Monday, September 23, 2013

It's a Generational Thing



I have often joked with my team and on Twitter about “being a millennial at heart” although (full disclosure here) I’m squarely in the Gen X age range.  

Generational research has been a special interest of mine for a long time, inspired initially by managing a market research online community (MROC for the uninitiated) of Millennials. Hearing what was trendy and cool for the Millennials I studied was a fascinating experience that has sparked a career-long interest in generational research. Millennials are the first true “digital natives” and their generation is larger than the Baby Boomers and three times the size of Gen X. Their marketing buying power is huge and will just keep growing

There’s been a lot of discussion in the blogosphere recently as to whether researching Millennials (just like any other demographic cut) is a worthwhile endeavor as ‘they’re all so different.’ Well, that’s the case for most of the demographic cuts we could do, isn't it? Not all the folks from the Midwest are nice (but most of us are!) and not all Boston drivers are aggressive (hah!).  

So yes, we need to be aware of generational stereotypes such as the below and not let them cloud our judgment or research analysis.
We've all likely heard that Millennials are supposedly the “me” generation and have high expectations of employers. But a recent study by Success Factors concluded that it was actually those in Generation X (those born between 1962 and 1979 for purposes of that survey) who are “the most demanding age group” in the workplace.
What about the stereotype that Boomers shy away from technology? Not so fast.  Even back 2009, more than 60% of Boomers were avid consumers of social media (via Forrester), up from 40% the year before.
So is looking at our data by generation important? From where I sit in the tradeshow and exhibition industry, it’s absolutely important. Why? Because different generations interact with tradeshows and events differently. In order for us to appropriately meet our customers’ needs we need to be aware of those differences and address them.

The exhibition industry is lucky to have CEIR, the Center for Exhibition Industry Research. CEIR frequently publishes studies that are of great interest to us and help inform how we run our business.  Not surprisingly, a number of their reports in the past few years have focused on how different generations interact with tradeshows.  For instance Generational Differences in Face-to-Face Interaction Preferences and Activities finds that while all professionals attend events to look for new products, gain insights on industry trends, etc., one of the key reasons younger attendees attend is to gain inspiration and motivation for their jobs.  Although that’s just the tip of the iceberg of findings, having research like this allows us to better cater to the different generations at our events. 

Along this theme, I’m very excited that #TMRE13 is offering an entire track on “Youth and Millennials” during their Monday Day One Intensives with sessions such as” Creating Participant Television: Developing a Media Model Designed to Activate Millennials” and “Where are the new pioneers? A Global Survey of Millennial-led Innovation.”  

Millennials will soon run the world (and some of them already do) – so better understanding this generational group from a research perspective is important to the health of our products and services! 
Post a Comment