Is Consumer Behavior More a Function of a Person’s Age or Generation? MKT 6661 Strategic Marketing Management Troy University Introduction A heavily debated issue between marketers is what drives consumer behavior? There are two noted positions in this debate, one that believes that age differences are the deciding factors of a consumer’s wants and needs and others make the case that cohort and generation effects are better suited to uncover the consumer’s desires. Marketers have a major responsibility to identify and reach out to the marketplace and find out what influences an individual’s purchasing decisions.
Rather these decisions can be sorted based on a group of individuals shared experiences or by simply bunching these individuals into their respective generations but a system has to be in place to provide insight to what is the best way to channel into the consumer’s buying methods. So what’s all the Fuss About? The question that we are trying to answer is, is consumer behavior more a function of a person’s age or generation? There has been inclusive research on the driving forces of what drives consumer choice.
A pattern has been discovered that people who make similar purchases may also share other specific social-economical similarities. This gives way that there is some background to be learned about these purchasing groups. Cohorts, or Aged-Based Marketing, tend to share a significant number of experiences, goals, and values. (Bidwell 2009) The main principle behind a cohort is that individuals make purchasing decisions based on events that they experienced through their lives, such as their childhood, adolescents, early adulthood and so forth.
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These events, called defining moments, influence attitudes, preferences, values, and buying behaviors, and these attitudes, values, and buying-behavior motivations for each cohort remain virtually the same throughout their lives. (Bidwell 2009) In contrast to cohorts, on the other side of the debate, the method of evaluating consumer behavior by placing consumers in a group of individuals born and living about the same time. This is the practice of multi-generation marketing. Each generation has unique expectations, experiences, lifestyles, values, and demographics that influence their buying behaviors.
Multi-Generational marketing has a broader platform in which individual consumers are placed. Some specifics of these two marketing segments can draw some contrast between the two. To use the cohort model most effective there must be a combination of people’s ages and information about their particular life stages. Some examples of different life stages are empty nesters, retirees, young families, and your careerist. (Bidwell 2009) Most consumers’ life stages are fairly predictable so it provides for their purchasing habits to be predictable.
There can be contrast amongst different cohorts as well, depending on the unique events that an individual shared with others in the same cohort. According to Charles D. Schewe, a professor of marketing at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and consultant to numerous companies, there are seven American cohorts. The first cohort being the Great Depression cohort, born between the years of 1912 and 1921 and represent approximately seven percent of the U. S. population, secondly is the World War II cohort born between the years of 1922-1927 and represent about five percent of the U.S. population, the third cohort is known as the post WWII cohort, this group was born between the years of 1928-1945 and represent about twenty three percent of the U. S. population, next are the Baby Boomers I and Baby Boomers II cohorts, they represent together about forty three percent of the U. S. population and were born between the years of 1946 to 1964, the sixth cohort are the Generation X’ers who were born between the years of 1966 and 1976 and make up approximately twenty two percent of the U. S. opulation, and lastly there are the N-Gens, born from 1977-1987, and make up twelve percent of the U. S. adult population. ( Bidwell 2009) Though these cohorts p over a number of years they are all linked by a series of events that follow a chronological order. Even though a cohort places consumers in segments based on lifestyles but the time in which these events occurred can have drastic effect on their purchasing choices. Looking at the metrics of generational marketing on surface can resemble age-based marketing very closely.
Looking at the table, generation analysis and Cohort effects follow a very similar chronological order and demographics but generation analysis is a much broader form of marketing intelligence. At best we have put a group of consumers at the same place at the same time using this method. By knowing the generation the consumer was born it does help the marketer pin point the most effective way to communicate with the consumer taking a macro overlook of the consumer. Based on what generation a consumer was born in gives insight of how techno savvy or financially conservative, education level the consumer received.
As I really think about the original question and look for the answer it seems to me that these two methods work in tandem with each other. The bigger picture is understanding the holistic approach to getting your message across the consumer. Cohort is a much more defined process, in that it outlays the needs of the consumer at different times in their lives but knowing the generation that the consumer helps to point the marketer in the right direction when extrapolating data from individual. Undoubtedly to me both are instrumental in a effective and efficient marketing information system.
- Bidwell. 25 March 2009 Cohorts: Age-Based Marketing. http://www. bidwellid. com/resources/white_papers/Bidwell_ID_Cohorts. pdf
- Williams, K; Page,R 2010 Marketing to the Generations http://www. aabri. com/manuscripts/10575. pdf
- Kotler, P. , & Keller, K. (2012). In K. Keller, & P. Kotler 14th ed, Marketing Management
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