How to Market to Gen X

How to Market to Gen X

Advertising Branding

Generation X is often overlooked as businesses focus on the surging Millennial and Gen Z populations. Moreover, squeezed as it is between two massive generations — Boomers and Millennials — Gen X has sometimes been mistakenly viewed as being small in size, ergo less powerful. But Gen X still comprises a large segment of the population, and Gen Xers possess spending power. What sets them apart from other generations, and how should brands market to them online?

Who Is Gen X?

The fourth-largest U.S. generation behind Millennials, Baby Boomers, and Gen Z, Gen X encompasses Americans born between the mid-1960s and 1980. And Gen X is projected to surpass Baby Boomers in size by 2028.

What Are Some Notable Characteristics of Gen X?

Gen Xers have a reputation for being hard to pin down. This is perhaps because there’s a split in the generation, with older Gen Xers possessing some of the characteristics of their Baby Boomer forebears (digitally savvy, but not born into digital the way subsequent generations have been), and younger members of Gen X displaying Millennial tendencies (their mobile usage is similar to Millennials, for example). Moreover, this is a generation that prides itself on individuality — which can make it challenging for brands hoping to hone in on a “type.” But common denominators still exist across the generation, namely:

  • Reliance on digital. Even after seeing a television commercial or print ad, Gen Xers tend to turn to the internet to perform further research. And they love social media; a whopping 95 percent of this generation engages with Facebook.
  • Brand loyalty. Small Biz Technology notes that Gen Xers are likely to spend more on brands that “give back.” And according to eMarketer, when Gen Xers develop an affinity for a product, they are willing to pay a premium.

How Should Brands Market to Gen X?

What is the best way for brands to reach out to Gen X? We recommend that you:

  • Understand where they live online — and meet them there. As noted above, Facebook is popular with Gen X. So is YouTube. Paid advertising works, of course. But brands might also create content that draw Gen Xers in with educational information or even nostalgia  — because every generation loves a little throwback. In the case of Gen X, there’s a rich vein to mine: the 1970s, with all the possibilities that era represents in terms of pop culture, music, fashion, and more.
  • Offer rewards, coupons, and loyalty programs. This is a generation that remembers the Great Recession, and doesn’t have faith that Social Security will be around when they retire. And as noted earlier, they shoulder some debt. Reach out with opportunities to save, and this generation will listen.
  • Do good. As noted above, Gen X responds to brands that demonstrate a commitment to society or the environment.
  • Understand that for Gen Xers, status is less important. This is a generational feature that Ford Motor Company figured out years ago. As far back as 2016, Omar Odeh, a Ford Explorer marketing manager, observed to Forbes, “[Gen Xers are] less likely to have to put their wealth on status. They don’t necessarily have to buy that premium brand. They will look at value for money and performance.”
  • Think mobile. According to eMarketer, 88.5 percent of this generation use smartphones. Reach out to this group through mobile devices, and make sure your website is mobile-friendly.
  • Keep communications short and to the point. Immersed in raising kids and building careers, this generation puts a value on time — and has little patience for perceived time-wasters.
  • Give them some love. According to Big Commerce, 54 percent of Gen Xers “are frustrated that brands constantly ignore them.”

Contact True Interactive

How can your brand resonate with Gen X, that most elusive of generations? Contact us. We can help.

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Why the Google Ad Juggernaut Is Back

Why the Google Ad Juggernaut Is Back

Google

Google’s advertising business has come roaring back. In 2020, Google found itself to be in the unusual position of seeing a downturn in its advertising revenue for the first time in 29 years. That’s because a pullback in ad spending among Google’s clients, many of whom come from a travel/hospitality industry ravaged by the COVID-19 pandemic, hurt Google even as ad competitors Amazon and Facebook were reaping a windfall. But Google’s recent financial results show that the downturn was temporary, and Google will continue to exert an enormous influence on the advertising world.

