The Generational Divide: The Business of Content Marketing across Generations
Contrary to what some of you might believe, age is much more than just a number. The era we grow up in do have a sizable effect on how we approach life in general. The kind of music, films and books we consume, the way we speak, the kind of technology we interact with, our political views and even the norms we live by can be different compared to people several decades older and younger than us. I know words like Generation X, Millennial and Generation Z might seem like random buzzwords but they do carry implications on how we interact with members of these generations.
Given the differences between those generations, it would make sense that things that would seem appealing to one generation might not appeal to another and this simple fact means that in the case of content marketing, there is no one-size-fits-all approach that would work with every generation. Depending on their target segments, marketers and businesses should take a different approach with their content strategy, even if they’re trying to market a single product and/or service.
Digging into the generational divide
There was a joke I found online about this generational divide about how an adult is showing a kid a floppy disk and the kid responded with something along the lines of how it’s cool that the adult 3D printed the save icon. This is quite notable because I know quite a lot of adults that have no idea that 3D printer has existed for quite some time and I also know quite a number of kids that have no idea that the save icon was modeled around the distinctive shape of a floppy disk. It was merely a joke but it does illustrate the kind of generational divide that our society is facing thanks to technological advancements in the past two decade.
In the United States alone, the post-millennial generation is already on track to be the most diverse, best-educated generation yet and I daresay that this is probably true everywhere, not just in the United States. It’s true that the younger generation is spending more time with their eyes glued to the screen but if my behavior is any indication, that just means they’re consuming even more information than any of the previous generation. As a result, they’re more aware on what’s going on around them compared to previous generations.
Take for example the case of Greta Thunberg, the 15-year-old climate activist that initiated a strike in front of the Swedish parliament demanding that the government take more radical steps to combat climate change. Compare this with a 2014 poll in the United States that examines this generational divide when it comes to climate change and you get an idea on how profound this age gap is. Gen X, Millennial and Gen Z are all unique and understanding how they approach life should form the foundation for your marketing strategy.
The rebellious nature of Gen X
Gen X, those born between 1965 and 1980, is the generation that grew up with Nirvana and John Hughes films. They’re the last generation that came of age without the specter of internet looming over their heads but have since grown accustomed to the internet’s constant presence in our lives. As such, they lie in the in-between between traditional retail and e-commerce. They don’t actually mind making the trip to physical stores but they’ve more or less embraced the comfort of having everything delivered to their doors.
If you want to appeal to this generation, Facebook remains the preferred option as younger users depart the platform for Instagram and Snapchat as older users claim Facebook their home. E-mail marketing is also a good idea as they were around when e-mails were our primary means of communication over the internet. Another point of interest is that Gen X is also noted for their entrepreneurial tendencies and for being financially responsible, angles you might want to consider when trying to appeal to Gen X.
Millennials and their delayed adulthood
I am 28-years-old and I can comfortably say here that I have zero interest in starting a family in the foreseeable future. Millennials, those born between the mid-80s and mid-90s, are commonly described as the generation that do away with what society defines as the conventional rite of passage into adulthood such as marriages, children and owning their own house. Millennials are considerably less conservative and are perfectly happy with bucking traditions, including conventional marketing.
If you’re trying to appeal to this generation, Facebook isn’t a good idea. Snapchat and Instagram is where this generation are active but even then, you’re going to have to try thinking outside the box as they’re not receptive to conventional marketing tactics. Being innovative, authentic and honest are all a plus if you’re trying to appeal to this generation as they’re more trusting of their peers than businesses, hence the rise in influencer marketing in the past few years.
The unknown quantity of Gen Z
There’s still quite a bit we don’t know about this generation, defined as those who are born in the new millennium. What we know is that this is the first generation that grew up with the full might of the internet above them and as such, is much more comfortable with social media than even millennials. Recent trends have shown an indication that they’re more prone to short-form media consumption, as with TikTok and chat fiction apps, where stories are told not through paragraphs but as messages inside a chat platform. They’ve also shown an indication towards more absurd and quirky humor which is also prevalent in millennials but Gen Zs seems to have taken it further.