How brands can engage different generations

(Photo: Jens Johnson)

A few weeks ago, my daughter and I camped outside the Olympic Stadium in Seoul to watch the BTS concert along with so many other people. We were two of the unlucky international "army" (the moniker for BTS international fans ) who didn't get tickets so we decided to spend one night of our mum-daughter trip to watch the concert from afar, or more particularly, outside the exposed section of the stadium (yes, we did see them from about 500 meters away and yes, it was great).

Imagine me, a Xennial* surrounded by Generation Z in that group of people who braved the chilly night temperature to watch the most famous boy band in the world. The marketer in me couldn't resist but look around to see the demographics of our group and quite rightly, it was diverse. I saw people from different generations - there were Boomers who went with their Generation X kids and Millennial grandkids. There were also groups of overeager Generation X and Millennials who probably grew up obsessing over New Kids on The Block or Backstreet Boys during their teenage years. Majority was, of course, Generation Z.

While we were united by the BTS fandom and we sang as one and as best as we could in Korean (note that it was an international group and majority couldn't speak Korean), that's where our similarities ended. How each generation behaved during the concert was fascinating. Here's how it went down:

  1. Boomers - They just sat down throughout the concert, content with watching their Millennial grandkids enjoy the concert

  2. Generation X - They sang and danced along unapologetically; would occasionally take photos and videos

  3. Millennials - They sang along but were taking photos and videos most of the time

  4. Generation Z - They were on their phones the whole time, either shooting a video or watching the live stream of the concert from someone they know who is inside the stadium. They were also creating content immediately after they shot the video (the girls beside me were creating GIFs as soon as they finished shooting and posting them on Twitter).

Indeed, it was great to witness the different ways each generation engaged with the experience, the concert in this case. But in the world of communications and brand engagement, how do you get the same level of interest and enthusiasm from different sets of audiences? How do you make their engagement with your brand meaningful?

There are two principles we believe as an agency when it comes to brand engagement.

  1. There is no one size fits all approach to engaging each generation of your target audience

  2. Understanding each generation deeply is key to engaging them more effectively

How do we apply these principles to our communications strategy?

Firstly, we map out each generations' mindset and motivations and analyse what they think and how they feel and act towards brands we're creating campaigns for. In one of our healthcare campaigns, millennials and traditionalists (the older generation) were identified as key target audiences. We looked at what motivates them to talk to their doctors about flu and how they want it managed even when they could not tell the difference between flu and cold symptoms.

Secondly, we find the best route to engage them. We know that traditionalists and millennials consume different channels. For the same healthcare campaign, we prioritised traditional media as a key channel to reach traditionalists. This meant media partnerships and organic media outreach to deliver our campaign. Digital, on the other hand, was the priority channel for reaching millennials, and influencers played a big role in helping to tell the story of flu management. It was important for us to tap different influencers with different interests to ensure we were creating a more holistic story about flu. We also created out-of-home advertisements and placed them inside trains and at bus stops to reach both sets of audiences because our media study showed that these were key touchpoints.

Thirdly, we tell the story in a way that best resonates to them. Our audiences belonged to different generations but what they had in common was their motivation to protect their family. Our messaging was anchored on protecting their loved ones from flu and we know that especially in Singapore, the family aspect always resonates.

We had great engagement around our campaign – our influencer engagement alone performed above average (at nearly 3% engagement rate compared to the industry standard of 1.2%). That engagement could be best summed up by a photo that we were able to take of a couple pointing to our in-train advertisement and discussing its message. Yes ,the engagement level we had generated could not rival that of BTS but we know our campaign resonated to our audience and created conversations.

Ampy Corpus is an Associate Director at Spurwing. She advises clients on brand communications, thought leadership, multi-market engagement and creative storytelling.

* Xennial: a microgeneration of people born on the cusps of Generation X and Millennials)

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