Recently, Google’s parent firm Alphabet announced quarterly earnings that exceeded investors’ expectations. Although the growth of Google’s cloud computing business had a lot to do with Alphabet’s success, the rebound of Google advertising played a big role, too. Google’s advertising revenue rose to $44.68 billion for the first quarter of 2021, up from $33.76 billion the year before, prompting CNBC to note that the ad revenue spike was the fastest annualized growth rate in at least four years. So, what can we conclude form the turnaround?:

  • Google is benefitting from the popularity of video. YouTube earned $6 billion in revenue for the quarter, increasing 49 percent from a year earlier. Earlier in 2021, we predicted a surge in online video consumption, a reality that has been borne out during the pandemic. To be sure, online video is much bigger than YouTube, as the success of TikTok demonstrates. But as Google reported later in 2020, during the pandemic, people were turning to video more as a learning tool when in-person learning options were shut down, which benefits YouTube given the amount of instructional content that exists there. The only question that remains now is whether the popularity of online video, and, by extension, YouTube, will remain as strong in a post-pandemic world.
  • Google’s Knowledge Graph is becoming more powerful. The Google Knowledge Graph consists of all the sources of information that Google draws upon to provide search results to queries. It’s a wonky concept that people in the search engine optimization (SEO) industry follow closely. But the Knowledge Graph applies to advertising, too. When Google provides answers to searches such as “Where can I find a plumber near me?” or “Where can I find Anime T shirts?” Google draws upon sources such as Google Maps, Snippets, and a company’s Google My Business (GMB) listings (among other sources) to share information about relevant businesses. Well, guess what? Google is doing such an effective job tapping into its Knowledge Graph to serve up answers on search engine results pages (SERPs) that people are finding answers to what they need on Google without needing to click anywhere else. More eyeballs on Google SERPs means that Google can deliver a larger audience to advertisers through Google Search. As Google becomes an even stronger all-purpose search tool (hard to believe given Google’s dominance in search already), the company becomes even more valuable to advertisers.
  • Google is creating its own future. As widely reported, Google has intensified its war against third-party cookies that are essential for businesses to deliver ads based on a person’s browsing behavior across the web. As Google forces the demise of third-party cookies, advertisers will need to tap into businesses that possesses first-party data (such as Amazon) in order to continue to deliver effective personalized ads. And as it turns out, Google is sitting on a lot of first-party data through that Knowledge Graph I mentioned. When people use Google Maps, YouTube, and other Google properties, they give Google a ton of information about their search and purchase habits, which Google uses to create better ad products. According to Brendan Eich, cofounder and CEO of the privacy-focused browser company Brave, “The reality is that Google already has first-party access to nearly every site—via Google Analytics, ad words, Google Tag Manager, Google Maps, etc.—and that its users are being data mined for profit.”

All of this is not to say that businesses need to dial up their advertising on Google. We’ve always recommended that advertisers go where their audience is, period. At the same time, Google has demonstrated the wisdom of businesses taking the long view with their advertising. The Big Tech ad platforms – Amazon, Facebook, Google, and Microsoft – have carved out a powerful space in the advertising world. Those companies are all big targets for critics, which has resulted in antitrust action and negative PR. But the negative PR can lead a business around by the nose, too, resulting in short-sighted thinking. The ad giants are not going away. If they’re important to your business – and I suspect they are if you’ve read this far into my post – don’t pump on the brakes in 2021.

Contact True Interactive

To succeed with online advertising, contact True Interactive. Read about some of our client work here.

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Why YouTube Shorts Matters to Brands

Why YouTube Shorts Matters to Brands

YouTube

TikTok has another challenger. As we’ve blogged, apps like Snapchat are creating their own short-video-making platforms in a bid to carve out space in an increasingly crowded field. Now Google’s YouTube has joined the party with YouTube Shorts. Read on to learn more about Shorts and what they bring to the table—for users, and for brands.

What Are YouTube Shorts, and How Do They Stand Out?

If you are familiar with TikTok or Instagram Reels, you’ll get the basic premise of YouTube Shorts: using the YouTube app, people can quickly and easily create short videos of up to 15 seconds. The videos are created on mobile devices and viewed, in portrait orientation, on mobile devices. And once you open one short, you essentially access the motherlode in that videos start playing one after the other. Just swipe vertically to get from one to the next.

