OK, Boomer : Why Generational Thinking is Killing Smart Marketing

“Ok, Boomer”

You’re in one of two camps (perhaps three) when you hear that phrase:

  • Camp 1: Blissfully unaware of what it means
  • Camp 2: Either offended or not, or using the phrase as a way to disparage something antiquated from days of yore
  • Camp 3: Aware of what it means, and aware its a symptom of lazy thinking

If you’re in camp 1, Ok, boomer is an intergenerational meme that’s been rumbling around for much of 2019. It’s commonly presumed to be an insult from a younger generation to the older. PewDiePie endorses this meme. If you don’t know who PDP is, or what ‘meme’ means, then you know … “OK, Boomer”

It’s telling as its a topic that’s been around forever, the old people don’t understand ‘the kids’, whether it’s rock and roll in the 50s, mods and rockers in the 1960s, rave culture in the late 80s and 90s right up to VSCO girls … in fact it must have been there since caveman days. It’s a universal theme and its wrong.

Generational thinking is a pointless tired trope that marketers use every single day and really gets us nowhere. Still using the target audience of “Millenial Parents”? “Ok, Boomer”

The reason marketers use generational thinking is twofold:

  1. It’s really really easy, it looks ‘insightful’ when written on powerpoint and its something most senior leaders can understand. In short, it’s an easy sell.
  2. It’s so broad as to be meaningless, so it can be used to hide shortcomings in ‘the plan’.
  • The product didn’t sell? it was those flighty Millenials who prefer experience over physical things.
  • No-one watched the brand spot? Well you know … Millennials are drawn to brands with purpose, our brand values aren’t purposeful enough.
  • No-one showed up to your event? Millennials are time poor and strapped for cash, they probably spent too much on avocado toast and couldn’t afford to attend.

Seriously, stop it. Your plan failed.

So what’s the answer?

  1. Stop thinking about audiences as easily divisible buckets of people, that all act and think roughly the same.
  2. In fact, stop thinking about “audiences” altogether. Understand the digital DNA of your core customer, and truly understand their passions and motivations.
  3. Stop thinking that the key indicator of their behaviour is age, in the same way, that social class used to be a defining feature.
  4. Accept that you probably don’t really understand the end-user of your product in the depth you think you do. Put yourself in their shoes. Be customer-centric, don’t just say you are.
  5. Create a feedback loop that feeds customer-centric thinking back into the organisation that will meaningfully impact internal decisions, and becomes the must-have data point rather than a “nice to have”

The revolution has been long since televised, and organisations unable to adapt are already crumbling.

Don’t be the last one on the deck of the sinking ship … Ok, Boomer?

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