Overcoming Age: Reaching Multigenerational Households

Posted on by Sarah Clark

multigeneration-people-familyHouseholds with two or more generations under the same roof now account for 18.1% of the United States population. That number has doubled since 1980 for a variety of reasons, yet no single reason prevails. Generally, though, families are living together because Millennials are staying single longer and are in debt from college. Of course, there are also households of people who live together for financial and cultural reasons. Because the economy and job market are improving, they’re becoming less impactful factors.

Regardless, the fact remains: Different generations have unique expectations, experiences, lifestyles, values, and demographics that influence their buying behaviors. And, increasingly, they share them under one roof.

Whether it’s Millennials choosing to live at home longer or more grandparents choosing to live with their grandchildren, the result is the same: Marketers need to communicate value and branding to a multigenerational audience or risk missing out on lucrative marketing opportunities.

How to Find the Right Mix for Multiple Generations

Disney might be the best example of all, and its targeting of multigenerational households has a lot to teach us. Disney has a magic touch for family-friendly entertainment and products and connecting multigenerational households behind the brand’s experiences.

Most mornings, I turn on the Disney Channel to keep my son occupied while I’m getting ready for work. Almost every day, he comes up with some type of new toy he feels he has to have. That inspiration comes straight from Disney and the Disney Channel. It does a perfect job of lining up TV shows and advertisements for kids in the morning hours.

Moreover, Disney crafts everything from movies to theme parks to cruise lines with a strategy that appeals to all generations.

Its cruises, in particular, take multigenerational marketing to another level. Having just returned from a Disney cruise, it was obvious that this is second nature now to Disney. The brand has port excursions separated by age. At mealtime, it offers adult meals and children’s meals. It has separate spa offerings for teenagers and adults. Disney tailors its cruises (and, by extension, its marketing) to all ages, including clubs for children and teens alongside nightclubs and lounges for adults.

Here are some dos and don’ts for your multigenerational marketing:

  1. Do use more nontraditional families in your advertising.

Thirty-five percent of multigenerational households say that seeing similar families in advertisements makes them want to buy those products. Take note for your own campaigns: Using nontraditional families in integrated campaigns is a solid foundation for an effective multigenerational marketing strategy.

Take it a step beyond casting and bring the focus toward ageless entertainment and activities that focus more on lifestyle and less on stage-of-life activities. Watching TV, spending time outdoors, and playing video games are relevant, family-friendly activities that don’t point a divisive finger at age.

  1. Do target the parents of multigenerational households.

Sixty percent of multigenerational parents are spending more on groceries for children this year compared to last, and 51% are spending more on clothing and accessories. Coldwell Banker also reported that 37% of queried agents said they noticed more customers were looking for houses that could accommodate multiple generations.

Homeowners — often the middle generation — are in charge of families’ most significant lifestyle purchases. Focus your efforts on appealing to their unique needs to establish a direct line to the decision maker.

  1. Don’t try to craft a one-size-fits-all strategy.

A scattershot strategy won’t be successful. There are simply too many differences across generations, from values and preferences to attitudes toward social issues and perceptions of money.

Marketers need to understand the generations (the Silent Generation, Baby Boomers, Generation X, and Millennials) and identify what is important to each. Then, marketers can develop strategies that address those insights. Factoring in the characteristics and behaviors of each generation will make it easier to build relationships and attract business.

  1. Don’t skip consumer insights when defining strategy and creative.

With so many differences to consider, it can be easy to alienate one generation while trying to reach another. Avoid this by embracing consumer insights. Carefully build an approach to language and style that reaches your target audience where they’re most comfortable, focusing on the commonalities of the family.

For example, Millennials get a large part of their news from Facebook, while Baby Boomers get theirs from traditional media such as TV, radio, and print. Generation X consumes both. An effective communication channel for a household with all three will use both Facebook and traditional media.

Connecting with multigenerational households will soon be a challenge for every marketer. As that population set grows, marketers should pay careful attention to how and why their target customers enter into multigenerational living situations and how their worldview affects the products and services they use. The best strategy will combine an ageless approach to household entertainment with targeted calls to action for the head of the household.

Sarah Clark is the president of Mitchell Communications Group.

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