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Targeting Audiences in Advertising Means Understanding –“What are they thinking?”


Recently, I attended a conference for non-profit organizations and was fortunate enough to hear a lecture given by Lonnie Stockwell, CPA, on “Managing in a Changing World – Understanding Today’s Generations.” At first, I wondered, what a CPA could possibly tell me about generations. But as he began his presentation, I quickly realized I was in for a treat.

We as marketers, whether referring to the creative side of things or the analytical side of media buying, should remain mindful, if not diligent, in identifying the target audience for each campaign before we begin concepting and planning. But in hearing the lecture, it became even more obvious to me that not only do we need to identify this target audience, we must understand them and the way they think and process everything on a daily basis.

What seems like only a few years ago, the average lifespan was 48. Now it is 85. That means that we currently have four generations we need to speak to instead of two. Those generations are as follows: The Matures (born 1909-1945), The Boomers (born 1946-1964), The Xers (born 1965-1980) and the Millennials (born 1981-2000). Communication is critical in marketing your ideas, but each generation has differences that could make or break a message or placement of that message. Below is a brief description of each generation and the traits attributed to them:

The Matures are 68 years and older and have strong beliefs in duty, sacrifice, ethics and family. They are motivated by money, public recognition, responsibility and a desire to lead. They don’t like computers, consider respect paramount and firmly believe in person-to-person contact.

The Boomers range from 45-67 years old and live to work. They have TV values and believe in personal communication, as well as efficiency and teamwork and have generated some of the greatest leaders of all time. This is the divorce generation. The generation that popularized “casual dress.” This generation is motivated by more money, public and peer recognition, promotion and control.

The Gen X group is 29-44 years old and they work to live. They value a network of friends, freedom and flexibility on the job and at home, efficiency and directness. Their expectations are immediate and instantaneous and they have the “Just Do It” attitude. This generation is motivated by interesting work, continuous education, time off, bonuses/stock options and mentoring.

The Millennials are up to 29 years old and encompass the Internet Generation. They hunger for life, have debt, are goal oriented, civic minded and lead very structured lives. This generation is easily bored, moves at a fast pace, has little or no fear and is very optimistic. They are motivated by the belief it is possible to change the world, honesty and integrity, frequent and instantaneous feedback and have little or no use for recognition.

Each of these generations has similarities and differences that should be taken into consideration when creating an effective marketing message. There are differing trigger points to each and establishing what is valued most by the target enables the messaging to be more effective in achieving the goal. That mindset pertains to the selection in media buying as well. Know your audience — not just their age — and if they are male or female. Really know them — their values, their motivations, their likes and dislikes and in return the messaging and the placement will generate a whole new dimension.