, this generation still holds the highest proportions of income and wealth, as you'll discover in our feature story "The Boomer Generation: Booming or Busting?" by Senior News Editor Leonard Klie. Yet marketers are largely ignoring them, spending less than 5 percent of their advertising budgets on this still vibrant customer base.
Marketers must pay better attention to this cohort. And when they do, they need to be careful about their messaging. Boomers don't want to be perceived as old or elders. Many feel and behave more youthful than they are, so appealing to this group can be tricky. Read Leonard's feature for tips on how to connect with this young-minded set of customers.
If there's an overarching takeaway from this month's generational report, it's this: People change, so always be ready and willing to challenge preconceived notions about them. If you aren't, you could end up aggravating your intended audience.
While on the topic of change, allow me to formally welcome the newest member to our editorial team: Assistant Editor Sam Del Rowe. Sam, who recently received his B.A. in English from New York University, covers marketing and business intelligence for CRM magazine. He can be reached at email@example.com.