Shorts, much like TikTok, provides editing tools you can use to flex creative muscle. Users can string clips together. Adjust playback speed. Add music and text. And as YouTube has blogged, creators can play off of existing content: “[Y]ou can give your own creative spin on the content you love to watch on YouTube and help find it a new audience—whether it’s reacting to your favorite jokes, trying your hand at a creator’s latest recipe, or re-enacting comedic skits.” (Notably, creators are in control of their material; they can opt out of having their long-form videos remixed in this way.)

Shorts comes to the U.S. in beta after a beta launch in India last fall. The platform enjoyed success in India, finding a comfortable niche in the wake of the TikTok ban there. Now Shorts brings its opportunities to the States.

Why Did YouTube Launch Shorts?

Shorts is YouTube’s response to the huge popularity of short-form video. Who wouldn’t want in on that action? But Shorts is also meant to be the answer to a problem faced by new creators: it’s hard to break into the video-making world. According to YouTube, “Every year, increasing numbers of people come to YouTube to launch their own channel. But we know there’s still a huge amount of people who find the bar for creation too high. That’s why we’re working on Shorts, our new short-form video tool that lets creators and artists shoot snappy videos with nothing but their mobile phones.”

Think of it as users being able to dip a toe in creative waters without having to film and edit a full video. And because Shorts are counted like regular video views, creators hoping to make money from YouTube by getting accepted into the YouTube Partner Program (YPP) can use Shorts to do so. Users must accrue 4,000 valid public watch hours in the previous 12 months to quality for YPP, and Shorts are an accessible way to meet that threshold. YouTube has also blogged that they are taking a “fresh look at what it means to monetize YouTube Shorts and reward creators for their content,” hinting at additional opportunities to come.

Why Do YouTube Shorts Matter to Brands?

The opportunity YouTube Shorts represents for creators is good news for brands, too. Why? For one thing, creators are potentially powerful sources of great user-generated content that can benefit brands – for a recent example, consider the incredible visibility that skateboarder Nathan Apodaca created for Ocean Spray and Fleetwood Mac with a TikTok video.

It’s worth mentioning that apps like YouTube Shorts are of particular interest if your target market is Gen Z or Millennials. As noted by iabuk.com last fall, short-form video is surging in popularity, particularly with these generations.

What Brands Should Do

  • Stay abreast of new apps like YouTube Shorts. Knowing what’s out there informs decision-making about where and how you want to make your brand known.
  • Understand how your target audience communicates. Are you courting Gen Z or Millennials? Go where they are. And as noted above, platforms for short-form video are a logical place to be.
  • Consider whether creating your own shorts makes sense. As Social Media Examiner notes, brands that create their own Shorts stand to get some attention: “for businesses, the strategy right now with Shorts is to get exposure and hopefully subscribers to your channel so people will see some of your content outside of the short shelf.” Meanwhile, this post from HubSpot will help you think through how to get started with YouTube Shorts.
  • Look at the big picture: YouTube Shorts is yet another example of the proliferation of short-form video. If you have not done so already, adapt your video content strategy for both brief snippets (e.g., teaser content) and longer-form content (e.g., educational tutorials).

Contact True Interactive

How can short-form video elevate your brand? Contact us. We can advise.

Convenience Is King This Holiday Shopping Season

Convenience Is King This Holiday Shopping Season

Advertising

This is going to be a different holiday season. Many shoppers will be planning for holidays apart from their extended families and friends as they practice social distancing. And shopping itself will look different: consumers will likely be very careful about going into brick-and-mortar stores. As a result, shoppers will seek convenience. We’ve blogged about the importance of customer-friendly shipping in the past; this year, as consumers order gifts for shipping abroad to their socially distanced loved ones, convenient and cost-effective shipping will be more important than ever. Shoppers will also rely on services such as curbside pickup that make it easier to purchase gifts without needing to go into stores. It’s important that retailers adapt online holiday advertising strategies accordingly.

