Marketing to Generations: What Can Miley Teach us About Segmentation?

She twerked and it worked. Miley Cyrus is being floated as the Time Person of the Year, has the most watched video on Vevo and is now what some call the Elvis of a new generation for the combination of gyration and outrage, no doubt. And while surely, for better or worse, she represents the face of her generation, many within her generation, were sad, appalled and let down by a “role model” (at least according to unscientific reviews on Twitter). Those emotions and her sales, I’m sure, were carried across generational lines. Which brings up an interesting point: how much do generations matter to brands anymore anyway? How much targeting should be layers deeper than that and at what weight does age bracket matter in the new multi-platform, multi-channel world?

I recently has a conversation with my nephew who bluntly posed, “what would I need cable for?” that got me thinking.  As a long time believer in comprehensive segmentation and as a guy who runs a company for omni-channel offer optimization based on a myriad of data points, I immediately went through what triggers, semantic and behavioral filters and such that would spit out a message that would get this kid to act. All this only to come back to the basic premise that marketers often forget: generations still matter, especially when it comes to how each consumes messaging.

While the comment from my nephew was a stark reminder of my age, I have to say he makes a great point: Gen Y and younger have a different approach to consuming media and more than any other generation, they are engaging with brands, and each other on a multitude of platforms. So, while I think of enjoying TV and movies relaxing in front of a big screen, he’s leaning in, texting friends, watching social conversations around a show, etc.  He is multi-tasking or “rapid fire mono tasking” or whatever we can rightly call a distracted youngster these days.

When deciding the persona segmentation, marketers approach generational factors with a healthy skepticism.  As they should. Generational lines are important but only to a point. Messaging should still be shaped by channel, timing, and other information at a brand’s disposal – like redemption preferences, zip code and user behaviors when applicable (Johnny always calls and asks for a discount on his monthly bill, offer him X, Mary always pays on time but always fills out dissatisfied surveys, offer her Y).

Now more than ever it’s a complicated process getting the right mix. And marketers now have to think about segmentation within a generation based on how media is consumed in addition to the rest. Within a generation, brands can segment based on purchase history, cart abandonment (data that marketers shouldn’t be abandoning themselves), and products it is looking to move and  while also factoring in how the message will be consumed within that segment. Text this group, Facebook target that, email those, direct mail these, use these colors with those folks, these images with these folks and so on. It’s enough to make a room full of old school marketers cry. The only saving grace is, the data sifting, message targeting, channel delivery mechanisms are finally in place to actually meet consumers where they are.

I leave you with this discussion on the Elvis  controversy from old time TV commentator, Drew Pearson who predicts “Elvis Presley’s star will fall as rapidly as it rose”.

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