Marketers look out, there's a generational iceberg dead ahead

The marketing sector can be a complicated place as new marketing tools and techniques are launched, almost on a weekly basis. Powered by The Drum Network, this regular column invites The Drum Network's members to demystify the marketing trade and offer expert insight and opinion on what is happening in the marketing industry today that can help your business tomorrow.

There is a massive societal shift on the horizon. As Boomers, Millennials and Zeds all tip into the next stage of their lives, the accepted ‘norms’ of contemporary consumer behaviour are evolving and changing significantly, whether we’re ready or not. How many of us can honestly say that our businesses and brands are fully prepared for whatever comes next?

The challenge ahead, this generational iceberg, is far, far bigger than you might expect. The resultant disruption could spell big trouble for many businesses, particularly those that fail to ask themselves these five vital questions.

How will this generational ‘tipping point’ affect your business and brand?

For those businesses focused around a product or service that is very ‘life-stage relevant’, e.g. first-time mortgages, how can you make sure your offering continues to meet the needs and desires of the ‘incoming’ generation?

How are you preparing for change across your business?

Even if there is some awareness of the shift on the horizon inside your organisation, are all the key players fully up-to-date? Does everyone appreciate the scale of the change that is coming? If so, do they also see it as their responsibility?

What technology is keeping you awake at night?

In the age of brands like Netflix, we now all carry the fear of being rendered obsolete by the next wave of digital disruption. Are you aware of the technological challenges and opportunities for your business that are just around the corner? Being technologically prepared for what’s coming next is obviously a good idea, but it would be even better to be the ones leading the charge.

Has your organisation’s culture shifted to respond to the challenge?

One of the major challenges to making innovation a core cultural value at your company is that your colleagues are so consumed with the day-to-day that it’s hard for them to care about what’s around the corner. Recognising and accurately assessing the current workloads of your people, then providing them with the dedicated time and space they need to simply think through their current situation, can make a huge difference.

Who has already adapted well to the generational shift - and what can you learn from them?

We can all think of recent casualties who became extinct because they failed to evolve quickly enough. Think of your own sector and consider who is succeeding and the changes they have made in recent times. Who has really embraced the future and is already reaping the benefits?

Even if you think you know each demographic like the back of your hand, their visible behaviours are only a small part of the story. The pressures that form these behaviours are complex and run deep. Built by the cross-currents of politics, socio-economics, tech and culture – and coloured by each generation’s tendency to reject everything the previous one holds dear.

The way forward? Always try to address business challenges without presupposing solutions. Explore the full context of the business, the brand strategy and experience – plus all the stresses and obstacles that lie beneath the surface – before plotting a course that encompasses both shorter-term pragmatism and longer-term ambition.

Dave Blendis is head of strategy at Start Design

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