Minding the Gap: How In-Store Mobile Marketing is Reaching Across Generations
In 1923, Hungarian sociologist Karl Mannheim published an essay titled "The Problem of Generations" that claimed people were significantly influenced by their socio-historical environment, forming social generations that, in turn, became agents of change and gave rise to events that shaped future generations. As controversial as Mannheim's opinion may have been at the time, the notion is now widespread that generations, and the gaps between them, truly exist and impact the way businesses reach consumers.
As such, marketers have depended for years on character sketches or archetypes of various generations to try to better understand and effectively market to them. But what are these generations exactly?
Comprising 76 million consumers, baby boomers represent those born between the 1940s and 1960s, and are individuals who focus on hard work, individualism and social activism. Many are retired or soon will be. Born between the 1960s and 1980s, Generation X covers almost 65 million Americans and is an important target market. These individuals are at the peak of their earning and spending years. While they weren't born into the internet era, the majority use smartphones and regularly access social media.
According to the report "Across the Ages" by the National Retail Federation, there are more than 80 million millennials, those born between the 1980s and late 1990s. This generation has grown up dependent upon and familiar with technology, surpassing baby boomers as the largest working age group. Millennials have proven to be more educated, with more choices than any other generation that precedes them. The newest generation to marketers, Generation Z, is comprised of approximately 60 million consumers in their early 20s, who were born between the mid-1990s and now.
Thanks in part to the vast amount of recent changes in consumer technology and digital avenues available, many marketers are beginning to question the effectiveness of targeting generations solely based on common characteristics. According to a 2003 academic paper, "Cohort segmentation: An exploration of its validity," only 45 percent of the respondents actually align with their generation's characteristics. Therefore, it's become more clear that generational marketing pigeonholes and oversimplifies the differing age groups’ needs and wants.