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Generation Gap

September 9th, 2009 by Bob Bly

The other day one of my customers, a 72-year-old man, said to me: “I refuse to deal with anyone who isn’t 40 or older.”

When I asked why, he explained: “The younger generation thinks completely differently than my generation. I can’t understand them or relate to their values.”

I get what he is saying and have applied this principle to my copywriting to some extent: I tend to write only for audiences who are either like me or to whom I can relate.

I write to “grumpy old men” (males age 50 plus) because I am one.

I write to IT professionals because I have been trained as one, though did not actually work in IT.

I write to doctors because, even though I am not one, I share their interest in science and can relate to them.

I write for parents, because I am one.

I do not write for fashion, because I do not care about clothes.

I do not write copy for products aimed primarily at teens, because even though I have two, I am not one.

How about you?

Do you think people in your generation think and behave fundamentally the same as the generations before and after yours?

Or do you think the generation gap is so strong that different generations have entirely different mindsets?

Do you primarily market products for whom the target prospect is YOU?

Or do you enjoy the challenge of selling to buyers of different ages, education, and backgrounds?

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This entry was posted on Wednesday, September 9th, 2009 at 8:29 am and is filed under General. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

773 responses about “Generation Gap”

  1. Ray Massie said:

    Since I spent a lot of time in broadcast media and writing, I can relate to this. When you voice a commercial, you can tell if there’s truth and sincerity, or just a bunch of BS. Same goes for writing. If I care about what I’m writing, I can write decently. If I don’t, it’s better to hand it to someone else.

  2. Lou Wasser said:

    Bob:

    If a copywriter can pull off the widespread audience appeal in his copy you suggest in your last sentence, he’s got it made in the shade. The challenge is a perennial one. Cicero, the great Roman orator, perhaps said it best:

    “As I approve of a youth that has something of the old man in him, so I am no less pleased with an old man that has something of the youth. He that follows this rule may be old in body, but can never be so in mind.”

  3. Sofia Ribeiro said:

    It is definitely easier to write copy for your generation, or “you”. I personally find it challenging and rewarding to get out of the comfort zone and write for other publics. And I notice that a fresh approach tends to work; it stands out, and I end up generating more inquiries because of that.

  4. Spencer said:

    Though I find that it is easier to write to my generation, I would be out of a job if I were so exclusive as to only write to them. As lame as it may sound, I find that it’s vital to be flexible when it when faced with a new demographic, not upset.

  5. Lone Wolf Entrepreneur said:

    I’ve never consciously limited my marketing to a specific age group overall. Obviously, depending on the product I’m marketing, I have a particular customer in mind and usually a specific age group, but this has varied from project to project.

    Perhaps this doesn’t feel like such a stretch because I’m a 30-something ‘tweener?

    Of course, I HAVE only marketed products that I actually create (or help create) and therefore naturally market to my own interests.

    As for “The younger generation thinks completely differently than my generation.” I think this has probably been said about the up and coming generation since the beginning of time.

  6. Bob Bly said:

    Lone Wolf: Yes, it has probably been said since the beginning of time. But is it true?

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  8. Marc said:

    Hi Bob,

    You write for 50+ old men? I chuckled a bit when I read that. I just turned 24 and I get just about every post you write. In addition to that, my website’s target audience falls between 30 & 60. They’re usually professionals, professors, lawyers and the like who have a need to connect to the internet on the go.

    Based on their feedback, they like my copy. Funny enough, I didn’t try to ‘write for them’. I wrote for people who I figured would be like myself and have the same problems and frustrations. In turn, I expected them to seek the same solutions I did.

    Perhaps I’m an outlier for my generation. I own an online business/website. Starting a 2nd one. Used profits from it to pay off all my debt in one year and within the next 6 months should make enough to fully sustain myself. Most people around my age don’t seem to be up to the same stuff or value it as much. Sure they’d like to have the same stuff but they lack the drive/motivation to pull it off.

    I guess I’m stuck teaching and selling to people 10 to 30 years older than me :-S

  9. Bob Bly said:

    Marc: your achievements, intelligence, and ambition mark you as much higher than the average — at any age.

  10. Lone Wolf Entrepreneur said:

    Bob: Yes, it’s absolutely true! How do we know it’s true? Because every parent swears they’ll never say it, yet we all do. We wouldn’t do something we’re so adamantly against doing if it didn’t turn out to be 100% true. Kids these days… 🙂

  11. Aspiring Writer said:

    Bob,

    I would tend to agree with you,I think its just a natural thing we do,we write to our age group and/or to people of our own ilk.I am literally just starting my freelance writing career, it is much easier to write for your own age group or professional background,simply because we know it inside out,we relate easily to these people. The old yet very true adage of ‘Write what you know’ bears us out here I think, I write, or am hoping to write, for the Insurance and Financial Services sector because thats what I know and where my background is.

    The true skill of a more experienced Copywriter is writing for unfamiliar markets yet doing it so well that the copy sells, which after all is the prime objective.

    Anyway, thats my tuppence worth! I enjoy yourblog Bob,your ‘modus operandi’ is pretty similar to the direction I want my future business to go.

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  14. Natalie said:

    Marc / Bob – I’m 22 and working for Agora Publications. I feel like the luckiest girl alive. Bob, I read everything you write (Still wading through the copywriters hand book though! Sorry!) I agree Marc, you need the right attitude to hard work at any age. I feel very much like I’m one of a kind. Ambitious, energetic and have a lot of focus…

    Its not all about age though, some people who are 40, 50 or older still haven’t decided what they want to do, and probably never will. Older people shouldn’t brand the younger ones as being disinterested in their opinions.

    Natalie.

  15. Curtis said:

    Bob –
    A little off topic but I was hoping you could answer a question about who to write to.

    You listed your markets. I want to get into the medical market (B2B) – because it’s what I know. But, with health care reform on the horizon do you think that’s a wise move on my part?

    I just don’t want to put in a bunch of work getting started in an industry that may change drastically or even go backwards.

    Your thoughts would be greatly appreciated…

    Best,
    Curtis

  16. Bob Bly said:

    Curtis: medical device marketing is a GREAT copywriting niche. I have always enjoyed writing for it. It pays well and always will.

  17. GEN A-Z said:

    Do you not realise that the “grumpy old man” syndrome is exactly what makes a generation gap? I guess not as we’re now into the about the 60,000th generation to perpetuate this ignorance…

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  19. Alan -- $100K Small Business Coach said:

    Good article. I’ve experienced much of what you say about the difference between the generations and how to market to them. The internet has made a huge difference in marketing, moving marketing approch from interuption marketing (sticking it under their nose) and the current style of being where they are looking for help.

    But, even after you get the younger generation as clients, it’s frustrating to me, as one of those grumpy old men who’s a coach, to see them not act. That part I get grumpy with.

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