Study: Generational Targeting Is No Longer The Path To Success

Smiling happy young adult friends arms around shoulder outdoors friendship and connection concept

A new report from Zenith has found that a mass personalisation approach to marketing may require a change in generational targeting strategy, telling us that Generation Z is Not the Next Big Thing.

Though targeting by age remains the accepted practice across many advertising categories, fundamental shifts in media consumption and trading, combined with significant changes in life stages and consumer behaviour, has led Zenith to believe that targeting by a traditional demographic approach is no longer effective when the goal is serving relevant advertising and personalisation of experiences at scale.

In Generation Z is Not the Next Big Thing, Zenith advocates rethinking targeting to take a ‘perennial’ approach.

The term was coined by marketing guru Gina Pell, and, embracing this, Zenith believes that marketers need to shift their focus from age in favour of mindset, behavioural change and disposable income.

Zenith argues in their report that targeting by age is no longer effective when many cultures around the world are seeing changes in the pattern of life events.

According to their findings, as creatures of habit, we are most receptive to new brands when experiencing a life change, and though historically, some of the most defining changes happened before the age of 35, longer lifespans and more varied life changes have led to strategies of targeting the young to become outdated.

As estimated by The Human Mortality Database in 2018, half the babies born in wealthier countries since 2000 may reach their 100th birthdays.

The sting of the modern economy also comes into play, with many young people struggling to find work and therefore not able to enjoy the same frivolity as past generations.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 16 to 19-year-olds will represent just 26 per cent of labour participation in 2024, compared to 52 per cent in 2000.

Equally, older generations are becoming ever more determined to enjoy life, embrace new things and have more money to spend.

The statistics on a variety of measures, including alcohol consumption and sexual intercourse, show that today’s young people are not the hedonistic disruptors of previous generations.

Rather than trendsetters, they are more conformists trying to make the most within the system.

Generation Z

Zenith Australia CEO Nickie Scriven said of the findings: “The key trends identified in the report is reflective of what’s occurring in Australia.

“What we see is that behaviour is now less aligned to age and demographics.

“Life has become less predictable, with a greater diversity of life journeys now possible and acceptable.

“We’re also seeing spending power shift to older generations, while disruptive behaviour is no longer the domain of the young.

“The Zenith ROI+ process is built with the consumer at the heart, and compels marketers to target their activity to audience behaviour and attitudes rather than broad demographic segments.

“It’s our belief that growth is best driven out of a deep understanding of the drivers of consumer behaviour which can exist across age boundaries.

“This philosophy becomes even more important when we consider the increasing fragmentation of the media and the explosion of consumer choice in the media landscape”.

Zenith global head of strategy Ben Lukawski added: “We are seeing that some of the most effective marketing approaches, while labelled as appealing to a specific generation, are actually engaging like-minded people of all generations.

Rethinking targeting is going to be critical for marketers who want to serve relevant advertising and embrace personalisation at scale”.


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