Thursday, February 23, 2012

TALK TO ME! This week Bob discusses which marketers do their best to reach Boomers, Gen X and Gen Y.

The amount of online research and blogs about marketing to Boomers, Gen X and Gen Y is overwhelming. Yet, some marketers seem to understand how to talk the generational talk, and others just don't. While I'm not an expert on generational marketing, my business is marketing, so I've thought about, and read a lot about generational marketing. Here's my take on who does it well.

Boomers want to be "Forever Young"
If you're talking to Boomers your message should be ageless. I think Viagra and Cialis get the message. Their ads always use youthful-looking, energetic people who seem to be enjoying life. Another good example is Apple. They do a good job with their advertising. It's ageless. It's about a lifestyle and a state of mind. Apple’s advertising speaks to Boomers --not down to them, or up to them, but directly to them.

Gen X wants it straight - no hype
My observation of the Gen X crowd, and from what I know of my family who are Gen X’ers, is they tend to research a lot while they're shopping online. They read reviews and visit more opinion sites than Boomers. From what I see, Gen X’ers are turned off by ad hype, overstatement and they keep a constant lookout for hypocrisy and self-importance. That's why advertisers who use self-mockery appeal to them.  In my opinion, web sites like Amazon and Zappos lead the pack for online marketing to Gen X. Both sites meet their needs for thoughtfulness about spending money and ease of access to what they're searching for.

If you're talking to Gen X, I suggest using social media as part of your marketing strategy. Marketing people I've talked with suggest a couple of tactics: Ramp up your presence on Yelp and other opinion web sites, and also use keyword search engine advertising.

Gen Y loves blogging and bloggers
The new mommy bloggers are Gen Y. (One of my Gen Y colleagues told me The Parents Network mentioned that 68 percent of all births are to Gen Y moms!)  I'm sure that every PR and interactive agency wants to reach the mommy bloggers. Gen Y is all about listening to "influencers", and the most influential people for this generation are bloggers. (Marketers can find Gen Y bloggers on two networks: Brazen Careerist and 20 Something Bloggers.)

If you're talking to Gen Y, I'd also suggest spending a good portion of your ad budget on mobile. Gen Y never leaves home without a cell phone. According to Ad Age, “One-quarter of Facebook’s 400 million users access the site through mobile devices and this set is twice as active than non-mobile users.” As geo-gaming apps like Foursquare and Gowalla take off, I expect we'll see more opportunities to advertise to Gen Y on-the-go. As for who markets well to Gen Y? That's what I'd like you to tell me! Given the fact that Gen Y is strongly attached to mobile apps and bloggers, are marketers doing a good job reaching them now?

As marketers, it's up to us to try to stay on track with the lightening speed of advancement. Read blogs. Download apps. Keep on talking to people of different generations and find out what advertising they respond to. Hire young people and know what makes them tick. If not, you're risking oblivion for your products and services.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Of Icons and Idols - This week Bob shows some love for a couple of people who helped guide his business career.

After a nice Valentine dinner with my wife, my mind wandered back to business. Occupational hazard, I guess. I began thinking about earlier Valentine’s days, when I was just beginning my career and dinner out on this holiday was a special treat we saved for.

That led me to think about how I started in business, certain people who helped shape my career, and those in business I admire today.

One of my present idols is Phil Knight who, with Bill Bowerman, founded Nike in 1978. By 1980 -- a mere two years -- Nike attained a 50% market share in the U.S. athletic shoe market. According to Phil Knight, the company's growth was due largely to "word-of-foot."  Knight always had a way with words.

In 1988, Knight had the common sense to approve the iconic slogan "Just Do It", which was chosen by Advertising Age as one of the top five ad slogans of the 20th century and enshrined in the Smithsonian Institution. Pretty impressive for a company that's less than half a century old. And that Swoosh! Recognized the world over.
Knight knew how to empower people to think outside the box (i.e., "Just Do It") and I admire him for that. I like to use the tool of empowerment with my people. Instead of "Just Do It", I tell them to "Just Figure It Out." Perhaps not as lyrical, but the meaning is the same: The power is within you.
However, the most lasting idol in my life will always be my dad. I admired his work ethic then, and I still do now. He worked for Lincoln Electric, a company driven to excel by providing incentives to people who were paid by the number of items they produced. Back in the day, it was called piecework. Everyone worked under the assumption that the more you produced, the more you were paid. Today we call it  incentive. In their 118-year history, Lincoln Electric never had a layoff. Not many companies can say that today. Under Lincoln's incentive-to-work model, Dad was able to provide nicely for our large family.
Part of Shamrock has been built by the lessons I learned from Dad and part continues to be motivated by my admiration for corporate leaders like Phil Knight. Give employees a challenge and they will live up to it -- and more. Empower employees to think outside the box and they will do more than ever imagined.
I think people are motivated by challenges and incentives; it's in the human spirit. Others may not agree. Beginning this month, we'll see, because we're introducing a new incentive program for employees. It challenges them to achieve their personal best. They're not competing with one another. Their only competition is themselves. My guess is that they'll all be winners. 

