A one-size-fits-all approach is like using a sledge hammer on a gnat.

Labels sometimes stick too well

The human mind needs to be able to classify items in order to be able to make sense of them. So we identify everything we run across, slap labels on it, then stick it away in a memory bank, ready for recall at some point in the future.

Demographics in marketing are no different. We look at age, income, education, home-ownership, and credit history, then assign each person to different categories. It’s a series of (mostly) logical selections that we make in order to target our offers for better results.

But why do we continue to market generationally? Why do we market to The Greatest Generation, the Boomer, the Xers, GenY, Millennials, etc., as if being part of an extended range of birth years can point to a person’s unique character? Where’s the individuality in that?

All I have to do is compare myself to my brother to see that that strategy is a skewed way of looking at things. I love him, but we are polar opposites in looks, interests, and attitudes. After all, he’s a former early 70’s college hippie turned lawyer turned minister, while I’m a graphic designer. He’s conservative, I’m liberal. He’s Republican, I’m picky. The only thing we truly have in common, other than family genes, is that we belong to the same generation.

Which of course means that we get the same marketing pieces sent to us. Granted, that works for some things, but a one-size-fits-all approach is like using a sledge hammer on a gnat. It might do the job, but it is probably not the best tool to use.

And it only works for some media. Direct mail is read by older members, and trashed by younger members. We know that, so we use different media for different age groups.

So what happens when the media has evolved? Online is no longer just the realm of younger people. Boomers are on Facebook. Parents of Boomers are checking for email from their grandkids. Generational lines are getting blurred online. People aren’t defined by age, gender, social demographic or geography, and are likely to act like several generations at any given time.

In simpler words, online marketing needs to focus on interests instead of age. On individuals, instead of generations. And if it works online, you can be sure it will change other media as well.

So you might want to rethink those labels.

Kent Dicken

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