Joe Anderson is the product marketing manager at a multinational company expanding globally in the cloud market. Since targeting is a key component of all aspects of marketing, Joe needs to understand different buyer personas, determine who the company should be marketing to, and build cross-channel messaging to connect with customers on a personal basis. She begins researching buyer personas.
During a business meeting a few months later, Joe meets her colleague Frank Schneider. Frank is a business transformational consultantresponsible for driving innovations for customers using new technological breakthroughs. Frank mentions that he recently conducted a digital innovation workshop for an e-commerce retail client. Frank is usinga design-thinking approach to understand procurement methods, measure buyer readiness to purchase online, build platform designs, and understand potential digital markets.
Frank is also responsible for sharing feedback with product development teams to help bring in more digital designs that align with the business strategy.
Since millennials are more hands-on with latest digital technologies, will targeting millennials help in creating accurate buyer personas, understanding market readiness to buy online, changing to a digital mindset in product development, and ensuring buyer-driven sales processes?
Joe explains the background of generation theory to Frank.
The world population is approximately 7.6 billion people, and to say that anything is common among people requires some classification. Treating each classification as one big uniform group, these commonalities can include likes, dislikes, quirks, background, history, and more. People in each group are not the same, but they share some common experiences that are valuable to note. These common experiences offer clues about how we might prefer to communicate, view challenges or opportunities from customer and employee perspectives, and much more.
Becoming interested in the topic, Frank asks, “Which generation do I belong to?” Joe begins explaining the traditional way of classifying generations:
- The traditionalists (1900-1945)
- Respect authority, save money, work hard, committed & loyal
- Baby boomers (1946-1964)
- Competitive, goal centric, resourceful, materialistic
- Generation-X (1965-1980)
- Well educated, adept with technology, flexible, values work/life balance
- Millennials (1981-2000)
- Connected & collaborative, gratification & recognition, tech-savvy, work-life integration
- Generation-Z (2000 onwards)
- Digital natives, entrepreneurial, more accepting, health conscious
Joe then asks Frank, “Does this age-based generation categorization still hold true in the current digitally disrupted market? Are the traits that categorize millennials unique to them alone?”
Frank realizes that the traditional generation theory can give him some direction to solve his business problem. He asks Joe, “Are there any new metrics to classify generations that can give direction to considering candidates for business requirements and developing buyer personas?”
Here’s the thing: these traits aren’t unique to millennials and never have been. Joe explains, “By 2020, we will have five traditional generations in the workplace. The digital revolution has disrupted the generation categorization, which was defined on a strict age basis. You don’t have to be born between 1980 and 2000 to live on your iPhone and embrace social media. The concept of millennials is too limiting. Businesses have been encouraged to target only this narrow demographic, but they are missing the bigger picture.”
Generation-C: Our new consumers
Joe continues by telling a story about Bob. Bob is a 55-year-old finance consultant living in London who enjoys jogging, cooking, and listening to music. He spends most of his time on his tablet device where he keeps track of the financial market, reads emails, follows cooking channels on YouTube, and downloads music. He has WiFi at home that gives him 100 Mbps and a good data package from his cellular service provider to use outside of his home.
Bob has a son and a daughter at college in different cities. He keeps in touch virtually with voice, text, video, and more. Bob uses online transactions to transfer money to his kids, pay utility bills, and because of his busy schedule, buy groceries, household items, and clothes. Bob also interacts with most of his clients and other family members virtually. Joe asks Frank, “Who is Bob?”
“Bob is Generation-C”, Joe explains. “The ‘C’ in Gen-C can refer to everything from collaboration and community to computerized and content − but it all boils down to ‘connected.’ Bob is a connected customer. The connected customer is not defined by age, socioeconomic status, ethnicity, or geography.”
Frank thanks Joe for sharing the information about Gen-C. Frank asks, “I understand the concept of Gen-C, but how can we identify if a person belongs to Gen-C or not? How can we implement this concept to solve our business problems?”
Seeing Frank’s keenness to use this concept as one of the parameters to help solve his business problem, Joe quickly grabs her laptop to share some traits about Gen-C.
Joe and Frank both brainstorm and decide to develop a questionnaire that can help classify their customers into different digital generations. This categorization can be used for creating buyer personas and clients’ buyers’ personas, assessing buyer readiness to go digital, and analyzing potential digital markets and digital literacy levels among their consumers. It can also be used by other business domains such as HR to hire candidates who can bring digital innovations to product development. Frank creates a questionnaire and circulates it to his client’s consumers, then categorizes consumers into four categories: Gen-C, Gen-C+, Gen-C-, and non-Gen-C.
Who are non-Gen-C? Can innovations convert non-Gen-C into Gen-C?
From the questionnaire responses, Frank notices that there are consumers who don’t belong to Gen-C (non-Gen-C). During Frank’s research on non-Gen-C, he came across a Pew Research study about senior adults who are non-Gen-C.
Despite the seeming ubiquity of Internet use, there are still many for whom access to the Internet and online social networking remains inequitable, including young people with disabilities. They demand intensive, personalized support to go online, which drains a lot of time and energy from the people around them, hence restricting them to non-Gen-C.
He summarizes the challenges of reaching non-Gen-C into three dimensions: physical, mental, and emotional.
Apart from using these concepts in his design-thinking workshop for his retail e-commerce client, Frank also shares information about non-Gen-C with Joe so she can consider this consumer category when creating buyer personas and developing apps with product development teams. This creates avenues where people who are a part of non-Gen-C are given platforms to bring them into the Gen-C fold. These avenues must be diverse to suit every buyer’s persona.
No doubt the task might sound a bit tricky and exhausting, but it is only when we inculcate the sense of inclusiveness among us that we succeed as humans in thought and action for the principles of
“वसुधैव कु टुम्बकम”(a Sanskrit word meaning the world is one family.)
For more on marketing to people, not groups, see “Direct-to-Consumer: The Power Of Personalized Content.”