You Can’t Judge Every Individual By His Generation

Posted On April 28, 2015

We live in a digital age, so it only stands to reason that Millennials will be quicker to adapt and integrate new technologies into their everyday lives than Baby Boomers and Generation Xers.

The folks at Millward Brown Digital set out to test that theory, but instead found something far more elemental: You can’t judge every individual by his or her generation.

A survey conducted by the company found that while Millennials are the first generation to really embrace mobile shopping, they – like their Gen X parents and Baby Boomer grandparents – still fall back on the trusty old PC for much of their online shopping.

The key, the study found, is differentiating between categories – the time people take in researching and purchasing certain kinds of items and the importance of the task. Not everyone likes buying a car the same way they buy an MP3, whether they’re 27 or 57.

Other findings in the study fall under well-understood lines – more Millennials use Netflix and YouTube. More Baby Boomers still watch network TV. We’re comfortable with what we grew up with.

But the fact that you can’t paint all Millennials – or those of us in older generations — with the same brush is reassuring. We use generational labels in an effort to understand groups of people by the characteristics of the time in which they grew up. Baby Boomers grew up with the threat of nuclear annihilation. Generation X latchkey kids learned to fend for themselves. Millennials have never known a world without the Internet.

But we are all still individuals within these broadly defined subsets. Not every Gen Xer was a latchkey kid. Not every Millennial is technologically savvy.

So what does the study tell marketers? Don’t assume buying habits are inherently based on age. There are other factors at play here. How consumers interact with what you’re selling is just as important as how old or how technologically plugged in they are.

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Advertising, Baby Boomers, Generation X, Generation Y / Millennials, Generations