I began my discussion of generational marketing with Talking ’bout My Generation:

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.

I immediately got an email from my friend and legal marketing peer, David Bruns. He recommended I download and read “I Would Die 4 U:  Why Prince Became an Icon,” by Touré.

In short, the book discusses how Prince, a Baby Boomer, became such a huge icon for Generation X.

No icon is so talented that they don’t need the right generation to receive their message. Of course, some icons transcend their time, but that’s nearly impossible without first connecting deeply with the generation that’s consuming culture when you’re at your peak. The difference between being famous and becoming an icon is, in part, having the good fortune to have a generation that’s interested in your message. Pg. 17

It’s the Malcolm Gladwell, Outliers, theory of 10,000 hours of experience to achieve mastery, plus the luck of timing when that knowledge/skill is needed, the audience is ready, as in the case of Prince.

The author goes on to discuss Prince’s less than welcoming response when he opened for the Rolling Stones on October 9 & 11, 1981, here in Los Angeles. He was pelted with garbage and drinks, and literally booed off the stage. Twice. (FYI. The Sports Dude and I were at that concert. He even saved the ticket stubs).

Controversy was just too controversial for the crowd of hippies and boomers. We up and coming Gen Xers got it, though … we were waiting and ready for the Purple Revolution that was about to come out with “1999.” And we were really confused why the adults in the crowd didn’t get it.

So what does Prince have to do with legal marketing and generational marketing? It’s all in how we interpret his experience to our industry.

If divorce and lack of supervision by being latchkey kids (or our friends being latchkey kids) helped shape our generation, then:

[o]ut of that lack of supervision came independence, individualism, resilience, self-reliance, adaptability, and an entrepreneurial spirit …

Nothing there speaks to the lawyers we’ve known and worked for to date. Well, here and there we had those pockets of enthusiasm. Most of our rainmakers had that spirit despite themselves and the system.

But, as a greater collective, that entrepreneurial generation is rising into leadership positions. Everywhere. Including law firms and the clients we service.

Gen Xers are rising to become general counsel for your top clients. They are influencers and purchasers of legal services. They are the head of the marketing committee. They are the new CMO. And soon, the managing partners of our firms (if not already).

While generational discussions seem to focus in on those pesky Millennials that no one seems to understand, I would say that we need to turn around and focus in on these rising leaders.

Where lawyers have been known to be risk adverse by training, I will theorize that we will start to see a balance. Hell, we might even see a push of entrepreneurial spirit that comes out of no where. A revolution, so to speak.

If you go back to the Gladwell’s theory of 10,000 hours of experience to become an expert, plus a little bit of luck in timing, being in the right place at the right time … am I the only one seeing what’s coming on the horizon? Bueller?? Bueller??

The recession is over. We are in a new realm of technology. A new business model is permeating our firms (goodbye pyramid).

And coming on the horizon will be a new group of leaders who are not as risk adverse and who will be more willing to take a chance. To think outside that box of “it’s always been done this way.”

As a legal marketer, I am excited for the coming shift. I feel I have my 10,000 hours and I am in the right place at the right time.

It will be challenging for many of us who are accustomed to doing things the way they’ve always been done. Some of us might find comfort in that. But don’t. For those legal marketers unwilling to change, and learn new things (like social media), bring new ideas to the table, you might find yourself “generationed” out.

And, for my dear friend Jayne, these generations of which I speak are not based on random and arbitrary dates, but by the psychographic lens in which we see ourselves:

Looking at things through a psychographic lens allows people to be a bit more self-selective about which generational groups they fit in, and provides a sharper reasoning for why people are considered part of certain generational groups and not others, as well as why some people may share traits of two generations and why the borders between generations are soft. p. 22

I have never, and will never, see you as a boomer. You are so much more punk than that.

  • Great post, Heather. If we’re not cognizant of how other generations are hard wired (especially the Millennials), we’ll also turn out to be the “hippies” and “boomers” of our era who push against the forthcoming proverbial Purple Revolutions. The more we know, the better we’ll understand how to leverage the various talent pools that exist in the workforce today.

  • Hahaha! Heather. Honored. And, yes, I DO identify with the “me” generation. Deny being influenced by my times in the formidable years? Nope. In 4th grade my family bought a COLOR TV! When I was a teenager I got my own phone – not a separate line, they could still listen in if they wanted to, but it was awesome freakin’ freedom not to have to talk to friends in the kitchen with my mom listening. After all, we had a revolution going on! :-).

    But I also taught junior high and high school art classes to gen xers before starting my legal marketing career, and my kids are smack in the middle of the millennials, so I have that perspective and I get it. I observed the world they were exposed to. I’ve hired young, old and in-between. My world isn’t static.

    A lot of folks in ‘my’ generation have logged on to social media, enjoy pop music, and value business technologies. However, there is a difference in how they use such things, especially social media, as it compares to my kids and your kids…The gen X and Y are on stereo and the boomers are still in mono. Although boomers are using technological innovations, but they are generationally wary of “the man.” They don’t embrace personal public drama. Many think social media, cloud storage, SAS, etc. comes with the hefty price – the “government (employer, competitors, etc.) knows everything you do.” This is the very thing we rebelled against when we were in our formidable years–authority. But, following generations accept that their lives are on record, they don’t really question it, and don’t seem to be worried. But yeah, I’m worried for them, and so, yeah, it is generational thinking. ONWARD!

  • I was doing research and I came across a great picture of Prince so I had to read what he has to do with legal marketing. Great perspective on generations. I think we forget sometimes in marketing the differences in generations and focus only on the latest and greatest.

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