A Conversation With Lisa Martin: Marketing To Four Generations

Lisa Martin, LeapFrog Solutions

Meet Lisa Martin, the CEO of LeapFrog Solutions. Martin specializes in developing strategic marketing campaigns for high-technology clients, as well as association-sponsored conferences and trade shows.

In this exclusive interview with WashingtonExec, Martin offers advice about how marketing and communication has changed the federal contracting industry and the world. She told us about the four different generations of the workplace environment and explained the differences between them.

WashingtonExec: Who are the four generations people talk about in the workplace?

Lisa Martin: While expert opinions vary slightly on exact ages, the rough breakdown is:

  1. Veterans/Traditionalists (born 1922-1945) roughly 65+
  2. Baby Boomers (born 1946-1964) ages 47 – 64
  3. Gen X (born 1965-1980) ages 31 – 46
  4. Gen Y (born 1982-2000) under 30

“The bottom line is that companies have to be aware that they are marketing to different generations and they have to be mindful about how those generations use technology to receive and share information.”

WashingtonExec: What advice can you offer executives in terms of reaching members of each generation?

Lisa Martin: First look at who makes up your workforce:  Veterans (also known as traditionalists) make up 5%-6%; Baby Boomers. 43% – 46%; Gen X, 30%- 40%; and Gen Y, 15% – 20%. Then look at how your management is made up and who you’re selling to. This is where we find some of the largest discrepancies. What makes sense to a seasoned professional in effective communication doesn’t always make sense to the younger generations.  Not only do companies need to think about how they deal with the very distinct differences of each of these generations in the work place, they also need to think about how they market their products and services to them. Studies show that people communicate based on their generational experience. Without a doubt, technology is the major influencer of how people communicate based on their generation.  The question remains, what is the best technology to use when communicating to each generation? This is applicable with all forms of communications and whether we are promoting change management internally or promoting a product, service, or idea externally.

WashingtonExec: How has technology changed marketing to different generations?

Lisa Martin: It took 38 years for radio to reach an audience of 50 million people and it took television 13 years to reach the same size audience. But it only took the Internet four years to reach an audience of 50 million and it took Facebook just two years and Twitter reports 50 million “tweets” per day!

Think about what we first considered a “new technology” to be.  For the veterans and baby boomers,  a “new technology” was getting money from an ATM with a bank card instead of writing out a withdrawal slip and handing it to a teller.  For Gen X and Y  a “new technology” allows you to take a photo of a check on your cell phone camera and deposit it directly into your bank account electronically.

The Web and social media have also changed how people — across generations — communicate and interact with each other. More than 50 percent of the people in the world have a cell phone. More Internet users — 6 percent — use social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, MySpace than e-mail — 65 percent.

Many technologies cross generations. Grandparents talk to grandchildren via Skype. Boomers have resigned themselves to the fact that the best way to communicate with their children is via text. I have one daughter away at college.  She doesn’t answer her cell phone or read her e-mail. If I want to talk to her, I send her a text that says, “Call me now.” The point is that companies must be aware of the role technology and social media play in the daily lives of multiple generations.

WashingtonExec: What’s an example of marketing to the younger generations?

Lisa Martin: This summer, the Fairfax County Health Department engaged LeapFrog Solutions to develop a campaign to persuade citizens to get a flu vaccine. Because Gen Ys and Gen Xers were key target audiences, we produced YouTube videos that were posted online.  We also produced materials that were shown at local movie  theaters. LeapFrog worked with the Fairfax County Office of Emergency Management on a series of printed brochures for disaster preparedness. We included QR codes (a bar code that users scan with their smart device that automatically pulls up the intended website)  on the brochures that drove traffic the Fairfax County OEM website.

The bottom line is that companies have to be aware that they are marketing to different generations and they have to be mindful about how those generations use technology to receive and share information.

WashingtonExec: If you were to stereotype each generation for marketing, what would you say?

Lisa Martin: Think of the Army recruitment campaigns throughout the years and you’ll see what’s important to each generation. For the Veterans, focus on institutional values –  ad:  Uncle Sam saying, “I want you for the US Army.” For the Baby Boomers, focus on optimistic change agents – Ad: “Today’s Army wants to join you.” For Gen X, focus on independence, self-reliance – Army Ad: “Be all you can be.”  For Gen Y, focus on high self-esteem, highly confidant – Army Ad: “An Army of One.”

Again, focusing on what’s important to each generation is crucial to making your message matter in all forms of communications, whether we are promoting change management internally or promoting a product, service, or idea externally.

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