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Build Branding for the Ages

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Whether a millennial or member of another generation, successful marketers have to stay aware of differences between age groups, shifts in digital marketing, engaging their target audience and knowing how to work with influencers.

All that is just another day at the office for Chelsea Krost, Goldie Chan and Jeff Barrett. Each of them has seen both sides as marketers and influencers, bringing varied expertise to serve their clients.

Krost is a Top 20 millennial marketing strategist, coach, LinkedIn instructor and global speaker. She has been a brand ambassador and spokesperson for many notable and diverse brands.

A whirlwind of energy, Chan practices “social media with a purpose.” She is a top voice for video on LinkedIn, an Adobe insider and writes about personal branding and storytelling on Forbes.

Barrett is CEO of his namesake public relations agency, Adobe consultant, member of Forbes Top 50, Shorty Awards social media winner and Entrepreneur columnist.

They talked about the biggest difference between generations: Baby Boomer: born in 1946 through 1964; GenX: 1961-1981; Millennial: 1981-1996; and GenZ: 1996 to mid-2000s.

“Truly, the biggest difference is the fact that millennials grew up with the internet creating a gap with technical language, integration and innovation,” Krost said. “Generally, boomers use Facebook and LinkedIn. GenX prefers Facebook and LinkedIn. Millennials use Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and Snapchat. GenZ is best with Instagram and Snapchat.”

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Chan looked at different feelings.

“GenZ wants honesty from brands,” she said. “They want to be front and center. Millennials want to feel fulfilled. A GenXer wants more stability.

“GenZ is setting the trends for digital now with TikTok and everything digital-first,” Chan said.

Barrett jumped in with a hot take.

“There are no differences between generations,” he said. “What stage of life you are in dictates your perception. We should remember that as marketers. Someday, I will be old and yelling at clouds. It’s the circle of life.

“I want my generation to gain perspective before it repeats those mistakes and starts giving labels to GenZ,” Barrett said. “We shift culturally, but every generation in power tends to dismiss the next. I, for one, welcome GenZ.”

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Being in the know

Differences aside, millennial consumers have shifted today’s digital marketing.

“Millennial consumers are much savvier than their predecessors,” Chan said. “They want to know what they’re buying and is it the right price and value.

“Millennial consumers also grew up on a mix of traditional ads and digital ads,” she said. “They love the nostalgia that harkens back to that pre-digital era.”

The pros and cons of millennials pose challenges for those dealing with them as a coherent group.

“Millennials have shifted the way marketers have to think and connect because this generation is made up of compulsive multi-taskers,” Krost said. “They are hyper-connected, have short attention spans, are very diverse and discount-savvy.”

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They also generally rely heavily on cell phones for connections.

“Ask yourself: Is your website mobile optimized?” Krost said. “Are you investing in content marketing? What does your consumer journey look like?

“There is no way we can blanket market to a generation that has such a large age range,” she said. “The values, priorities and needs of a 21-year-old college student are certainly different than a 31-year-old millennial mom.”

Barrett cautioned against millennial stereotyping.

“There are a lot of cliches like being more human,” he said. “That’s obvious. Experiences matter. But convenience has been the biggest shift. Millennials will overpay for the right convenience whether that’s food, transportation or even bigger items.”

The experts offered their key essentials when engaging and reaching out to a target audience.

“Appeal to your audience by clearly defining them: Where they live, where they shop, what they do for a living,” Chan said. “What is the big problem or problems in their life? How can you help solve them?

“How can you create community for your target audience?” she said. “Can you start a conversation between them?”

Krost placed a premium on value.

“To appeal to any audience, your brand, product, service and membership must provide value,” she said. “Entertain, educate and engage through personalized brand messaging content and experience.”

Where the consumers are

This brings greater importance to social media platforms.

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“It is important to remember that each social platform attracts a different demographic looking to engage and consume content differently,” Krost said. “Don’t try to be everywhere. Focus on being where your audience is.”

Barrett’s first consideration is listening.

“You won’t know what to do if you don’t listen.” he said. “Be funny. If you’re not funny, find someone who is. Just be relatable. Get involved with your audience, and help them with something important in their life.”

Influencers have roles to play as entrepreneurs enhance their marketing impact across multiple generations.

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“Working with multi-generational influencers is easier than you might think,” Chan said. “Focus on their shared audience demographics first.

“Having an influencer impact multiple generations is as simple as finding a much bigger, broader shared theme that many generations will appreciate,” she said. “This might be a family, business or other groups.”

This is a new spin on an old profession.

“Influencers are our modern digital publicists,” Krost said. “Use them to spread the word about your brand, amplify your messaging and educate consumers about your product or service.”

She emphasized making sure to tap into influencers with a social following that aligns with a target market.

“Influencer engagement is simple,” Barrett said. “Stop focusing on swag or special seating. Influencers want something that will help their career grow. Do that, and they will move mountains for you. Give them a water bottle, and get OK results.”

Every company, organization, chapter or association should focus on engaging millennials.

“Sit down and talk with the ones already in your network,” Chan said. “Where do they shop? What do they like. What are their goals?

“Millennials are likely to be on their phones or mobile devices,” she said. “Talking to them and creating optimal mobile experiences helps. Personal relationships are more important than staying at one workplace for many millennials. They want to know that they are appreciated and heard.”

No-doubt messages

Krost has concise steps to engage millennials:

  • Be authentic.
  • Invest in taking the time to create dialogue with new members and consumers.
  • Establish a voice. Define if there is a face to your brand or organization. Make your message clear.
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Awareness is good. However, connections grow from active participation.

“I want to actively participate when I feel there’s a real conversation or back-and-forth happening between myself and a brand,” Chan said. “I am more likely to get involved when I’m brought into something by someone who is in my inner circle — someone I trust.”

Barrett emphasized relationships, while acknowledging money is a motivator.

“The bigger pull is being able to help others in my network, help them grow,” he said. “In turn, that will help you grow. It takes a thousand relationships, not a thousand hours.”

For Krost, engagement is all about the experience.

“I want to participate in things that provide opportunities for me to learn, grow and network,” she said.

“It’s always an added bonus when something has an element of fun to it,” Krost said. “No one wants to be bored. Brands, companies and organizations must get creative on how they can add interactive collaborative elements.”

Special elements drive Chan and Krost to join a new organization or cause.

“I’ll likely join a new membership or chapter if I’ve heard of them already and they have a great reputation,” Chan said. “Brand awareness does matter.

“I’m also much more likely to join a chapter or organization if I see it directly and positively impact a community that I’m part of, such as student support group 826 LA or Sesame Street in Communities,” she said.

Krost seeks the most benefit from a work-related membership.

“I always ask myself, will this expand my insights and inspiration?” she said. “Will this help grow my career? Is this a good networking platform? Can I increase my visibility? Does this add to my brand authority?”

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Jim Katzaman
Jim Katzaman is a manager at Largo Financial Services. A writer by trade, he graduated from Lebanon Valley College, Pennsylvania, with a Bachelor of Arts in English. He enlisted in the Air Force and served for 25 years in public affairs – better known in the civilian world as public relations. He also earned an Associate’s Degree in Applied Science in Public Affairs. Since retiring, he has been a consultant and in the federal General Service as a public affairs specialist. He also acquired life and health insurance licenses, which resulted in his present affiliation with Largo Financial Services. In addition to expertise in financial affairs, he gathers the majority of his story content from Twitter chats. This has led him to publish about a wide range of topics such as social media, marketing, sexual harassment, workplace trends, productivity and financial management. Medium has named him a top writer in social media.

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