During a recent panel discussion Jennifer moderated during JCK Las Vegas, there was a very intense discussion of authenticity and how different generations determine when a brand is being authentic and when they’re not. It turns out that Baby Boomers view the world in a very different way than Gen Xers, and the both of them are different from Millennials and really different from Gen Z.
Authenticity is defined as being genuine and real. Customers of every age value brands that represent themselves accurately. It’s important that impressions formed in digital spaces are in alignment with what happens when shoppers visit the physical location.
Baby Boomers learned to assess authenticity in physical spaces first: to this day, in-person relationships with sales associates and store owners remains very important to Baby Boomers. Content tailored to Boomers should be focused on the product or service; this generation prefers to read or watch short video to learn what they need to in order to make a purchasing decision.
Gen Xers’ relationship with authenticity is complicated. Gen Xers are the researchers: experience has taught them the wisdom of being skeptical of any brand’s promise. At the same time, Gen X responds strongly to messaging that reflects their own experiences: calm, sentimental, and family-friendly content works best. Gen X prefers real people, not air-brushed celebrities, in advertising, and values the opinion of friends and peers over celebrities and influencers.
Millennials have had just about enough with being blamed for all of society’s troubles, and they’ll reward with fanatical devotion any brand they portray as ‘telling it as it is.” Sassy and irreverent works well – Wendy’s won legions of Millennial fans with their snarky social media – when balanced with content acknowledging the many facets of Millennial life. More than half of all Millennials are parents, and across the entire generation, there’s a strong tendency to prioritize experiences over material goods. When working with influencers, be aware of the fine line that separates genuine sharing and paid advertising: Millennials are pragmatic enough to realize both types of content exist and they want to know which one they’re looking at.
Gen Z doesn’t want to be sold to at all. This explains Gen Z’s preference for micro-infuencers: these YouTube and Instagram stars are more relatable and reachable for them. Brands aren’t selected by quality or even price point as much as the reaction purchases get when members of Gen Z share images with their peers via text or social media. These priorities may change as Gen Z enters independent adulthood, but as this generation commands over $44 billion in purchasing power, it’s good to pay attention to what they value right now.