Understanding Consumer Behavior Through the Prism of Generational Theory

Written by Suresh Kalyanasundaram

15/02/2020

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Understanding Consumer Behavior Through the Prism of Generational Theory

A large number of theories have been developed for businesses that try to explain consumer behaviour.

With the development of Internet marketing, interest in the theory of generations has revived. Some experts, not without reason, believe that a new era has come in which classic marketing will not be able to respond quickly to changes in consumer preferences. It is important to have an understanding of the core values ​​of modern generations that will help marketers find a common language with their target audience.

What is a generation?

This is a group of people born at about the same time and in a common territory for all with established traditions and customs. People in this “cohort” demonstrate similar behavioural characteristics, have stable preferences and life values.

There are large differences between different generations, so it is important to know in which years each generation begins and ends.

Generations exhibit similar behaviour due to the fact that they experience the same trends and processes in society at about the same stage of life. Their motivation is determined by the level of development of social relations. For them, there are similar communication channels (for example, classic media, TV, the Internet, mobile communications, etc.). And they use familiar shopping models for the generation.

It is characteristic for people of the same generation that they develop in approximately the same way and share similar values, beliefs, and expectations. They are characterized by the same trends in society: the traditions of education, the level of technology and the level of the economy. This directly affects the formation of beliefs. It is important to remember that on an individual level, each is different from each other.

Examining people through the prism of the theory of generations, one can reveal to some extent the predictability of the target audience. This allows the business to choose the most effective ways to reach out to its customers, to be able to inform them about the benefits of their product and to convince potential customers using the proven methodology.

Theory of Generations

American scientists Neil Hove and William Strauss created the theory of generations in 1991. They, regardless of each other, drew attention to the fact that generational conflicts are caused not so much by the difference in age, but rather by the difference in values.

If it were otherwise, then people, older, would acquire almost the same values, characteristics, say, of their ancestors. But this does not happen, new generations become different. Scientists studied the period of world history from 1584 to 1991 and made a prediction until 2069. They figured six generations.

The theory of generations was based on the significant interests of representatives of different generations. But what is human value? This is the significance of phenomena and objects of reality in terms of their conformity or non-compliance with the needs of society, social groups and individual persons.

The formation of values ​​is influenced by many factors – political, economic, social, technological. But a special role is played by the model of education adopted in the family. The formation of values ​​occurs up to 12-14 years. Due to the lack of accumulated experience, a small child cannot give a correct assessment of events from the positions of “good or bad,” “right or wrong.” He has not yet learned to live in modern conditions without the help of adults. The formed deep values ​​surrounding people become subconscious, and most of them are invisible in everyday life. But further on, younger generations live and act under the influence of embedded values.

The 6 major generations

According to the theory of generations, every four generations make up one cycle. The time period in which representatives of one generation are born is about 20 years, the duration of one cycle is 80-90 years. At the end of the cycle, a repetition begins: the new, fifth-generation has values ​​similar to the first. Children born at the intersection of generations are influenced by two groups of values ​​and form the so-called transitional or echo-generation.

Each generation has different customs, dislikes, and attributes. People had a collective experience as they age, and therefore they had similar ideals. A person’s date of birth may not always indicate the distinctive characteristics of generations, but as a general group, characteristics have similarities.

Currently, six generations make up our society. Each of these generations has a uniquely active role in the market. Here are the years of birth that are characteristic of each generation.

Generation GI – Heroes: 1901 – 1926

Children of the generation of the first world war and warriors of the second. This leads to strong teamwork models to overcome and progress. They created a new world. They are persistent and energetic. Prefer teamwork. This generation is united in a community of like-minded people. Strongly interested in personal morality and almost in absolute norms of correct behavior. Strong sense of civic duty and high responsibility for the family. They are used to living without debt and saving. This generation understands only cash. Most of them grew up without the modern conveniences of society.

Generation P – Mature: 1927 – 1945

Gone through the years of war and remember the happiness of victory. Their basic priorities: peace, work, cottage, television, car. Men are responsible for wealth in the family, women go home and raise their own children. This generation has a high loyalty to the employer. Today, as a rule, these are the richest and freest retirees in history. For them – marriage for life, divorce, and withdrawal of children from the marriage are not accepted. They like to read and prefer the classic media. They prefer a quiet and calm old age. They have a strong sense of shared values ​​and almost absolute truths. They are disciplined, selfless and very careful.

Generation BB – Baby Boomers: 1946-1964

This is the post-war generation, families are back together. This is the generation for which the word “I” is in the first place. It is customary to distinguish between two subsets: desperate revolutionaries (60s and 70s) and career climbers (70s and 80s). This generation, which grew up in peacetime, is characterized by responsibility, self-government, and selfishness. They like to shop without delaying them for later. Women of this generation have become more active and employed in the workplace.

As a result, the upbringing of their children was influenced not only by the family but also by public institutions (nurseries, kindergartens, schools). This generation as a whole first grew up in the era of television. They were ready for innovation and new technologies. To do this, they needed new knowledge, and they were ready to learn a lot. Their main priorities are their own authority, hierarchy in society and traditions. As they age, they have new priorities. Children grew up and left their parental home. New opportunities opened up for them – travel, hobbies and the pursuit of longevity. These are the most active pensioners.

Generation X: 1965 – 1980

These are children with their house keys. They grew street-smart. They were returning from school to an empty house. The parents were at work. Their growing up took place against the backdrop of a new trend in society – families began to break up due to divorces. This generation is characterized by high individuality and enterprise. They can be big entertainers and organizers. For them, narrowly established traditional framework. They seek to conclude a reliable marriage and “be there their own” for their children.

But they may not be understood by other generations. Although they attended computer-free schools, this generation quickly mastered modern digital technology. They are characterized by desires: to learn, study and make their contribution. Generation strive for self-organization, they prefer to build their careers, periodically changing employers. The obsession with individual rights prevails over the rights of individual communities, especially when it comes to sexual minorities. They are cautious and sceptical, especially when it comes to authoritarianism. At the same time, this is one of the first generations that favours brands and trademarks.

Generation Y – Millenials: 1901 – 1926

The new generation, brought up by ubiquitous parents, is optimistic and very focused. They somewhat deviate from the values ​​of generation X. They plan everything and respect authority. They already feel like a new generation, but are uncomfortable with the pressure of previous generations. They grew up in a digital environment and prefer digital literacy.

They get all the information from the Internet and devote most of their lives to social communication in the digital space. Having unlimited access to information, they usually have confident life views. Prefer teamwork style. They make quick decisions because they are used to being in touch 24 hours and 7 days a week. This generation is accustomed to the idea that they are special, so they expect that the world around them will treat them in a special way. They do not live to work.

Generation Z: after 2001

This is a very young generation – kids and teens. Their world has absorbed digital technology. Most have their own computer, mobile phone or game console. They are less interested in toys and are ready for distance learning. Generation Z is a reliable consumer, and they know what they want and how to get it. And they are saturated with brands.

Conclusion

The approach outlined helps businesses understand:

  • what intonation do you need to communicate with the target audience,
  • in what style is it necessary to present an advertising message,
  • and how can you reduce the distance between business and customers

Do not forget only that everything related to the values ​​of entire generations requires a careful approach. It is important to first genuinely feel that what is important to a potential client, and only after that start building a dialogue with the goal of making a deal.

 

 

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