Often times you hear people calling certain generations by their by their names such as Boomer, Gen X, Gen Y (also known as Millennials), and Gen Z. According to Harvard Business Review (www.hbr.org), these names often referred to “each generation’s expectations, behaviors, attitudes, and values.”
Often, when presenting marketing trends, a lot of marketers will refer back to this segmentation scheme. It a successful style, but unfortunately it’s also complete nonsense for many reasons.
According to HBR, “a segmentation scheme must meet two simple criteria: (1) It must explain the variance in the behavior of interest better than other available variables, and (2) consumers within segments should be more homogenous than those across segments.”
Stop and ask these questions the next time you hear anyone using the generational segmentation scheme.
Are they using these generation labels to provide additional insights about these potential consumers, or are they just using it to describe an age group?
For the most part, when people are discussing a certain age group, they often refer to their generation’s label. It hardly ever could be used to presume something about the generation because there would have to be something about their characteristics that remains constant throughout their whole life.
For example, older people or retirees, would most likely be interested in things such as ways to save money, travel, health care plans/options, etc. While younger people would probably be more interested in things along the lines of jobs, education, learning how to better budget themselves, and so on. For the most part, nothing in that department has changed throughout the years.
Another important question to ask is, instead of defining a generation by 20 years – wouldn’t it be better to define them by 5 or 10 years?
This is an important question because it’s hard to group consumers into generational brackets – you lose a lot of information in the process.
Times have changed – it’s no longer the 20th century, which means demographic segmentation is outdated.
We live in a world that’s full of behavioral data that we can record and keep track of. We live in a marketing world where targeting individual consumers is easy!
Also, now that we can target behaviors of consumers… it makes it much easier to know how to approach said consumers. You can’t group together age groups as each person is an individual.
HBR asked, “are consumers really more homogenous within generations than across them?”
What that means is… it’s easy to make assumptions about Millennials because they’re all still only at a certain age group. Will their values that everyone ties to them, such as civic responsibility, still be there down the line in 20+ years?
There is little evidence to prove their case. Therefore it’s not a good thing to do mass generalization like that for anything – especially when it comes to marketing to specific “generations”.
The final question you should consider asking is, does generation segmentation schemes actually help marketers predict within generations what their brand loyalty will be, or even their preference for products?
That’s an easy answer, and it’s no.
This is why we have behavioral targeting – it’s easier to to predict a consumer’s behavior based off of their past behavior.
We have the technology to not only achieve this, but track any information easily.