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The Modern Marketer’s Next Headache – Preparing for Generational Marketing?

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Author: Mark Nardone, Chief Marketing Officer at PAN Communications, headshot
Mark NardoneChief Marketing Officer

Recently, I met with a new CMO of a large B2B analytics company. We were discussing the ways data can be “spliced”– and how the opportunities can be overwhelming for marketers. It made me think about today’s modern tech marketer and what they are faced with, daily. They are asked to synthesize and analyze mountains of customer data like never before, and demonstrate continuous impact on buyers at every stage of the pipeline – and then embrace the experience post-purchase.

The workforce will soon consist of four different generations of tech users and buyers: Baby Boomers, Gen X (Slackers), Gen Y (Millennials) and Gen Z (born in the 00’s). Considering this, a marketer, whether you’re focused on B2B or B2C (or B2B2C), will have to address each generation’s preferences when developing campaigns, while identifying specific goals for success.

Consider each segment and their content consumption habits:

Baby Boomers are flocking to Facebook as a place to stay in touch with peers, friends and family. When they engage with content, they want it to be informative and they enjoy reviews from experts. They want marketers to make it easy for them and are less likely to engage multiple sources for information—they still prefer trade magazines and more traditional approaches for information gathering.

Gen X, on the other hand, is the first generation to grow up with cable television (e.g. more than just the big three networks and PBS) as well as the PC. This segment also currently outspends more than any other generation and utilizes multiple social media sources every day. Marketers must appeal to Gen X in a way that overcomes the “slackers” generation known penchant for cynicism.

Millennials are the first native social media generation and are known for relying heavily on peer recommendations for buying choices. They want to engage and interact with brands in an authentic and meaningful way. They love to share content on social media and an endorsement from a “celebrity” is extremely valued.

Generation Z is the emerging generation that are defined as 20 years or younger and are the children of Gen X. Gen Z has a potential buying power equaling $44B, according to the agency Sparks and Honey. Gen Z grew up utilizing social media all the time to communicate with each other, and to create, not just share. They love personalized interactions with brands. They love tech.

Gen Z is just beginning to enter the workforce and will soon be empowered to make buying decisions. (I’m the father of two teenaged kids and still feel pressured, way too often, to purchase products or services for my kids based on their interests – does that mean I’m part of the Gen Z buying power?). This generation is characterized by their “quick” attention span and ability to navigate multiple “screens” simultaneously. They are the picture-is-worth-a-thousand words content generation. They are the GoPro advocates and love short video. Their attention span is seconds rather than minutes and will present one of the biggest challenges a modern marketer will face as they build out brand equity across this demographic.

Gen Z will be the first generation that, for its entire lifespan, will have lived in a multi-screen, multi-device, quick-info accessed world. They are naturally comfortable with technology like no generation before. Take for instance the use of augmented reality, virtual reality, 3D printing and drones—some advanced marketers are beginning to implement these technologies into their marketing mix—and Gen Z loves it.

And so that brings me back to my original point: a marketers’ life (tech, healthcare, ecommerce, etc.) is going to become increasingly complex. They’re already faced with the challenges of acquiring and developing brand advocates (referrers and endorsers). And take a look at this 2014 marketing study found that 97 percent of all tech users and buyers rely on peer recommendations to make purchasing decisions (that’s right social communities). The audience marketers have to reach increasingly make informed buying decisions based on the content to acquire online and through word of mouth. Yet generationally, individuals consume and engage content in dramatically different ways.

Not only will marketers be faced with the issues presented by the cascade of customer analytics, they will also have to incorporate new technologies into their approach more quickly, while designing brand content and engagement experiences that appeal to multiple generations. A marketers understanding of buyer personas will be increasingly important to success in a new multi-influenced world.

Take heart. Today’s marketers are making tremendous strides. They are integrating social media and other engagement technology along with brand-storytelling approaches across earned, owned and paid media like never before. They are becoming more effective in the way they implement integrated communications to reach their buying audiences and connecting with emotional experiences.

With so much to consider – here’s six steps marketers should take as they prepare for leveraging dynamic data to connect with their targeted audiences:

Be a student. A modern marketer needs to study their customers and understand why they buy products or services. Today’s modern marketer is more like a field biologist combined with social psychologist. Get out there and talk to your customers, observe their behavior by digging into analytics and patterns and realize what type of content they love to consume.

Alignment to experience with brand. To drive growth, you need to capture the customers’ experience with the brand. How can the brand capture the voice of the customer and have its story told? Why are they buying and what makes them coming back for more? What stage are they at in the pathway to purchase and how can you get them to engage with the brand now?

Be creative, take risks and tell the right story with “smart” content. Content is no longer about the written word. And content no longer exists in a vacuum. Instead its multi-faceted, it’s multi-channel, it’s both broad and specific at the same time. Study your customers and what kind of content they enjoy, share and transact with. There’s no doubt this will help you find the way.

Speeds important but quality and continuity are reality. The marketers’ “time to impress” brand story is shrinking—an eight-second video, for instance, may be all you have to capture the customers attention. But in this quest to impress in seconds, don’t forget it’s still the brand story that is at the heart of quality content. Delivered from your customers experience, executive’s passion or product’s ease of use. It boils down being in tune with how your content is “sticking” and never being ordinary.

Think about the journey not the race. Similarly, a brand story does not get told in one lane, in one race on one track. Instead it’s a journey that requires continuity and rhythm. Have a “long” strategy in place to connect with your customers with a short approach to engage – and win them over again and again.

Measure and adjust – don’t be afraid to change. Analytics, metrics and measurement are the vital statistics of the health of your brand, your story and your connection with the customer. Utilize them to understand your customer, their persona, their generation, their engagement with your brand and content. And then do it again and again and don’t be afraid to change if things are not working. Your customer’s expect this from you.

What’s your biggest challenge heading into 2016 around generational marketing? Are you prepared for the dynamics of engaging with such a wide-sampling of buyers? Let’s continue the conversation @markcnardone. What a time to be a marketer.

An image of PAN's Brand Experience Report on the Potentials and pitfalls of AI for marketers

In our annual Brand Experience Report, we asked marketers and customers how they are using and experiencing AI to better understand how the technology is changing that relationship.