By Bill King
Once a week I receive a cartoon about marketing from Tom Fishburne (The Marketoonist). This past week’s email contained a cartoon of five sales and marketing-types sitting around the boardroom with the Company President exclaiming “What do we know about Generation Z so we can get them to buy stuff?” You can see the answer (and sign up for Tom’s emails) here: https://marketoonist.com/2017/06/genz.html
After a quiet chuckle, it got me thinking about this focus on generational marketing. Those of you who are WWEMA members may well remember Anna Liotta’s excellent presentation a year or two back at the Annual Meeting. Anna focused on four generations and their attributes – the traditionalists, baby boomers, Xers and Millennials (Gen-Y). Now come the Gen-Zers.
This next generation is 20 years old or younger right now and according to Wikipedia, have practiced widespread usage of the Internet since a young age; are comfortable with technology and dedicate a significant portion of their socializing to social media.
If you’re anything like me, your first instinct is to look at their age, look at the age of your customers, (maybe take a side glance at your own kids or grandkids) and take a big sigh of relief. These young whippersnappers aren’t even through college yet. It’ll be years by the time they get into positions of authority. I’ll likely be retired by then. Some of our younger staff can figure out how to market our products to them down the road.
Unfortunately, this thinking is flawed. Modern media consumption habits are being adopted by all generations. And with each step in the evolution of technology, the speed of adoption by all of us increases. Artificial Intelligence (AI) is the current evolutionary step in the digital transformation.
It’s not that I see our industry rushing to adopt AI (although Ovivo’s AI experience at WEFTEC 2015 was a fascinating outlier). But as early adopters move into the virtual reality world, the other 99% of us will be drawn into the vacuum that they leave. Think Facebook. When it launched, it was widely adopted by school kids and college students. But today, my kids live on Snap Chat and Instagram. And Facebook has become the realm of parents and grandparents (ironically boasting about their Instagram-addicted kids and grandkids).
In my opinion, the vacuum that we’ll find ourselves being drawn into is Apps. We’re starting to see older generations discover the power of applications on their phones, maybe a decade or so behind the Millenials. Twenty percent of Water Online visits are now from app-dominated mobile devices. One in five may not sound like a lot until you realize that that’s over 24,000 unique water and wastewater professionals a month. And we’re supposedly a cellphone-averse, aging industry right?
Image credit: "What he's doing?," Hugo Bernard © 2012, used under an Attribution 2.0 Generic license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/