Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Writing Marketing Content for Different Generations

Who do you want to convince and persuade through your marketing content? Your target audience may fall into a particular industry, skill set, activity or need -- but it may also correspond to a particular generation. The American experience has varied greatly from one generation to the next, with each generation molded by its own cultural biases and social circumstances. This means that you may need to tailor your marketing message and writing style to make its maximum impact on a specific age demographic. Even if your target market spans multiple generations, you need to know how to aim the right content at each of them. Let's take a look at how you might write market content for each of the following recognized generations.


Traditionalists, members of the age group born before world War II, are sometimes called "Silents" because they did their jobs silently and uncomplainingly. Loyalty, commitment, honesty, and consistency mean a great deal to Traditionalists. Growing up in the Depression taught them the value of a dollar, so they'll hold onto their money unless they have a really sound reason to do otherwise. If you aim your products and services at retirees, chances are that you're addressing many Traditionalists. While these folks do make use of online platforms, they're also very open to more traditional marketing channels such as direct mail and flyers.

Baby Boomers

Baby Boomers are the Traditionalists' children, representing the postwar population boom that gave us the first generation of TV-watching kids. As you might expect, television (and its advertising) still makes an impact on this generation. Baby Boomers grew up experiencing a unique combination of cultural stability and political instability -- Howdy Doody and Father Knows Best vs. the Cold War and "duck and cover" nuclear drills. Many of them turned on social norms when they became young adults in the 1960s, developing a degree of skepticism that compels them to try before they buy. These prospective customers must be won over with free offers, money-back guarantees, and loyalty programs. The majority of them use both the Internet and some form of social media, but their social media use is more about personal connections than shopping or professional gain.

Generation X

Generation X-ers were born between 1965 and 1980. Although they gained the nickname "Slackers" somewhere along the way, this title refers more to their values than to their work ethic. Generation X is the adaptable generation, with its willingness to change jobs, careers, and locations in the pursuit of a healthy work/life balance. Aiming your marketing message along these lines can help you get and hold these individuals' attention. X-ers were the first generation of adults to make heavy use of the World Wide Web, so the Internet has always felt like home to them. Hone your website content and work your Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and other social media channels hard to land this fish.

Generation Y

Generation Y members are also called "Millennials," since they were born between 1980 and 2000. This generation is the first one born into a truly Web-savvy world in which blogs, YouTube, and other channels serve as primary sources of information. Their life in the virtual world, with its endless possibilities, fuels their desire to shape their own lives with as much flexibility and diversity as possible. You may find that they respond to marketing content that emphasizes diversity and optimism, taking a global approach rather than a more localized focus. Millennials are also used to easy access, interaction and teamwork, so emphasize these points as well. It goes without saying that the digital realm is the place to target this generation.

The most recent generation, Generation Z, is still in its formative years. If you're marketing to children and teenagers, bear in mind that this age group is obsessed with technology -- and watch them carefully to see how today's trends produce tomorrow's crop of consumers.

These categories are kind of arbitrary, of course. Still, thinking along generational lines can help you craft your marketing content to specific age groups more accurately and effectively. Give it a try -- and contact a professional marketing copywriter if you need help saying the right things to the right generation!

Monday, September 10, 2018

Which "Person" Sells Best? Choosing the Right Pronouns for Your Marketing Content

"Which person should I be? Am I 'I' or 'we?' Or should we be 'they?' And are my clients 'you' or 'them?'"

No, this isn't a transcript from a nuthouse. I have this kind of conversation with clients all the time. It's actually a very sensible and important conversation, too, because we're discussing what kind of "person" works best for which situations.

By "person," I mean grammatical person, in the sense of first-person, second-person, or third-person pronouns. We use these pronouns a zillion times a day in everyday writing and speech, usually without giving them a second thought, and yet these simple little words contain tremendous power. 

Pronouns shift perception. You can make me, your reader, see you as an individual, as a team, or as a large, impersonal corporation by merely swapping out a word. You can address me directly or have me see things through your eyes. Powerful gadgets, pronouns. But with great power comes great responsibility, and all pronouns are not created equal depending on the task you want them to perform in your marketing content. That's when I get into mind-bending conversations with my clients about "we," "I," and "they." So which person makes the strongest impact? It depends:

  • First person singular: First person allows you to present yourself as an individual. If you're a sole proprietor serving as a trusted advisor for your clients, talking them directly as "I" can build trust and open an imaginary (and later, hopefully, real) dialogue between you and your reader. Many small businesses live or die by their owner's image and personality, using "I" as a powerful tool for getting that image across.
  • First person plural: A.k.a. the "Royal We." If you're speaking for a team, "we" presents a collective image of that team. Companies of any size can use "we" to give the impression of a unified group effort dedicated to fulfilling the customer's needs. Even sole proprietors sometimes describe themselves as "we" or "us" to puff themselves up a bit, because in some professions being the only guy at the helm makes you look non-competitive or unsuccessful. Small businesses may shift between "I" and "we" to speak as the boss occasionally while still giving the impression of teamwork.
  • Third person: In some cases a larger company, or a small company that wants to appear large, can opt for more formality by referring to the company employees as "they," with formal bio blurbs describing individuals in terms of "he" or "she." This works well for items such as a bio or mission statement in a fancy-pants panel program or formal business plan. It can also make for a person in a relatively sober-minded profession such as medicine or law. But I've warned clients against it on occasion, because it also puts up a kind of wall between writer and reader instead of creating the comforting bond some businesses need to establish.
  • Second person: "You." Talking from the reader's perspective shows that you understand their feelings and needs -- and remember, from their point of view it's all about them anyway. "You" enables readers to imagine about how the product or service impacts their quality of life. "You can have it all! Change your life today!" Et cetera.

Once you've know what impression you want to make in your readers, you'll know which "person" to use for different marketing pieces and audiences. But if you're still feeling uncertain, you always make use of one other person -- a professional copywriter!