B2B International
B2B International

January 6, 2011

Paul Hague confesses to being a slow learner when it comes to taking sage advice from this mother

Our mothers are great sources of wisdom and we can all remember bits of advice they peppered us with inour formative years. I think I was half asleep or deaf throughout most of my childhood but I do remember my mother telling me that in her view each generation is separated from the next by a decade. Like most of the wisdom she shared with me, it went over my head or I ignored it at the time. However, the lessons and things that our mothers teach us do filter back over the years.

I was reminded of my mother’s 10 year generation theory as I was reading a recent copy of The International Journal Of Market Research. This erudite but often unreadable publication occasionally has a paper that appeals to me. In this latest edition, a title drew my attention – Do Growing Brands Win Younger Consumers?

The thesis of the paper was that young consumers are more likely to be attracted to new brands and different brands than older people. As it got into some heavy mathematics it lost me but the concept of age affecting buying decisions got me thinking.

We business to business market researchers don’t often ask respondents their age. We ask about the size of their companies, we certainly record what business they are in, but we tend to ignore their personal demographics. It is as if we are embarrassed to ask, or maybe we think that in the business to business world these things don’t matter.

But what if age is a key driver of decisions? It makes sense to me that younger people are less likely to be committed to brands (or a supplier) than older people. It makes sense to me that younger people are likely to be more open and adventurous and possibly less loyal than their older colleagues. Of course, we’re not going to get too many decision-makers responsible for huge sums of money who are aged less than 25 years. However there is a strong possibility that there will be a reasonable number that are aged between 25 and 30 and maybe these people think differently to those aged between 30 and 40 years,who almost certainly will have a different view to those aged 50 or more.

Shouldn’t we know the age profile of our customers, if only because those who are long served will soon be leaving the world of work and joining the grey haired backpackers on easyJet and Ryanair. We need to make sure that we have a young age profile in our distribution of customers if our brands are to have any future.

Of course, it may be that the thesis is not entirely correct that younger consumers are less loyal and easier to attract. But they are still likely to have different needs. It is easy to anticipate that a younger buyer might lack the confidence of an older one and require more communication or more relationship building. It is certainly likely that the younger buyer will be attracted by different messages and visuals on websites, mobile phones, iPads, in brochures and in advertising campaigns.

Thanks Mum, who got me thinking. I will add this question to my questionnaires from now on.