Rise of Convenience

Signs are everywhere that shoppers will place a heavy emphasis on convenience:

  • Retailers from Home Depot to Macy’s are downplaying Black Friday, focusing instead on spreading out holiday deals over a period time. This is a big shift: no longer will customers be expected to queue up in front of physical stores on retailers’ timetables. It’s simply not safe to do so.
  • Instead, retailers are stressing their ability to manage—and support—how people want to shop on their own terms. For example, Walmart has launched Walmart Plus, a new subscription service through which the retailer, among other things, manages delivery of purchases. For $98 a year, participating consumers receive in-store and online benefits like unlimited free delivery. The service, a direct competitor to Amazon Prime, demonstrates how retailers can pivot to meet customer needs during a year of radical change.
  • We also see retailers expanding their curbside pickup services, which makes it possible for shoppers to minimize in-store shopping while still getting what they want on their own timetable. As noted in eMarketer, curbside pickup is booming: “We now expect US click-and-collect ecommerce sales to grow to $58.52 billion, up 60.4% from our initial forecast of 38.6% growth.”

What Retailers Should Do

There are steps retailers can take to stay competitive during a holiday season shaped by an unprecedented year. What do we recommend?

  • First off, start now to advertise your holiday sales. Why? Because people are probably shopping earlier to accommodate more time to ship things. eMarketer recommends capturing accelerating holiday traffic by setting suitable budgets, not to mention competitive targets, for Smart Shopping campaigns and Smart Bidding.
  • But don’t just promote merchandise. Promote convenience; send the message that you are recognizing shoppers’ needs during an extraordinary year, and working hard to make life easier. For example, if you offer curbside pickup, use Google advertising tools to promote it: retailers can now indicate in their local inventory ads that curbside pickup is an option. And features like the local inventory ads curbside pickup badge, currently in beta, allow retailers to highlight contactless pickup available for products next day or even same day.
  • Capitalize on location-based advertising such as advertising on Google Maps. As we have blogged in the past, Google Maps advertising offers unique possibilities; why not use this tool to highlight your shipping and curbside service offerings?
  • Put video to work. Explain how your shipping and curbside services work via tight, thoughtful video segments. Per eMarketer, “Viewers are three times more likely to pay attention to online video ads than television ads, and 70 percent of viewers say they bought a brand after seeing it on YouTube.” YouTube’s value, in fact, can’t be overstated: the article goes on to detail that the video-sharing platform has a 97 percent audience reach. Internalize these tendencies and strengths, and capitalize on them by planning a video strategy that reaches more people, and inspires those people to come shop this holiday season.
  • Make sure you promote services such as shipping through Google search ads. As eMarketer notes, almost 75 percent of U.S. respondents who indicate they plan to shop this holiday state that they will shop online more than they have in past holiday seasons. And the time-honored joy of browsing for gifts? A similar percentage say they will indulge their browsing online rather than on-site. Meet these online browsers and shoppers where they are at, letting them know, in their online search results, what you are offering in terms of shipping.

Contact True Interactive

A year ago, no one could have predicted the ways 2020 would shape consumer need—or the imagination and agility that would be demanded of brands responding to that need. Let us help you create online holiday advertising strategies during a singular time. Contact us.

Businesses Balance Risk with Reward on Social Media

Businesses Balance Risk with Reward on Social Media

Facebook Social media YouTube

One of the more interesting aspects of the ongoing Facebook advertising boycott is the concern over brand safety. Advertising Age reports that boycotting advertisers want assurance that the ads they place on the Facebook News Feed will not appear next to objectionable content such as hate speech. And who can blame them? But advertisers may not get everything they want. And they may have to live with an ongoing reality: so long as your brand lives on social media, you will always need to manage risk (whether you advertise, manage organic content, or both) against the ROI of having a presence on the world’s most popular digital destinations.

Social Media Controversies

I’ve been following how brands have managed occasional controversies on social and have commented on them in posts such as “Twitter’s Troll Police Struggle to Separate Humans from Bots” and “Social Media Remains a Messy Place for Brands to Live.” Many of the issues I’ve been writing about remain today, and Facebook is not the only platform wrestling with them. They include:

  • The inherent tension that exists when businesses exist on platforms designed to give people and organizations an open forum. An open forum means that anyone can have an opinion, which means that fringe content will always make its way on to social.
  • The reality that malicious parties are actively looking for ways to game the platforms and disrupt them. Twitter is reeling from a major hack July 15 in which the accounts of high-profile individuals such as Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk were hijacked as part of a Bitcoin scam. Of course, the bad guys out there are also going after brands’ websites, too, but on social media, your account is only as secure as the platform where you are renting space.
  • The difficulty of combating malicious content. As I discussed in a post about Twitter trying to combat trolls, social platforms continue to struggle with the fact that they can employ only so many people to monitor and combat inappropriate content. And when the platforms use automated tools to root out trolls, those tools make mistakes by overreaching and going after innocent accounts, too.

