These days, many people, especially those involved in marketing and advertising, are familiar with generational theory. Marketers, experts in targeted ads, and other advertising and sales professionals have conducted a thorough analysis of generations X, Y and Z and draw up action plans suiting the requirements, needs and interests of each of them.
However, not everyone can be clearly assigned to one particular generation. There are those who were born during the transition time when one generation ends and another begins. So how should we deal with these “border people”?
Generational theory was developed by William Strauss and Neil Howe. It describes recurring generational cycles in US history.
Strauss and Howe first set out the theory in 1991 in their jointly published book, Generations, which retells American history as a series of biographies from different generations beginning in 1584. The book helped popularise the idea that people in a particular age cohort tend to share a particular set of beliefs, attitudes, values, and behaviors, as they have grown up in the same historical setting.
In The Fourth Turning (1997) the authors further develop their theory and describe a four-part generational cycle showing repetitive patterns of behavior in US history. This theory has gained popularity all over the world and begun to be used outside the American context.
Strauss and Hove have identified many generations, describing their development. Modern marketers are interested in the following ones:
- Generation X (1961-1981)
- Generation Y – millennials (1982-2004)
- Generation Z – zoomers (2004 – present).
Marketers who use generational theory for more convenient and simpler segmentation suppose that each generation has its own values, preferences and behaviors, which means that communication with each generation should be different. Emotional rapport and reasoning should be established using different means depending on the generation being dealt with.
The Transition Zone
At first glance, it seems that generational theory fits perfectly into the world of marketing, making it easier for marketers and other professionals to work with their audience. You just need to determine which generation a person belongs to and, by pushing on the right buttons, direct them to a purchase.
Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. There are people who can’t be assigned to a particular generation. Although, by year of birth, they may belong to one generation, in fact they may have more in common with another as they were born in the ‘transition zone’ between them. Such people are characterised by the values of both generations. Interacting with them is more difficult, but all the more interesting.
Unfortunately there is no name for people who were born at the junction of generations. So, let’s call them “border people”.
Methods of communication with “border people”, and ways of presenting content should be chosen carefully, taking into account their behavioral characteristics.
For example, if you need to attract the attention of people who were born at the junction between millennials and zoomers, you need to remember this:
- It’s necessary to provide information in small blocks. Despite their closeness to millennials, the zoomers have an aversion to having too much information about one topic. Their propensity to getting distracted is well attested. SMS with attached visuals are most effective for these “border people”.
- Place a double emphasis on both practical and emotional benefits. Because “border people” have the traits of both millennials (and these are impressions), and zoomers (practicality).
- Don’t forget the importance of having a personalised approach to advertising messages. Valuing the unique, personal touch is a trait of these “border people”. They share the values of two generations, and therefore they don’t look like anyone else. “Border people” don’t trust other people’s experience. They prefer to draw their own conclusions.
You can work with any audience. To develop effective communication, you need to study people, communicate with them, understand their behavior well, and only then make an advertising campaign that will be appreciated and effective on your target audience.
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