I was recently at a restaurant surrounded by tables of 60+ Boomers. Among them were enough iPhones to stock an Apple Store, and all were fiddling with the phones like a group of giddy millennials. It is clear that the Boomer generation is fully engrossed in web, social, and mobile media. A line has been crossed, and the stats back it up. Time to kill this myth and misperception once and for all. It was likely true five to seven years ago, but now it is over.
In contrast, every conversation I have with clients, prospective clients, and marketers is around how to reach millennials, like they are some new super-race of humans who have characteristics unlike anyone who has come before them. Yet another myth, as they have the same behaviors, hopes and dreams as people have had in their 20s and 30s for generations. My early-30s marketing director is in the same place I was at that age in terms of career/family concerns and motivations. The difference? I had the primitive web in 1995; she has the world in her iPhone that never leaves her side. Same age, same life stage behaviors.
I was born on the dividing line between the Boomer and Gen X cohorts. I also spend my days with a team of millennial digital markers and get to see this not-so-unique species up close. From my vantage point, the differences among Boomers, Gen X and Millennials are few and far between, albeit with some subtle changes in technology and social platform usage.
We are in the midst of significant transformation in terms of culture, demographics, and technology. The United States is getting more diverse and connected by the minute. The speed at which attitudes change is striking compared to the past, and it is a direct result of our digital connectedness. This year will likely be remembered as the year that same sex marriage became federal law, hot on the heels of transgender awareness going mainstream via Caitlin Jenner. The Confederate flag came down in South Carolina after a horrible tragedy that spurred an Indian-American female Republican governor to echo the calls that it was time to change. These events are amplified as more Americans access the web via smartphone than the desktop and near complete saturation of social media networks.
What does this mean for marketers? It’s time to stop worrying about your millennial strategy while ignoring Boomers. Let’s move past age-based demographics that don’t hold much weight in today’s America. Some suggestions:
1. Focus on life stages and changes. Going to college, getting a new job, buying a house, starting a family, having a sick parent, etc., are the drivers of purchasing products and services, no matter who or when they happen. With digital media becoming dominant, these life changes will send people to the web with questions and problems to solve, often first to Google, then to your website, where you need to have quality compelling content to answer the questions they may have.
2. Target consumers by common interests and communities. People don’t age out of interests like they used to, and you can find communities of like-minded people all over the web and social media. U2 just played here in Boston, and the crowd was packed full of Boomers. Reaching them through the large-print version of Reader’s Digest would not have been successful.
3. Build a network of advocates and influencers. Consumers of all types depend on peer reviews and recommendations. In this era, people are media. It has never been more important to get consumers to become online advocates and to turn them into influencers.
Old ways and myths are falling hard these days. Stay out of the pile of old magazines and newspapers, and make sure your marketing is keeping up with the rapid changes in consumer behavior.