March 1998


Fancy ads and inflated claims won't sway either group

A book by J. Walker Smith and Ann Clurman called Rocking the Ages, The Yankelovich Report on Generational Marketing (Harper Business, a division of Harper Collins Publishers) explains how to market to three age groups: the Matures, the Boomers and Generation X. Last month we covered the authors' spin on Boomers. This month we look at Matures and Gen X.

Born between 1909 and 1945, these folks were shaped by The Great Depression and World War II. Economic turmoil, material deprivation and commitment to survival instilled in them core values such as hard work, self-sacrifice, teamwork and conformity in reaching common goals.

Today, the Matures can be encouraged to spend on a treat such as jewelry by emphasizing it's a reward for a lifetime of hard work and self-sacrifice. Many Matures are quite wealthy as a result of early saving and careful spending, a fact noted in last year's best-seller The Millionaire Next Door (Longstreet Press) by Thomas Stanley and William Danko.

Like Stanley and Danko, the Yankelovich authors say Matures are generous toward their children and grandchildren. So jewelry gifts for the younger generation or pieces bought for themselves with heirloom value in mind may well be the way to get these self-sacrificers to buy. But no matter who they buy for, Matures want high quality at the lowest possible price. These folks will never be careless spenders.

Generation X
Gen X'ers, born after 1964, grew up with more uncertainty than Baby Boomers. Divorced parents, AIDS and crack cocaine all became major problems and have made them skeptical about the future. They're more cautious in their spending and less trusting of advertising. This generation despises being slotted into a specific "market group."

What does attract them are products and communications that refer to many cultural time periods. This is the "Nick at Night" generation - they watched Mary Tyler Moore toss her hat in the air 20 years after her show debuted and wore '70s styles in ironic homage.

Jewelry combining references to past design styles, such as antique-looking wedding rings, do well with this generation. But such pieces aren't reproductions - they contain aspects of modern style that make for an eclectic mix. This penchant for mixed styling, say the authors, comes from this generation's core value - a great respect for diversity - and its surfing of the Internet, which brings many design and cultural influences before their eyes.

Communications to Gen X consumers should be irreverent, savvy and visual. Be honest; these are the most practiced viewers of ads ever born, and they abhor the hard-sell or getting snowed. Yet they're avid consumers. Their skepticism does cause them to check out products, most of the time via the Internet. So your on-line site should be a mix of product information and great art. (And remember you'll increasingly find a lot of Boomers there too).

Copyright © 1998 by Bond Communications.


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