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Live at CPA: Address differences between generations in your marketing

Generations are formed by economic, technological, and historical events that happen during formative years, and they create like-thinking cohorts. Awareness of the differences and similarities between them can inform how narrowly (or widely) you target with packaging design and messaging.


At the Contract Packagers Association Annual meeting in Tampa today, Deborh Finsburg, VP, Brand Strategies at E Group, laid out the case. Even though the human substrate doesn’t change much between adjacent generations, differences in the shared experiences alter the lens through which they view the world. She argues that smart marketers have to consider generational stratification in their approach to market.

Consider the linear flow of communicative methods, from the Silent Generation’s face-to-face conversation, to Gen X’s phone call, to the Millennial text. And consider a concurrent, similar payment flow from cash to check to Pay Pal to Apple Pay to Venmo.

“So that price to value relationship in exchange for goods and services is no longer tangible, it's only a perception,” Ginsburg says. “And it's one that we have to learn to understand in order to have control.”

If Marshall Mcluhan was right, and the medium really is the message, then there is bound to be a spectrum of ways people approach the market, and it should track nicely with the age continuum. 

Communicate to value tribes, not niches
“Eric Pierce heads up research for the Global Sustainability Summit for New Hope, and he talks about the fact that we don't really have customers anymore,” she says. “We have what we call value tribes.”

Value tribes are groups of people that have very specific convictions and values, manifested in different ways. Underneath, say, veganism, more general common beliefs and values around social responsibility, Earth stewardship, and animal husbandry exist that may be shared in less specific ways. This can even be true in ways that outwardly conflict, like farm-to-table that involves clean, wholistic slaughter.

“As marketers and branding people, or people that are bringing products to market, if you can tap into those shared beliefs, you can actually connect with a much broader group and get out of that niche-based communication,” Ginsburg says.

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