40 Is the New 30: Marketing to Blended Generations
Marketing based on age? The stereotypes don’t apply as much as they used to. I find some brands target me woefully wrong—especially when they base it on age—and I know I’m not alone.
I could see generations were starting to blend several years ago. My thoughts were supported by what we heard at Cannes Lions in 2019 as well as what I read in industry research and articles. Now the habits of Gen X, millennials, and Gen Z are even more blended, with technology, content consumption, and social forces being main drivers of the change. Here are a few examples:
According to recent Pew research, three in 10 Americans spend a significant amount of time online—and for people from 18 to 49, household income and education level were more important factors than age. (And with the pandemic, it seems like almost everyone is shopping online.)
People often flock to content on the same platforms. YouTube reigns for content consumption among all ages, even Gen Alpha (those born between 2010 and 2024). While TikTok is generally used by younger audiences, older influencers are joining the platform—as are older users.
People are having children at all different times of life. That means the friends you meet through your children could be in their 20s or their 60s, depending on when they chose to have kids.
You also always hear about millennials and Gen Z audiences requiring a brand to be real, to have a purpose—but isn’t that true for most of us? The brands who inspire me to think of a better future are the ones that make me want to follow and buy their products. Brands like Youth To The People and Nike can send the same message to people in their teens or middle age, and it will still resonate.
It’s really all about brands making human connections. Having preconceived notions about demographics can result in missed opportunities.
Take a campaign we did for Gemini Man as a case in point. A marketer might think that because Will Smith was in his early 50s, his audience would be limited to those in a similar age range. But the studio wanted to go beyond his core audience and create new Will Smith fans—and they could, because his appeal spans generations. So when Paramount asked us for campaign ideas, we came up with a TikTok challenge, with Will kicking it off. His content was fresh, real, and hugely popular. While the point of this campaign was to target a younger generation, his content would have been just as successful with his not-so-young fans, including older creators on TikTok.
Some of the best ideas are born out of understanding what people connect with—great content, great people, great brands—and unexpected approaches like using a platform used primarily for the young to bring the generations together. I’d say this is the future of marketing...but it’s already here.
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