Focusing On Generational Differences For Marketing Success

Ashley Cooksley and Celia Dearden-Briggs examine the parallels between age and lifestyle choices, including consumer behaviors, interests and purchasing factors during the first half of 2020.

Cleveland — Looking at the lifestyle choices and interests among candy and snack consumers, younger generations prefer healthier choices. Starting with gen z (aged 8 to 22) and millennials (aged 23 to 39), these generations are more likely to be interested in sports, fitness and healthy foods. Being active correlates to a generation’s preference for snack foods. Younger generations report buying fewer snack foods and drinking more non-alcoholic beverages.

Looking specifically at health foods, 36 percent of gen-z consumers say they, or their household, made a purchase in this category in the last month. This decreases gradually through the ages, ending at 19 percent of boomers, who instead have a sweet tooth for cookies, with 55 percent reporting purchases in the month prior.  From a social media point of view, gen z and millennials prefer knowing about healthy options through social media influencer posts and/or brands actively engaging them online. 

On the other hand, gen x (aged 40 to 55) and boomers (aged 55+) report no interest in these areas. These generations consume candy at will, but exercise some restraint and perhaps avoid a daily sweet, show the highest brand loyalty, and mostly can be reached via traditional advertising versus social media.

Brand Examples Tell A Story

The Hershey Co. has attempted to play the middle ground with its Hershey’s Special Dark Mildly Sweet Chocolate Bars marketed as a healthier alternative, but still a sweet treat. However, on the company’s social channels the only identifiable organic mention relating to this in the last year was their response to a user asking if this chocolate is suitable for diabetics on Twitter. In fact, this is the only mention of “sugarfree” on the brand’s social channels in the past two years.

On the other side of the social media spectrum is SmartSweets, which uses the tagline “Your top request #KickSugar candy is here!” — placing consumer demands at the forefront of its branding.

One of SmartSweets’ smartest tactics is leveraging social media influencers. When applied to a niche audience, influencer reach and effect can be powerful. On Twitter, from January to August, #KickSugar or “Kick Sugar” has been used in 2.4k mentions — with health expert and influencer Lori Shemek playing a large role. @LoriShemek featured in 32 percent of mentions; with high levels of retweeting on her posts. On Instagram, the brand’s hashtags have been used in 14.4k posts to date, the most popular from a variety of influencers supporting SmartSweet that offered product discounts.

Another important factor for brands on social media is engagement, which candymakers achieve primarily through heavy usage of prompting posts and frequent giveaways. When using the hashtags on its Instagram, SmartSweets’s average engagement jumped to 11.5k per post with 52 percent of engagements per post being comments. This highlights how engaged users are, especially younger generations, with the brand given commenting is a dedicated and more time-consuming action.

Pairing Purchase Decisions, Marketing For Success

Both gen z and millennials are actively posting opinions about snack food products online. For example, in Q2 2020 these age groups, on average, were 33 percent more likely to share an opinion about snack foods online. This, in conjunction with gen z and millennials being one-third more likely to buy a product to access the community built around it, means brands must get it right to create the positive brand reputation these individuals seek.

Building a space in which this age group can come back and frequently re-engage is important for them; using call-to-action posts that ask for opinions will lead to higher engagement. Thus, a synergy of marketing angles would be useful, such as influencers, social retargeting campaigns and OOH (out of home marketing).

As one might imagine, gen x and baby boomers do not consume or partake in social media as much, which is why tv ads are still the best way to reach them. These older generations also feel underrepresented when it comes to ads, and even though millennials watch their fair share of tv, snack brands should continue to lean on this medium to better cater to older generations.

Additionally, gen x and boomers are more likely to be loyal to the brands they like. Boomers are also bigger penny pinchers, with almost two-thirds stating they use discount codes, coupons or loyalty/reward schemes and 68 percent stating they spend time looking for the best deals. Thus tv ads targeting pricing and offers is a large purchasing prompt for this generation, and will lead to more efficient targeting.

Overall, the data show younger generations should be reached with healthier choices, by influencers with a following and positive reviews from well respected members of that community. Alternately, older generations, who bring the highest potential brand loyalty, want to be reached with traditional tv ads touting sweet and less costly treats.

Snack and candy brand marketers need to use generational-specific data and insights available to formulate well-targeted, tailored messaging via social media vehicles.

See the original publication in Candy and Snack Today

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