ANAHEIM, Calif. — Several panels at the Produce Marketing Association’s Fresh Summit Convention and Expo here addressed how retailers and brands can communicate with different age groups.
Understanding where each generation comes from is important to know how to work with them, according to “Millennial Guru” Seth Mattison of BridgeWorks in the education session “Closing the Gap: Engaging Multiple Generations in Today’s Dynamic Marketplace.”
“What’s so easy to do is have that knee-jerk reaction and immediately focus on the negative,” said Mattison.
One of the most notable things about Traditionalists, those born before 1946, is their fierce brand loyalty, said Mattison.
On the other hand, Mattison said it is a bad idea to ignore Traditionalists and their loyalty in order to focus on the latest generation.
Retired Traditionalists for the first time have a lot of time and money to spend, and may not be afraid to experiment with new brands and products if they don’t feel appreciated. They are also the fastest-growing segment on Facebook.
Baby Boomers, born from 1946 to 1964, are known for youthful idealism. At the same time, getting older means new challenges for this generation, said Mattison.
“In order to connect with this generation, we have to think about where they are in their lives,” said Mattison. Boomers are stretched thin by work and family obligations and so don’t have a lot of time to spend making decisions. Thus, it’s important to keep things simple.
As they age, one of Boomers’ biggest concerns is retaining their youthfulness, Mattison said.
“Boomers use food choices to maintain longevity,” he added. Products that speak to those desires will go far with this generation.
Another way to target Boomers is to win over their children, according to Tish VanDyke, general manager of food and nutrition at Edelman. VanDyke was one of the panelists at another session, “Turning Consumers into Customers to Increase Consumption.”
“Boomers are very, very close to their own children. They share a lot more, and they share the shopping and the meal experience more,” said VanDyke.
However, Gen Xers may not be the easiest to win over. “There is no generation that hates to be sold to as much as Generation X,” said Mattison.
According to Mattison, those born from 1965 to 1981 are the most skeptical group because of the eroding trust in institutions that occurred during their childhoods and the sheer number of advertisements they were exposed to at an early age.
“This is a generation that has one of the most sensitive BS-ometers on the planet,” said Mattison. If Gen Xers think you are sugarcoating or beating around they bush, they are immediately turned off by your message, he added.
Companies that want to appeal to Gen X should be able to explain where a product comes from and how it’s made, said Mattison. “At the end of the day, it boils down to candor with this group.”
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Of course, Millennials, those born from 1982 to 2004, are defined by their relationship with technology and their need for constant connectivity. “That connectiveness has changed the way we buy, the way we sell,” said Mattison.
It has also changed where Millennials turn for product recommendations.
“There’s a shift with this generation of who they trust and who they listen to,” said Mattison. “What you say about your product, what you say about your brand is almost irrelevant.” He pointed to a study that showed 51% of Millennials trust a stranger’s opinion over that of a friend or family member.
And it’s never too early to start thinking about Generation Z, those born after 2004. As a group, they are “very, very brand loyal,” said Suzy Badaracco, president of the consultancy Culinary Tides and speaker on the educational session “Top Health Trends to Shape Produce Profitability.” “Of course, they’re not paying for it, right?”
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