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

WE CAN WORK IT OUT - Bob asks the question, "Are Boomers, Gen X, and Gen Y really that different?"

As an entrepreneur and part of the Boomer generation, the One Big Thing that drives me is fear of failure. I'd like to think that's what drives any successful business person. But I've learned that's not necessarily true for Generation X (30 to 40-something years old) and Generation Y (20s and 30s). 

Today's workplace is made up of people from different generations with different ideologies and concepts about workplace success. Sometimes we don't realize the differences between Boomers, Generation X and Generation Y until faced with this core issue: in order for our business to survive, we need to hire younger employees to replace those preparing to retire. We must learn that we all can work together and benefit from the impact of other generations in the workplace. The Boomer generation can learn a lot about new technology from our younger counterparts and Generations X and Y coworkers can embrace the experience and commitment of the preceding generation.

In our competitive economy, it's important for us to understand how others are motivated at work, so that we can work well together. Here's a synopsis I'd like to share with you about generational differences/similarities. It's from a company called Cesson (, and it provides information about the unique needs of generations in the workplace:
What Boomers Want -- "Live to Work"
-- Acknowledgement of their value; respect for their skills and knowledge
-- Flexible goals and guidelines
-- Accommodating scheduling, benefits and technology training
What Generation X Wants -- "Work to Live"
-- Freedom to complete tasks at own discretion while following guidelines
-- Praise for jobs well done (an honest appraisal)
-- Growth opportunities
-- Reward with training and increased responsibility
-- Fun at work and a healthy work/life balance
What Generation Y Wants -- "Live, and Then Work"
-- Access to technology, a teamwork environment, jobs that allow multi-tasking;
-- Tasks that are challenging and rewarding
-- Desire to be respected for their level of education
-- Eager to learn and be consulted in decision-making
-- Structure, supervision and immediate gratification and feedback

Perhaps we're not so different after all.  To maintain our competitive spirit, we all have to adapt to a youthful way of thinking and the new advances in technology, so that we may better understand our customer. We need to learn from and depend on one another's differences -- and similarities -- to gain advantages that lead to our mutual success. 

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

AGE BEFORE TEXTING - Does Bob text? You bet, but only when it serves his "boomer" purpose.

Look, I get it. I understand the value of new technology in our lives, but, like my peers, I want proof that it lends value to my life. I'm not out there IM'ing or texting friends for the heck of it. I don't connect with friends on Facebook or Twitter. But I will send a text message or email message from my phone when my laptop's squirreled away under twenty shirts in my suitcase. In fact, I couldn't survive in today's world if I didn't have a laptop or my iPhone. So, when new technology helps me get my business done more quickly, I'll use it like a pro. But, I won't spend hours with my phone, playing games or texting BFF's.

Generally, I am a product of my generation.

Like many baby boomers, I fall right into the category, as outlined by a recent study conducted by the Pew Research ( In February, 2011, the study, about generations and their gadgets, concluded that the younger the generation the more they use technology. I knew that. I can walk around our office and see how just a few years can make a difference in the way people use new technology.

Like my baby boom friends, I generally use my cell phone to make calls. I'll also text or email if it will get the job done efficiently. But, Generation Y (born between 1977 and 1993) is more likely than I to use the phone for a variety of purposes – taking photos, texting, accessing the internet, playing music etc. 

Other interesting facts from the research? Younger people are much more likely to own laptops and other portable devices like iPads, than their older counterparts. Same for mp3 players and game consoles. Not so surprising.  However, I found this statistic interesting: there's little difference between generations regarding ownership of an e-Book reader. It's good to know that reading's not yet dead.

As a business man, my take away from this survey is, regardless of your age, if you come in contact with people from various generations (and who doesn't), it's important to know their preference for communicating so that you can correspond with them comfortably. Thus, the bottom line: it's time for all business people to know everything they can about new technology... and learn how to use it to its best advantage.

This cartoon nicely sums up the concluding remarks in the Pew Research survey: "Baby Boomers want to master technology, Generation X enjoys using technology and Generation Y employs it."