Why The Rules Of Brand Loyalty Are Changing And What You Should Do About It (part 1)

As a business owner if you want to know the single most important word today to keep in mind when crafting your brand vision, I can tell you.

Generation.

As in Baby Boomer, Generation X and Millennials.

The Baby Boomers, born during the post-war baby boom, are one of the largest populations in history at 79 million in the US. As they age, they’re growing into consumers whose purchasing habits are shifting to be more centered around medical care and assisted living than McDonalds and Toys ‘R Us. Boomers have been a powerhouse, driving the economy for decades. Brands like Levis and Noxzema rose and fell at the purchasing whim of the Boomers.

But that’s changing rapidly.

Boomers now don’t generally live in a mainstream consumer society. Brands that they’ve been loyal to for years are going to struggle in the coming years, as their consumer champions focus less on consumption and more on retirement and planning ahead for end of life decisions.

As Baby Boomers edge toward retirement, they take with them nearly $400 billion in annual spending. This leaves a spending void that will be difficult to fill.

What does that mean for your business? Opportunity.

The brands, some old some new, that the younger generations favor have a massive growth opportunity.

To help understand why, we just need to look to the Boomers for answers. Statistically, they have well-established careers, often in positions of authority. Think lawyers, executives, and managers. Very long work weeks are standard and they often define themselves less by their own professional accomplishments and more by their employer’s prestige. They often have stuck with that employer, even if it meant leaving a state they liked, moving across the country chasing promotions. They are loyal. And they are also loyal – blindly loyal sometimes – to their brands. It doesn’t matter if another newer brand is better.

Gen X-ers and Gen Y-ers, the Millennials, have moved away from that blind brand loyalty. That has changed the face of the business world. And most importantly for you, when you are engineering your brand, it has created enormous potential for your business.

Now of course I’m not saying Gen-Xers and Gen-Yers are the same as each other. Definitely not. Numerous studies on this seem to reveal that each generation has their own unique consumer characteristics.

Closeup portrait of two women of different ages on white backgro

Know those characteristics and you begin to understand how to attract these consumers.

Generation X was born after the post-World War II baby boom. Their birth dates range from the mid 1960s to the early 1980s. At only 46 million members, this generation has barely half the market share of the Boomers and Millennials. That means that their buying power, as a group, is less than the generations that preceded and came after them. But statistically they collectively earn more than Millennials, coming close to Boomers’ wages. So it kind of evens out. There are less of them, but they have more spending money than their younger counterparts.

Research shows that X-ers are much more skeptical of brands and advertising than people in their twenties. And far less loyal to the old school brands that Boomers favor. Probably the reasons for that reside, in part, in the era they’ve come of age in.

They’ve grown up with corporate downsizing, huge layoffs and plenty of government scandal. X-ers became adults in tough economic times. Success for this generation has been less certain than for Boomers. These are latch-key kids who grew up quickly, with rising divorce rates and escalating societal violence. Probably because of these factors they’ve taken greater responsibility, than in other generations, for raising themselves.

After seeing their hardworking parents burn out and maybe lose their jobs, data shows that X-ers are often independent and resourceful workers who prize their freedom. Statistically, unlike Boomers, they don’t seem to be up for sacrificing quality of life for career advancement.

Gen X-ers tend to be less traditional than any other generation and are highly entrepreneurial.
No surprise then that the brands this generation lean toward also display those independent characteristics. Think magazines like Maxim and cars like the Mini Cooper.

The word Brand on a box or package with several related terms su

Don’t expect blind brand loyalty from this generation. Gen X-ers are extremely skeptical and cynical, and they value authenticity. They also expect change.

When you’re creating a brand presence and you want to attract this generation, focus on a brand personality that says “you’re different and we respect that,” “there aren’t a lot of rules here,” “this is not a formal place” and “do it your way.”

Next week I’ll finish this blog by looking at the Millennials who, weighing in at roughly 80 million strong in the US, are now the largest generation since the Boomers.