What Is the Generational Theory, and How Do Marketers Use It?

21 February 2023
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In affiliate marketing, as in any other branch of marketing, segmentation plays a huge role. This is done using a variety of criteria and metrics. When it comes to competing for a client’s attention, it is more important than ever to promote the product to those who are interested in it. In addition to product interest and other popular traits, there is one that is not always given much importance — it is age.

Agree, you don’t often think about how customers behave depending on the generation to which they belong. Although many marketers have long used the generational theory as a tool for analysing customer preferences and actions. Let’s look at this approach from a general angle.

Generational theory basics

Generational theory is the idea that there are generations has cycles that replace one another approximately every 15–25 years. The authors of this idea are historian William Strauss and writer Neil Howe. The essence of the theory lies in the fact that people born in a certain period of time are influenced by socio-cultural factors, important world events, and a particular stage of technological and economic development at that time. Because of this, they have similar values, principles, behaviours and even thinking patterns.

From a marketing perspective, generational theory can explain how clients’ values are shaped and what patterns of consumer behaviour they are inclined towards. This helps brands to segment customers and choose the right marketing strategy for the generation of their target audience.

What Is the Generational Theory, and How Do Marketers Use It?

Which generations to segment by?

The generational scale is usually distinguished from the mid-19th century to the present day. We will only talk about those currently solvent target audiences: these are generations X, Y, and Z.

X — Xers

Generation X are people born between 1963 and 1984. They are pragmatic and value their time. Generation X, unlike their parents, is less optimistic about a happy future, preoccupied with the present. They have experienced the peak of commodity shortages, so material values are important for them. They often take out loans to get what they want in the here and now. Likewise, they value comfort and are prepared to pay for extras.

Values

Professionalism, independence, freedom of choice, responsibility, personal communication, equality, and frugality.

What Is the Generational Theory, and How Do Marketers Use It?

Y — Millennials

Generation Y was born between 1985 and 2002. They are the most active and solvent public today. They do not place a high value on income, they are willing to take risks, to be entrepreneurs. Also, they pay a lot of attention to taking care of themselves and the world around them. Furthermore, millennials are well-versed in all available modern technologies, they do not part with their smartphone. This is the first generation that is deeply involved in social media, but they are still part of a time before the spread of the Internet.

Values

Healthy lifestyle, concern for the environment, improving society, feeling useful, public success, partnership, and positivity.

What Is the Generational Theory, and How Do Marketers Use It?

Z — Homelanders

Generation Z is the youngest generation, just entering solvent age. This generation was born between 2003 and is still being born today. Despite such a young age, they are the main focus of today’s marketers, because they set the trends. The main characteristic of homelanders is their complete immersion in the online world. They live with a smartphone in their hands, they understand gadgets and technology like no one else, and they feel like a fish in water on the Internet. Homelanders attach great importance to their appearance, fighting for ultra-popular values. Moreover, they are influenced by fashion bloggers and youth authorities. Passionate about popular science, art, and creativity.

Values

Money and wealth, freedom, comfort and security, science and art, home and family, friends, gender equality, care for nature and animals, privacy, and freedom of expression.

What Is the Generational Theory, and How Do Marketers Use It?

General attitudes towards shopping and money

In this block, we will look at the differences between the three generations in their buying habits and attitudes toward personal finances. We simply listed relevant traits that will help you adjust your targeting to the right generation of users.

X — Xers

  • They remember crisis times well, which means that they are thrifty and tend to save for a rainy day.What Is the Generational Theory, and How Do Marketers Use It? 
  • Will choose places where they can buy everything at once, saving time.
  • Try new things easily, celebrate prestige, and are willing to buy spontaneously. 
  • Making their purchasing decisions reasonably quickly, but still paying attention to detail. They want to know what they are buying, so they research the contents carefully.
  • Can be persuaded to buy through nostalgia and the need for comfort. These shoppers are loyal to their favourite brands, so if you can convince them, they will return repeatedly.
  • What really attracts them is the choice. Generation X grew up in a time when everyone wore the same clothes, so now they want to stand out and be unique.
  • Buy medication to support their organism and relieve their symptoms, so they are the most susceptible to the nutra traffic.
  • The most receptive to advertising. They are eager to try new products and trust brands.

How to win their favour

  1. The uniqueness of the product or service
  2. Quality and reliability
  3. Ability to choose
  4. Convenience

Y — Millennials

  • Don’t take brand history into account, they rely on the experiences of those who have already used the product, rather than on the manufacturers’ promises.
  • Suffer from FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out). Marketers may use it in slogans and campaigns like “Don’t miss out on the last day of promotion”.What Is the Generational Theory, and How Do Marketers Use It? 
  • Take a long time to choose, study reviews and photos, check the shop’s reputation, compare prices, and keep an eye out for discounts. 
  • At the same time, they shop on the go: on their way to work, at a meeting, or at home.
  • Have a clear understanding of how much a particular product should cost. It’s essential for brands to keep their pricing policies smart and provide the value-added services that generation Y values so much (balanced loyalty programs or bespoke offers).

How to get generation Y interested

  1. Build relationships, create community
  2. Interest, give impressions
  3. Use emotional, short messages
  4. Show product innovation and new perspectives
  5. Offer to solve a problem in an unusual way
  6. Provide real customer testimonials
  7. Offer coupons, discounts, loyalty programs, sweepstakes, and giveaways on social media
  8. Use images of ordinary people in advertising.

Z — Homelanders

  • Mostly underage, but already make 40% of all purchases. 
  • Influence the spending of their family and the older generations. 
  • Money is an opportunity, an embodiment of ideas, and the key to freedom. 
  • Wants to be stylish, cool, and modern. They value products and services, not for their brand or quality, but for the opportunities, they present to the consumer. 
  • Buys a product in three ways:
    • if their friends like it
    • if they see advertising for it frequently
    • if it is made especially for themWhat Is the Generational Theory, and How Do Marketers Use It?
  • Think less about health than other generations, and are addicted to bad habits. They like spending money on entertainment, gadgets, clothes, and shoes. Consequently, they are the main target audience of e-commerce and iGaming providers. 

How to get Zetas’ attention

  1. Conduct surveys
  2. Involve bloggers in publicity
  3. Show social responsibility
  4. Act creatively
  5. Use visual content
  6. Constantly coming up with something new.

Final thoughts

Target audiences are identified in order to build communications intelligently and use budgets wisely. When all the basic buying habits are on the surface, you need to dig deeper into the battle for users’ attention. Generational theory is a great way to do this, and it will tell you the nuances of how people of different ages relate to money and shopping. This understanding can be used in a variety of ways, from choosing the right promotion channel to using unique elements in creatives. 

Target audience analysis gives a business an understanding of what consumers want from a product, and what problems they have. Based on this information, a unique selling proposition is created. It is this advantage that will help to outperform competitors and attract more traffic.

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