The “OK, Boomer” meme has shown us that generational tribalism runs deep, and the digital ecosystem has magnified this dynamic by its very design. Social platforms encourage people to connect with, follow, and share content from like-minded peers. In doing so, they tend to amplify the “hottest takes,” and their reinforcement mechanisms create echo chambers that show users familiar content that they’ve already read and liked rather than presenting true counterpoints.
This ecosystem poses a challenge to brands. An association with a single tribe can risk alienation from others. At this point, it would be nearly impossible to disassociate avocados from Millennials, and indeed, studies show that Millennials are significantly more likely to buy avocados than any other generation. The AARP, on the other hand, is currently associated with Baby Boomers and the Silent Generation, but hopes to welcome other generations as they age.
This rising conflict between generational factions raises questions about where brands should dedicate their time and energy. Whose values should they speak to? How should their messages align? Fortunately, with a wealth of new data sources and digital delivery mechanisms, brands are finding new ways to segment their audiences, communicating to each in distinct ways.
Fortunately, with targeted personalized advertising, brands can disseminate multiple messages simultaneously using messaging that resonates with them. By sending tailored ads to select segments, a brand can reach people with different priorities. Brands can use the insights they glean through research about their consumers’ core values to develop personalized advertising and experiences that speak directly to the functional and emotional needs of discrete groups.
How does this work? As a brand’s creative team begins crafting campaigns and messaging to resonate with each group, they can use look-alike modeling to build audiences within marketing platforms like Data Management Platforms or directly within Google, Facebook, and others. These audiences span the full population and can be used to target each segment-specific campaign.
From there, marketers can deploy their measurement and optimization technologies to maximize the performance and efficacy of each campaign. This is a key tactic for engaging prospects and acquiring new customers. Marketers can also score their own internal CRM databases of existing customers, allowing them to target CRM and email campaigns, adjust their website and app visualizations based on predicted segment membership, and inform in-person communication strategies (phone, service, etc.).
This way, the brand can thrive across tribes rather than having to pick a single lane (defined historically by economic opportunity and capturability). Focusing solely on economic opportunity may prioritize Baby Boomers today (due to their overall buying potential), but risks sacrificing future brand opportunities as younger generations grow older and gain greater spending capacity.
Marketers always talk about “the right message to the right person at the right time.” This framework presumes that brands acknowledge the differences in people, and the messages they should hear along their paths to purchase. To understand these differences among consumers, brands can develop multi-segment, and even multi-micro-segment strategies, using personalization and ad targeting to deliver customized messages.
Here are some methods for using segmentation to build your personalized profiles:
Conduct a market segmentation study to understand (micro)segments, and where brand-detractors fall within each. Integrate these groups into marketing platforms and append external data for targeting and holistic profiling.
Craft engaging advertising, experiences, and programs that maximize customer acquisition, loyalty and lifetime value, while minimizing customer churn.
Deploy measurement solutions that analyze these strategies. Use optimization mechanisms to maximize short-term behaviors while reinforcing long-term equities among each of the (micro)segments.
For the sake of your budget, your core strategy, and your sanity, you still have to prioritize your customer segments. But as we move into the 2020s and into a deeper, more complex digital era, it’s important not to forget the opportunities that digital ad channels provide. In a digital world, you don’t have to limit your targeting to a couple of segments for demographic groups. You can reach segments and microsegments across generations.