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A lot of fuss is made about the complexity of digital advertising, thanks in large part to the alphabet soup that is the tech ecosystem supporting the whole business. But even advertisers who can see past all of that are confronted with another layer of intricacy: Multi-general advertising.

For the first time in history, we have six distinct generations of consumers, as defined by Pew Research: GIs (born 1901-1926), Matures/Silents (born 1927- 1945), Baby Boomers (born 1946-1964), Gen X (born 1965 – 1980), Gen Y/Millennials (born 1981 – 2000) and Gen Z/Boomlets (born after 2000).

Each group, according to a March 2014 research report by Pew, has distinct attitudes toward work, religion, politics, role of government, economic outlook and, of course, consumerism. For digital marketers, a key challenge is crafting campaigns that resonate with each generation. Here’s where the fun begins.

It’s no secret that to create truly relevant ads, marketers need insight into consumer tastes and preferences; insight that requires data. Mintel, a market research group, just released a report on marketing to Millennials exploring cross-generational attitudes on sharing data with marketers. A key finding: When it comes to disclosure, we see a great divide in the generations.

Millennials are quite open to sharing their data – 60% said they’re willing to provide details of their personal preferences and habits to marketers. And of those Millennials who say they wouldn’t share their data, a full 30% will disclose it in exchange for a coupon or other offer. That compares to just 13% of Boomers who will share information with a brand.

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But Millennials aren’t altruistic about their data. According to NYU Marketing Professor Anindya Ghose, these consumers expect something in return. “The younger generations accept that they’ll be bombarded with ads, and they know that brands collect data on them. But their expectation is this: If you’re going to collect my data, please put it to good use. Tell me what kind of products I should buy, what restaurants I should go to, and which app I should use.” In other words, Millennials share because they crave relevancy, and to a lesser extent, rewards.

The type of information consumers are willing to share also has a generational slant. For instance, Mintel data shows that Millennials are far more willing to share their cell phone numbers and social media profiles than Boomers (30% vs. 27%), while Boomers are nearly 3x more likely to share their mailing addresses (27% vs. 10%).

Is the desire for ad relevancy the sole motivation for younger people? Or are there other issues at play? According to Professor Ghose, it comes down to how they’re raised. “The younger generations were raised in environments where photos and videos of them were widely shared. They’re accustomed to sharing.”

PewResearch on Social Trends supports Professor Ghose’s findings. The study writes: “Millennials are also distinctive in how they place themselves at the center of self-created digital networks. Fully 55% have posted a “selfie” on a social media site; no other generation is nearly as inclined to do this. Indeed, in the new Pew Research survey, only about six-in-ten Boomers and about a third of Silents say they know what a “selfie” is.”

Another significant distinction of Millennials – particularly Gen Z – is the extent to which they’re plugged in. Bruce Tulgan, author of Managing Generation X, spends a lot of time interviewing Millennials, and describes Gen Z as first generation to grow up in a completely plugged-in world. “Gen Zers have never known a world in which one could not be in conversation with anyone anywhere any time, and they have an even lower tolerance than Gen Yers for being digitally cut off.”

The Marketing Opportunity

The Millennial’s constant connection via mobile devices and social media, combined with their willingness to share information on their preferences, spell great opportunities for marketers who want to building meaningful – and lifelong – relationships with them. And those who do will be richly rewarded. “They are the future business leaders,” explains Professor Ghose.

Millennials already wield tremendous economic power. After all, there are 80 million of them, which makes them the largest generation in North American history. By 2020, one out of every three adults on the continent will be a Millennial. Collectively, they’ll spend $170 billion each year; over the course of lifetimes they’ll top $10 trillion.

Remember when Baby Boomers were the dominant influencers on consumer cultural? Not any more. Today there are one million more Millennials than boomers, and in a few short years, they’ll outspend them.
What does that mean for the future digital advertising? We can expect data-driven personalization to be the norm, with consumers willing to opt into campaigns in exchange for highly relevant products, offers, and price points. It will be an age of mass customization in advertising.

Plomion-Ben_Chango

Ben Plomion is the VP of Marketing at Chango. Prior to that he was at GE Capital, where he established the digital media practice.

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by Brandon Gutman
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Brandon is an expert connector and seasoned business development professional. As Principal of Brand Approved, he's led the advisory to become the bridge between brand marketers and best of breed service providers that are reshaping the industry.

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