Back in 2003, David Wolfe wrote Ageless Marketing, a guide to relationship marketing using a psychographic approach. Flash forward to a few years ago when digital analyst Brian Solis coined the term “Gen C”—an age-agnostic new category defined by digital behavior. You can be Gen C at age 18 or 80.
Even though the elders in the group are not digital natives like their millennial counterparts, all members of Gen C look at digital life as a way to stay mainstream, solve common problems and access information on the fly. Extensive use of smartphones, involvement in social networks and embracing artificial intelligence-based devices such as voice assistants are all part of the Gen C playbook.
A key component of Gen C behavior is embracing an increasingly connected, mobile world where entire industries are being transformed. Many boomer and other tech-savvy seniors are embracing disruptive on demand business models including transportation (Lyft, Uber), hospitality (Airbnb) and grocery shopping (Postmates, Instacart).
While there are many words starting with “c” used to define Gen C’s digital behavior—creation, curation, community, collaboration, consumption—the word most experts agree on is CONNECTED.
According to research reports from Forrester and GfK, in the Gen C lifestyle 91 percent sleep next to their smartphone, 88 percent have at least one social media profile, 66 percent update it daily and more than half have an aggregate of more than 100 connections.
For Gen C, YouTube or Netflix is the new TV, podcasts are the new radio, Spotify is the new music player, and Twitter is the new newspaper and watercooler hangout. Facebook is the new sports bar, book club or backyard neighborhood BBQ. Instagram is the new photo album and Amazon is the new shopping mall. You don’t have to lead a completely digital lifestyle—but if you are embracing even half of these activities, you are a card-carrying member of Gen C.
For those in the longevity market, a Gen C approach is part of a powerful marketing strategy. Aside from attracting tech-savvy seniors in their 70s, 80s and even 90s (yes, they exist), there are three reasons to embrace Gen C. And they all have to do with family caregivers.
1. More than 40 million Americans are caring for someone over age 50 and these caregivers influence or make 79 percent of the purchase decisions for the long-term care of an older loved one.
2. The latest data from the Associated Press NORC and The SCAN Foundation found millennials make up one-third of all family caregivers and Pew Research reports 47 percent of all Sandwich Generation caregivers are in their 40s and 50s.
3. Caregivers and Gen C have a similar approach to decision-making: it is a team sport. Pew Research reported 70 percent of caregivers rely on referrals from other caregivers, family and friends and according to YouTube’s Engaging Generation C report, 85 percent of Gen C relies on peer approvals for buying decisions.
Boomers, millennials and Gen X are all turned off by inauthentic advertising campaigns and blatant marketing messages. “Help me, engage me but don’t sell me” is the new world order. When it comes to marketing to Gen C, the way to help and engage is through compelling stories.
Storytelling offers companies a chance to be authentic and stay true to what your brand means. For some great brand stories, just look at the Dollar Shave Club’s (NSWF) humor, Dawn detergent’s commitment to saving wildlife, Budweiser showcasing employees who are veterans helping military families or Google’s annual worldview of “the year in search.” Engaging stories are what Gen C wants—and they want them posted where they live: on mobile, online, on social networks.
The moral of the story is that embracing Gen C can make or break your business. If your marketing strategy is anchored in an analog world and you ignore the power of Gen C, prepare to be unfriended.