But brands simply cannot decide to ignore social media. Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, and YouTube are among the Top 20 most visited sites in the world according to Ahrefs. And as online traffic has surged across the board in 2020, businesses continue to succeed with social media advertising.

What You Should Do

So what’s the answer for brands wanting a safer experience? Well, there is no easy one. But:

  • Artificial intelligence is going to get better. Remember, we’re still in the early stages of AI’s development. As AI improves, social platforms are going to do a better job rooting out objectionable content.
  • Social platforms can and should be more transparent about how they monitor and react to objectionable content. It’s unrealistic for any social media platform to promise brands that their ads will never appear alongside offensive content. But according to Advertising Age, Facebook is figuring out how to more proactively report to brands how it monitors content and responds to flare-ups. This is a step in the right direction. It’s just not a good idea to leave advertisers in the dark. Being candid and including them in a solution goes a long way.

Advertisers should demand that social media platforms work with them to manage their brands. But social media more than ever will always be a risky place for brands to live. I suggest that businesses:

  • Have a strategy for how social media attracts and keeps customers both with advertising and organic content.
  • Measure success – but also measure your risk tolerance. Assign a numerical scale to assess the level of risk you are willing to accept on each platform and for various types of incidents ranging from security breaches to your content appearing alongside inappropriate content.
  • Monitor your ROI as well as incidents you experience. How much ROI are you getting? How frequent are the violations you experience? Does the ROI outweigh the costs of dealing with negatives? (Your mileage will vary.)
  • Keep applying pressure to the major social platforms to hold themselves accountable.

What have your experiences been on social media? I’d love to hear from you.

Contact True Interactive

Do you need help making decisions about advertising on social? Contact us.

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Research Shows That Having a Strong Social Media Presence Pays Off

Research Shows That Having a Strong Social Media Presence Pays Off

Facebook

Having a strong social media presence pays off for your brand – literally. That’s what research from Sprout Social shows. Sprout Social surveyed consumers and social marketers between February 28 and March 4. As reported in Mobile Marketer, the survey reveals:

  • Nine out of 10 people purchase from brands they follow on social media.
  • Seventy-five percent of people have increased their spend on companies they follow on social. That’s a 12 percent increase from 2019, a leap that’s particularly noteworthy given the COVID-19 pandemic.

Moving Forward

These findings validate what we wrote in a recent post: brands advertising on social media can connect with people who are willing to spend money even during the coronavirus era. Knowing this, how does a company move forward during such an unprecedented time? Here’s what we suggest you do:

  • Make sure you have a strong social media presence. As we’ve noted, use of social media has surged in the first quarter, with engagement on platforms like Facebook, WhatsApp, and Instagram spiking 40 percent or more — this despite, or even because of, the pandemic. In short, not only are people willing to spend on brands, there are more people on social, period. Brands that advertise on social will reach that larger audience.
  • Make sure your content is engaging, and that you engage with the audience. According to the Sprout Social report, 61 percent of consumers say that engagement with the audience is the brand characteristic that is most meaningful to them.
  • Complement your advertising with strong customer service. What does strong customer support look like now? Per Sprout Social, responding to people quickly is a strong barometer of customer service. As noted in Mobile Marketer, 40 percent of consumers expect brands to respond within the first hour of connecting through social media; and 79 percent expect a response in the first 24 hours.
  • Reach out to younger consumers in a way that matters most to them; that means a strong presence on YouTube and Instagram. Gen Z is the largest age cohort in the United States, and Millennials remain sizeable. It’s important that brands understand where Gen Zers spend their time. Right now, visual content is the key to Gen Zers’ hearts. The Sprout Social report reveals that social sharing platforms highlighting videos and photos, such as Google’s YouTube and Facebook’s Instagram, are becoming more and more popular with younger consumers. As reported in Mobile Marketer, “Almost three quarters (73%) of Generation Z said they plan to use Instagram more often, while 65% said they plan to spend more time on YouTube.” So it’s no surprise that Facebook just purchased Giphy and will integrate the business with Instagram.

