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Zero One: Marketing Myths About Generations

The Holy Grail for digital marketers is to deliver the right message to the right person at the right time – but what if they’re doing it all wrong?

A new report from Yes Lifecycle Marketing suggests marketers are still making wrong assumptions about generations – centennials, millennials, Gen Xers and baby boomers – that lead to wrong messages going to the wrong people over the wrong channels.

“Most marketers think they already know what different groups within their audience want and expect,” says the Yes Lifecycle Marketing report. “But often, they rely on stereotypes about consumer segments, which might overgeneralize and lead them astray.”

Last fall, Yes Lifecycle Marketing surveyed 300 marketers about personalizing messages to customers in different generations. Then Yes Lifecycle Marketing cross-referenced the results with results from an early survey of 1,000 consumers.

For the most part, things didn’t match up.

Time and again, marketers showed they have a poor grasp of the behaviors of different generations.  Are young centennials the most price-conscious generation? Are older baby boomers the least price-conscious? Most marketers would answer “yes” to both questions – and they’d be wrong.

Related: Zero One: CMO Tinkers with ABM, and Sales Spike

Here are three myths:

In the price-conscious question, Yes Lifecycle Marketing found that centennials are more likely than other generations to value quality over price. Fifty-seven percent of them said quality is the most influential factor in their loyalty to brands.

On the other end of the spectrum, 62 percent of baby boomers said price drives loyalty to brands.

Another marketing myth is that young people love online shopping and don’t care to venture to physical stores. That’s just wrong, according to the report. “The truth is younger consumers still value a good brick-and-mortar experience,” Yes Lifecycle Marketing says.

Finally, conventional wisdom says millennials eschew email, while Gen Xers cling to email like baby boomers to a telephone. But Yes Lifecycle Marketing found that “millennials, by far, find email more valuable than any other generation does.” (Millennials also tend to be more loyal to brands than any other generation.)

To be fair, marketers did get it right when they said millennials, despite valuing email, and centennials see social media as the most influential channel. “Half of millennials and 42 percent of centennials find social media valuable in researching a purchase, compared to a 30 percent average across all age groups,” Yes Lifecycle Marketing says.

When marketers make the right assumptions about their customers, marketing efforts become much more effective.

By knowing that millennials value email and loyalty, for example, marketers can tailor loyalty programs to them. Special offers and rewards points – the digital equivalent of VIP treatment – should be delivered via email.

“Starbucks and Uber often use email to highlight the relationship between their brand and consumers and offer discounts as a thank you to their loyal followers,” Yes Lifecycle Marketing says. “The age of a consumer significantly influences the way he or she will engage with a brand.”

Tom Kaneshige writes the Zero One blog covering digital transformation, AI, marketing tech and the Internet of Things for line-of-business executives. He is based in Silicon Valley. You can reach him at [email protected].

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