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Driving Growth Through Cross-Generational Branding

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By Denise DeSimone, C-Leveled Labels are what we use to recognize who and what things are, from our canned goods at the grocery store, to ourselves and the people we may meet or market to. It’s human nature to assign labels to individuals, but when it comes to branding and marketing, this can be an approach that’s overly generalized, especially when companies are strategizing based on generational stereotypes alone. We all know how it is; baby boomers are workaholics and traditionalists, Generation X is skeptical and self-reliant, millennials are entitled and tech-savvy (and accused of killing every industry from the chain restaurant to canned tuna). Currently, there is a major focus on marketing to millennials in every aspect of their lives, from consumer goods to company talent acquisition and retention efforts. Not only can this approach cut out entire generations that are still active and full of buying power and workforce strength, but these overarching stereotypes remove the nuance from who consumers actually are, reducing potential customers to a caricature of their generation and ignoring the influence of all generations. When you are rebranding your business, a cross-generational approach turns this on its head. Cross-generational branding ensures that your business is truly aimed toward the people it can best serve, regardless of generational stereotypes. Developing a Customer Profile Without Generational Stereotypes Age-based demographics are not going anywhere. They’re one of the main differentiators marketers typically use when profiling their existing and ideal consumers. But in driving growth through cross-generational branding, we urge a different approach of looking at attitudes and commonalities outside of age ranges. When considering a rebrand, a business needs to understand its current customers first. It should audit what is working to bring it forward, and determine what needs to change to continue retaining those customers while attracting more of their ideal market. Avoid the temptation to segment this audit with age or generation demographics. It is often more effective to look at things like buying behavior, brand involvement, and buying power. Often you will find that people have more in common if you look at personality traits and attitudes versus their age range alone. Deloitte, for example, finds that most consumers can be divided into aspirationalists, responsible go-getters, pragmatists, or discerning achievers. Understanding where your current customers and your ideal market lie helps you decide how to rebrand to suit their communication preferences, spending habits, and buying power. This also helps ensure that your rebranding is suited to your actual consumers, versus a generalization. Multi-Generational Marketing and Rebranding The odds are good that it is not just millennials or baby boomers or Gen-Xers that make up your ideal customer base. A multi-generational or cross-generational approach ensures that your company has appeal to all. It can also ensure your company has longevity as generations continue to shift through the years, developing more buying power or ceding way to a younger population. If your business is branded based on a clichéd definition of a generation, you run a big risk of ignoring consumers who could drive your business to new heights of success. It also puts you in the position of being reactive —which will leave you constantly attempting to shape and reshape your business to follow the needs of an ever-changing demographic cohort. It’s clear that a cross-generational marketing and branding strategy is vital, but what does that actually look like in practice? It means rebranding to be less distinct in terms of who you are targeting age-wise, and more focused on the personalities and attitudes outlined above. For example, if you know a large part of your customer base prefers online shopping, then it does not matter if they are 80, 20, or somewhere in between. What matters is that a large part of your customer base prefers online shopping, so that’s what you need to provide to them. Your goal then in rebranding should include a focus on how your company offers the convenience of online shopping through your web copy, your advertising campaigns, and the messaging you send to clients. If you find your customer base is more focused on getting a good deal than the when and where of shopping, forget about highlighting your e-commerce platforms and instead consider how you can offer discounts and promotions that demonstrate the value of your business to both your online-shopping demographic and those who prefer to check out your products in person. Offering coupon codes to both brick-and-mortar and online shoppers is a simple way to appeal to the commonality — wanting to stretch a dollar — versus putting too much emphasis on generational stereotypes of smartphone-toting millennials and baby boomers who don’t understand how to use mobile apps. The truth is, there are millennials who use flip phones while combing through shelves in person, and baby boomers who can online shop with more skill than your average 20-year-old. In this example, it is the shopping habits you are trying to capture, versus the way the shopping gets done. A multi-generational rebranding and marketing strategy keeps your business secure well into the future, as new generations come onto the scene and others fade away. Keep a focus on personalities, attitudes, and behaviors above all, and you will not get mired in the stereotypes that leave other companies struggling.