Villing & Company

Sometimes conventional marketing wisdom isn’t so wise.

On more than one occasion I have questioned the wisdom of subscribing to conventional wisdom.  I guess that’s the burden of being the resident contrarian.  But consider these statements, and then decide for yourself if they are true or false:

  • Millennials are more likely to consume video content through YouTube than TV.
  • Marketing to Baby Boomers is largely ineffective because their brand habits are already established.
  • Gen Xers are cynical and disengaged.Younger consumers are consummate TV binge-watchers.
  • Social media usage is far less common among older consumers because they are not digital natives like younger generations.
  • Millennials tend to be job hoppers with little loyalty to employers.

In reality, all of these statements are either false or substantially over-stated.  For example, four times more millennials watch TV than YouTube.  Three out of four consumers engage in binge watching (viewing at least three episodes in one sitting) and there is little disparity by age group. Young adults today are no more likely to job hop than boomers did at the same age 35 years ago.

Well, you get the idea.

As marketers (and consumers) we have an obligation to question conventional wisdom.  There’s no doubt every generation is influenced by events during their lifetime. For the Greatest Generation, the defining events were the Great Depression and World War II.  For boomers, it was Vietnam and the sexual revolution.  Sometimes these iconic events seem almost contradictory.  For example, Gen Xers were influenced by the euphoria of dismantling the Berlin Wall and the cynicism engendered by the War in Iraq. Millennials were also conflicted by the tragic events of 9/11 and the hopefulness of the election of America’s first black president.

While these seminal events shape lives and attitudes, generations also often defy expectations.  To quote an article I recently read, “Nuances exist within all age groups.”  Pigeon-holing demographic segments is not only unfair to that group, I believe it poses the danger of missed opportunity for marketers.  In 2009, I wrote an article that challenged the conventional wisdom that “18-34 is the most coveted marketing demographic.”  That article received a lot of attention because boomers were clearly breaking expectations that they were too “set in their ways” to try new brands.  We know now that “55 is the new 35” and boomers have the marketing clout to disrupt stereotypes.

Times change but human nature does not. It’s too easy to paint a specific demographic with a broad brush and miss the nuances within the art of marketing.

Filed Under: marketing

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