No matter how old you are, you’re bound to have had a moment where age wasn’t in your favor. A reference you didn’t recognize, a word you didnât know- it happens. And when it happens with family or friends, it’s pretty easy to move on. But when age-based disconnects get between your brand and your audience, it’s a trickier beast. There’s much more at stake than improperly used slang: your brand risks irrelevance.
Age is much more than a number: It affects your mentality, knowledge and beliefs. So when youâre planning for a group outside your own age set, you need to really dig into that group’s thoughts and behaviors. Otherwise, you might develop products they donât want (even if they need them), ads they donât care about (even if theyâre slickly produced) and promotions they donât like (even if they involve big prizes). Here are a couple of examples to help you see just how much age matters:
Example 1: Behavior Letâs think about personal finance for a minute. Try to remember how you approached money when you were 16. Did you have the same beliefs and practices you do today? Iâd guess that the answer is a resounding âno!â When you were 16, you probably had much less money, poor financial literacy and less of a motivation to save your dollars. Quiz time: Should a bank speak to 16 year-olds like it speaks to 40 year-olds? Absolutely not.
Example 2: Perspective This time, think about what you eat. Do you have the same eating habits as your grandpa? I doubt it. He grew up in a different era that had different conceptions of what was âhealthyâ and what was ânormal.â Your own habits have been shaped by the place you were raised and whatever nutrition principles were floating around at the time. And now your quiz: Should a 50-something year-old executive plan snack products for 20-somethings without bothering to research her target? No way.
The problem of generational gaps isnât unique to marketing, of course. Think about college professors: on a daily basis, they have to relate complex topics to an audience that is distanced in age and expertise. Back in 1998, some professors at Beloit College who felt out of touch created the The Mindset List, a yearly publication about the experiences and beliefs of incoming freshmen. The listâs entries donât seem too monumental on their own; for example, an entry on this yearâs list says that incoming freshmen donât remember tan M&Ms. But as you scroll through the 75 entries, the sum of the listâs parts begins to resonate.Â You get a picture ofÂ the world these students were raised in and the sorts of experiences that have shaped their minds. Taken line by the line, the list provides a chuckle. But taken as a whole, the list helps you step out of your own frame of reference, and into the studentsâ.
Which is exactly what we try to do when we talk to consumers: We want to get inside their heads. We want to understand what shapes their lives and how they see the world around them. We want to know what feeds into their beliefs and how that dictates their behaviors. We root our work in consumer insight because itâs just so darn important to know where your audience is coming from. After all: Who wants their brandâs main attribute to be âout of touch?â
Felicia Baskin, Strategist