Finally, make sure that you stay abreast of the various tools that are constantly made available to businesses to maximize the value of their social media spend. For instance, Google has adapted the YouTube masthead ad format for the era of connected TV.

Contact True Interactive

Eager to build a stronger social media presence? Contact us. We can help.

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Why Mobile Will Power Your Marketing Future

Why Mobile Will Power Your Marketing Future

Mobile

For businesses, engaging with mobile should not be a matter of if, but when. And according to App Annie’s The State of Mobile 2020 report, sooner is better than later. The report underscores how important it is for businesses to connect with their customers on mobile. Here are some stats that resonate:

Mobile Is a Way of Life

  • According to the report, consumers downloaded a record 204 billion apps in 2019. Annual downloads have grown 45 percent in the three years since 2016, and six percent year over year. As App Annie points out, this growth is especially impressive because it excludes re-installs and app updates.
  • Also of note: in 2019, people spent roughly three hours and 40 minutes a day on mobile, a 35 percent increase over 2017.

People Are Spending on Mobile Apps

  • Consumers are opening their pocketbooks to engage with mobile—and not just with games. App store consumer spending hit $120 billion in 2019, up 2.1 times from 2016. Although games comprise 72 percent of all app store spend, subscriptions in non-gaming apps leapt from 18 percent share in 2016 to a solid 28 percent in 2019.

Mobile Is Where People Go to Be Entertained

  • Time spent on sports apps such as ESPN grew by 30 percent from 2017 to 2019.
  • Mobile gaming is, hands down, the world’s most popular form of gaming. In 2019, mobile games enjoyed 25 percent more spend than all other gaming combined.
  • New entrants like Disney+ are heating up consumer interest—and competition—in the streaming industry. For right now, consumers seem happy to double-dip: close to 25 percent of Netflix’s iPhone users also used Disney+ in Q4 2019, for example. That’s the highest overlap of users among top video streaming apps in the United States.

YouTube and TikTok Are Exploding

  • YouTube enjoyed a staggering 980 percent growth in worldwide active users from December 2017 to December 2019. And as we recently blogged, the platform is an advertising giant, to boot.
  • App Annie calls it the “TikTok Tidal Wave”: time spent on TikTok, which as a social networking app and entertainment source poses a double threat, grew 210 percent year over year in 2019. TikTok is also drawing interest from brands; as we have noted, the platform is an ideal place to demonstrate a lighter side through funny videos or challenges.

Social Media on Mobile Is as Strong As Ever

  • Social isn’t going anywhere. App Annie notes that 50 percent of time on mobile is spent on social and comms apps like Snapchat. As a result, apps like Snapchat are thriving: as we recently blogged, Snapchat continues to grow, even in a competitive landscape.
  • Meanwhile, use of Nextdoor has grown 65 percent from December 2017 to December 2019 in the United States, demonstrating an interest in social networking at a local level.

Gen Z Is Rocking Mobile

  • Gen Z are digital natives, and as such lead all other demographics in terms of mobile use. According to the App Annie report, Gen Z has 60 percent more sessions per user in top apps than older demographics. And 98 percent of Gen Z own a smartphone.

Implications for Businesses

  • If you are advertising on mobile already, don’t put your advertising on pause during the coronavirus pandemic. Phone carriers such as AT&T are reporting a surge in mobile usage as more people work from home.
  • That said, you may find yourself adapting your mobile campaign at this time: say, by discussing community building activities that will keep your brand front of mind when the crisis subsides. Sensitivity to the current crisis is key. And patience. Elijah Whaley, the CMO influencer marketing agency Parklu, notes of brands who proceed carefully and wisely through the coronavirus era, “When [consumers] start spending again they are going to spend with you.”
  • Capitalize on YouTube and TikTok. These apps are only going to increase in popularity as more Gen Zers come of age. TikTok is just sorting out its ad products, but, as we’ve noted, YouTube already offers strong advertising options.

Contact True Interactive

Mobile is where the action is. Are you getting in on it? Contact us.

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