Where they Boomers got their name.

Generational marketing is a term that I picked up at the Chief Marketing Officer Institute earlier this year, and something Jonathan Fitzgarrald and I continue to toy with in terms of how this applies to legal marketing.

In short, generational marketing recognizes that the different generations make purchasing decisions in different ways from one another.

The different life phases we are in presently, coupled with our upbringing and societal norms, provide us with different perspective than those we follow, or those who follow us.

Roger Daltry is now 69. What happened to not trusting anyone over 30?

For example, I’m an earlier member of Generation X (born 1961 – 1981). I came of age during the Cold War.

I was raised by my Silent Generation parents (1925 – 1942), who came of age post-WWII. Only one of their five kids are a Baby Boomer (1943 – 1960). The rest of us are Gen-X.

And my parents were raised by their G.I. Generation parents (1901 – 1924), who grew up during, and were shaped by, the Great Depression.

One of the greatest challenges I face in the work place is working with the Millennial generation who were raised with technology at their fingertips (sometimes referred to as Gen Y; 1982 – 2000). The Baby Boomers really don’t get them at all.

Seriously. Have any of them ever had to use a card catalog? In fact, the next generation, the Swipe Generation, which includes my kids, really have no concept of paper, or having to wait for anything.

The Swipe Generation, brought to you by Apple.

So what does this mean to legal marketing?

A lot, actually.

We are working primarily with three generations (the Silent Generation have almost all retired, although they are still influencers within some of our firms and with our clients).

Reagan helping to tear down the Berlin Wall and ending the Cold War that shaped my generation.

Our Baby Boomer partners are still heavily involved in the firm as rainmakers and leaders (although some are starting to retire). Generation X is now starting to take over these two roles.

Just those two generations alone are enough to manage, and have enough conflict and misunderstanding of one another.

But we have young, up and coming attorneys who are COMPLETELY different beasts than what we are accustomed to managing.

We (Baby Boomers and Generation X) are accustomed to working “business hours,” while the Millennials do not understand that compartmentalized concept.

The Sex Pistols and Punk Rock bridged the later Boomers and early Gen Xers. The Hippies had nothing on us (we like to think).

Externally, our clients are facing the same challenges, especially as the torch is being passed from one generation to the next.

So how does a Baby Boomer, senior partner communicate with a Generation X general counsel?

How does a Millennial legal marketer manage the communications leaving the firm in a way that a Baby Boomer client will actually read the content?

And why are firms putting their external facing communications (social media) in the hands of a Millennial because that Gen-Xer who should be managing it is not that comfortable with the technology?

The millennial generation was born to be connected.

Understanding the habits and motivators of these generations will help legal marketers to craft messages, whether marketing or business development, to increase the odds that those messages will be received and acted upon.

Understanding the habits and motivators of these buyers will assist lawyers in how they approach their audiences.

But getting the messaging right isn’t enough. Along with these generations are their preferences in delivery methods that need to be taken into consideration (paper, desktop, mobile, tablets, smartphones, email, rss).

Remember when MTV actually played videos?

Another example from yours truly: I hate video. I hate YouTube (except for when I am searching for music videos. Remember when MTV actually played videos?).  I never understood why I hated video until I heard the presentation on generational marketing.

As a member of the Gen X class, I am squeezed. I have parents on one end, kids on the other, and I am in the midst of my greatest career days. I’m busy and running from school drop offs, to work, to Girl Scout meetings, LMA board meetings, volleyball practices, speaking at a conference, hoping a plane to this or that client-facing event ….

You get it. I’m on the GO.

I live off my mobile phone. I have yet to lose a cell phone as it is never more than an arms reach away from me.

I can keep up with the office while attending volleyball practice, or arrange after school adventures via text messaging at my desk in the ivory tower.

The target is forever moving and shifting. Are you adapting to it?

Video is a time killer for me. I click on a link and if it leads me to a video, I click that back arrow.

I don’t have time for a video to buffer. I don’t want to listen to five minutes of video tell me what I could have read in one.

All hail the bullet point!

If the only way you are delivering your message is via video, you lost me, and countless other decision makers in my generation.

However, video is a great way to reach not only Baby Boomers (who love their iPads and have more time on their hands) and Millennials (because this is what they know and understand).

So the takeaway message for legal marketers and lawyers alike, when communicating (written or spoken), internally or externally, your messages will be better received and acted upon when you take generational influences into account and target your audiences accordingly.

  • So….you’re saying that we are only what our generation is? In other words, you want me to ACT MY AGE? Hahaha. Seriously, I really have to argue with you on this one.

    Simply, people live in a world. They share it with people of all ages. There is nothing stopping me or anyone else from enjoying, adopting, evolving with, or integrating into my life in a meaningful way emerging technologies, music, behaviors, vocabularies, arts, sports, priorities, people, politics, business models, and etc.

    As to generational marketing, in fact, with all this technology comes the ability to zero in on personal preferences and target needs based on individuals, not generalizations. In fact, data shows that this is how people today WANT to be marketed to today. We are busy. Boomers, xers, yers, and whatevers. And if you have the technology to deliver something relevant to me based on my prior purchases, geography, or behaviors, I want you to do that. Corporate marketers are putting a priority on achieving such personalization. Not generalizations, but personalization.

    Using generalizations – based on some theoretical behaviors determined by dates on a calendar is off putting. Just because I was born in such and such a year doesn’t mean my brain doesn’t work, that I’ve stopped being curious, or I haven’t embraced new forms of communication. The technology is there to enable us to be better at personalization.

    Do I think law firm marketers will ever be given the resources to accomplish this? To run programs and services and hire staff that allows them to target and segment rather than generalize? Probably not in my life time – I’m a boomer, tee hee. However, shame on any law firm that does not at least include on their in-take form how a new client likes to be communicated with. They may be surprised! There are some age-group patterns, but to build your marketing upon those assumptions is short sighted.

    • Definitely not saying “we are only what our generation is?” And I don’t mean to offend you. You know that I turn to you for all things technical.

      As for the dates, yes they are arbitrary, and no one fully agrees on when some generations start and one others end.

      I think of this like statistics: they are based on populations and not individuals.

      When looking at populations, when it comes to marketing, you do need to make some broader assumptions as to motivating factors for making purchasing decisions. Generational marketing is about understanding that the person you are today — I am today, our kids, the people we encounter on the street, the attorneys we work with, our clients — are shaped by our environments.

      Some of those environments are broad and across the spectrum (World War II, The Great Depression), but we are also shaped by our personal experiences (growing up poor/orphaned/divorced parents/immigrants).

      But marketing to everyone based on what is comfortable to you (general you) is likely to have your message received by a smaller percentage of people than you had hoped to reach. When all we had were paper newsletters, that’s all we had and that’s what people got.

      In today’s digital realm, we have numerous delivery methods, and different generations do have preferences and different habits of use, as a population. Individuals can and do vary from person to person.

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