Labels are Out!

Whether we’ve used the labels ourselves, or shared a side-eye glance when someone else has, we’re likely all familiar with the generational labels that exist in the world. You know the ones. The “Millennial self centeredness” or the “Gen Z independence” or “Gen X adaptability”, and the ever-so-cringy “OK Boomer”. Regarding marketing trends that we’re seeing in 2024, we’ve got news for you. Generational labels are out the door.

You see them all the time–generational labels assigned to age cohorts suggesting shared beliefs, behaviors and values. They are used in marketing and advertising strategies as well as in articles and research. They show up in seemingly everything, from cleaning products, to food advertising, and even in organizational marketing. If they are so prominent, then why are they a problem? Because the assigned characteristics are trivial, misleading and often lead to bigotry.

Age-bashing and generational finger-pointing negatively influence societal attitudes from healthcare to employment. And it goes both ways. It’s ugly for sure. But it’s also driven, in part, by the fact that current culture has been duped into thinking these labels have any real meaning.

They don’t.

We’re navigating a divided time in the US. Politics are polarizing, and people are stressed. Adding insults is not the way to bring people together. Marketing science and the diversification of human beings has taught us that it’s probably not a good idea to categorize large segments of the population under a single arbitrary label anymore; as if they are all the same and instantly ready for target marketing. After all, the differences between people within a certain age cohort can be vast.

Demographics are a foundational layer, a structured canvas, but they can’t be the sole tool. They’re factors to be considered, but do not make up the whole picture. Instead, dig deeper, add layers, add nuance, and build out sophisticated cohorts grounded in genuine behavior, interest and community. When we truly understand consumers, we can begin to command their attention.The importance of connecting through common interests is further evidenced in the increasing preference for niche community platforms like Reddit and Discord, over mass public platforms like Facebook and Instagram. All of these platforms serve a purpose, but from a marketing perspective, finding common themes is a better place to start.

As you plan out your marketing strategies for the months ahead, consider shifting your approach to the shared interests that make up an audience, rather than the shared birth-years. Small adjustments like that can start to challenge the status quo, and we can collectively be on our way to creating, and navigating, a kinder and more communicative world…regardless of our generation.

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