Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Understanding the Generations

Everett White wrote about this subject recently.

That led to a list by Kristina Frazier-Henry.

And here's a perspective written by Robert in New York on his Blog:

Bridging the 'Generation Gap'

Jack Benny once noted that, “age is strictly a case of mind over matter. If you don't mind, it doesn't matter.” And while the very basic human principles don't change, demographics and other circumstances do alter what consumers value and how consumers engage with – and remain loyal to – brands. And that should matter to you. As such, our reactions and responses to the marketplace should take them into account. Here’s a short anecdote that brings this matter to life.

One evening a grandson was talking to his grandfather. The grandson asked his grandfather what he thought about the recent political scandals, the war, cell phones and MP3 players, school shootings, computers, email, and social networking, and things in general.

The Grandfather replied, 'Well, let me think a minute. I was born before television, penicillin, polio shots, frozen foods, copying machines, contact lenses, Frisbees, and the pill. There were no credit cards, laser beams, or ballpoint pens. Man had not invented pantyhose, air conditioners, or dishwashers, and clothes were hung out to dry in the fresh air. Man hadn't yet walked on the moon.”

“In my day 'grass' was mowed, 'coke' was a drink, 'pot' was something your mother cooked in and 'rock music' was your grandmother's lullaby. 'Aids' were helpers in the Principal's office, 'chip' meant a piece of wood, 'hardware' was found in a hardware store and 'software' wasn't a word.”

“The term 'making out' referred to how you did on your school exam and your grandmother and I got married first, and then lived together. Having a ‘meaningful relationship’ meant getting along with your cousins. Until I was 25, I called every man older than me, 'Sir'. This was all before gay-rights, computer dating, daycare centers, and group therapy. Time-sharing meant time the family spent together in the evenings and weekends, not purchasing condos. We never heard of FM radios, tape decks, CDs, electric typewriters, or yogurt. And men didn’t wear earrings. If you saw anything with 'Made in Japan' on it, it was junk.”

“Pizza Hut, McDonald's, and instant coffee were unheard of. We had 5 & 10-cent stores where things actually sold for 5 and 10 cents. Ice-cream cones, phone calls, rides on a streetcar, and a Pepsi were all a nickel. Or if you wanted to ‘communicate’ you could spend the nickel on enough stamps to mail 1 letter and 2 postcards. You could buy a new Chevy Coupe for $600. . . but who could afford one? Too bad, because gas was 11 cents a gallon.”

See the picture of the old man at the start of this blog? We’re betting he or someone like him was who you had in your mind’s eye. That’s who you are going to see on the basis of your perspective and the background and experience you just heard described. If so, you are in for a shock!

The “grandfather” in this story is only fifty-nine years old, which is why it’s probably a good idea to have leading-indicator metrics someplace in your marketing and research toolbox. If you do that, you virtually guarantee being able to not only identify attitudes that that customers value, but also identify attributes and benefits make them feel valued. No matter what the state of technology at the time. And today, that really matters!

William James wrote “the greatest discovery of my generation is that a human being can alter his life by altering his attitudes of mind.” The same is true if you alter how you actually research and measure those attitudes.

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