The paper "Consumer Behavior - Selling to the Generations" is an outstanding example of an essay on marketing. The question " Is Consumer Behavior a Function of Person’ s Age or Generation? " reflects one of the long-standing debates in the marketing world. Some argue that age is the key driver of consumer behavior. Others contend that generational impact is more critical than age calling to tailor marketing methods to suit the times. In reality, this debate is more semantic than substantive. Several factors, not just age, and generation, influence consumer behavior. Broadly, as Kotler and Armstrong (2010, 161) have said, cultural, social, individual, and psychological forces affect it.
Besides, demography, climate, and law are other drivers of consumer behavior. Specifically, according to Kotler and Keller (2006, 81), the demands of the most populous group – the baby boomers in the US, for instance -- shape the marketing environment. As these forces change, consumer behavior also mutates. For instance, Philips and Sternthal (1977, 444) argue, because the number of the mature group that also has the buying power is growing fast, this group should be increasingly factored into marketing decisions.
Therefore, both age and generation matter in marketing decisions and they are two sides of the same coin. Mostly, age determines the basic instincts and generation decides orientation and content. For instance, instinctively, children have always loved toys, teenagers sports items, the young in their 20s fancy gadgets, the middle-aged people goods and services that help them settle down and raise family, and the older people those products and service that make their retired life meaningful and comfortable. Society and technology have evolved with generation and so have the people’ s orientation and demand for the content – the basket of goods and services.
Children now want electronic Barbies and laser guns that act real rather than simple Barbie dolls and toy guns from 20 years ago. Teenagers want more videogames than real outdoor games. Adults now want computers and i-pads rather than typewriters and old mobile phones. Thus, the quarter has remained a quarter but the symbol and picture on it have changed. This has been the case with every generation. A graphic presentation can illustrate the inseparability of age and generation.
Kotler and Keller have divided the US population into six groups based on age (2006, 81). But for the sake of simplicity in presentation, let us take the demographic categories suggested by Brenner (2009): the Millennials or Generation Y (born after 1980), Buster or Generation X (born between 1965 and 1980), Baby boomers (born between 1946 and 1964), and Mature (born between 1909 and1945). The following graph brings the age and generation of Brenner’ s groupings together: Age Groups and Generations (Note: Not all agree on the exact age of these various generations). In sum, cultural, social, individual, psychological, demographic, climatic, and legal forces influence consumer behavior.
Age and generation, which are two sides of the same coin, are important specific elements that drive such behavior. Therefore, the debate about whether age or generation is more important in marketing decisions carries more intellectual, semantic heft than substantive value.
Benner, Richard, C., “Selling to the Generations,” Brenner Books. 1998. Web. 13 September 2011.
Kotler, Philip and Armstrong, Gary. Principles of Marketing, 13th ed. New Jersey: Prentice-Hall. 2010. Print
Kotler, Philip and Keller, Kevin, L., Marketing Management, 12th ed., New Jersey: Pearson Education. 2006. Print.
Philips, Lynn, W. and Sternthal, Brian, “Age Differences in Information Processing: A Perspective on the Aged Customer,” Journal of Marketing Research, Vol. XIV. 1977. 444-457. Print