Millennials. Baby Boomers. Gen X’ers.
Even as some read those words, they cringe. For various reasons, of course, but they cringe.
For the record, I am a Gen X’er. Born in the late 60’s, high school in the 80’s (yes, I had big hair), my children are millennials and whatever this next generation is called.
Sorry, not up on the current labels.
- (UPDATE: Pew Research Center just came out with the definitions for each generation. No name for the next gen, so now I don’t feel so bad.)
A few years back, I was big into social media and learning marketing. I followed new people on Twitter and participated in chats in the hopes of learning. Never be afraid to try something new.
While I did learn a few things, one important thing I learned is that some of this marketing talk out there is one-size-fits-all thinking, in disguise.
Typing and re-reading that sentence…that might not be accurate in what I am trying to describe. Let me try again with these catch-phrases:
Marketing to Millennials
Marketing to Hispanics
Marketing to African-Americans
Marketing to ____________.
Does that help?
Marketers are trying to grow business either for themselves or the brands they represent. I get it. Can’t be in business without making money, right?
If a brand has long made money through a certain demographic group, at times, growth becomes stagnant. Naturally, it makes business sense to try and branch out to new demos. Growth provides opportunity for more money.
Somewhere along the way, the marketing aspect has taken on a more personal level. Here is what I mean.
Awhile back I had a conversation with a “millennial” about their job-status. I jokingly referred to their “millennial” status in a very playful way. The response I got back was a terse (paraphrasing here), ‘Well if you Generation X’ers would hire us…’.
I was slightly taken aback. I was joking, smiling, laughing when I spoke, but it was plain to see I struck a nerve.
Knowing this person like I do, I knew there was something more to it than the “Generation X’er” frustration. I also realize that there is a bit of truth to what they were saying. It was a mindset.
This mindset is played out every single day on social media. Even in chats.
Think like a ___________
There is a degree of arrogance to this type of thinking. It’s as if “thinking” like this group will bring you what you desire. Heck, I’ve been guilty of this myself.
Years ago I adopted the phrase “Think Like A Fan”. It was geared to sports-social media and sports business folks who work in some level of marketing to help them connect with their audiences.
FWIW, I had never seen the phrase before. It was something that popped in my head at a moment and I said/shared it. I thought, well duh (to myself, not others), if you want to connect with fans, you have to think like them – what they want, what they respond to.
Since then, it has become a Twitter chat and various evolutions of the phrase by others. While it is still very much true, there are other layers to it. Think like a fan, to a degree, means all fans think the same.
Oh good gosh – that couldn’t be further from the truth.
Some fans are passionate, die-hards. Others are casual. Some fervently follow every little thing their team does from social posts, to rumored moves, to attending every game (home and away). Others check their phone for score updates and move on with their day.
Neither is the correct way to be a fan. Your fandom is your own. How you respond to a team’s move, social media post or advertisement is as unique as you. There is no one-size-fits-all to fan connection.
Just like there is no one-size-fits-all marketing to a demographic group.
Or one-size-fits-all thinking.
Each generation is unique. They are shaped by the events and experiences of their generation, as well as their parental, familial and friend relationships.
Within each generation are individuals. Individuals that don’t think, act, respond, live the same. A millennial from America isn’t necessarily going to think like someone of the same age in Cambodia, Venezuela, Poland or Mexico, are they?
No, they’re not.
Why do we gear our thoughts to one specific generation? Why do some elevate one above another? What purpose does it serve?
As a so-called Gen X’er, I know I don’t have all the answers. I’m willing to learn from those older and younger from me. Try to treat me with respect and no drama is all I ask. I, in turn, will try to do the same. I haven’t always felt that way, but today…that’s where I am at.
We can learn from each other’s generations if we have ears to hear, eyes to see and a heart willing and open to receive.
No matter our successes, we’re all trying to find our place in this world. We can do that if we can communicate with all generations.
Knees down, Prayers Up
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