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Marketing and Selling to Specific Generations – Part 4

When it comes to how much information and insights there are about a generation, the size and uniqueness of the group matters. Behemoth generations get examined closely. Demographers, sociologists, industrial psychologists, advertising researchers, and business analysts all spend oodles of time compiling and parsing data about BIG generations. Because of their sheer size, the predilections, attitudes and actions of large generations have a profound impact on society. Similarly, generations that are conspicuously different from previous ones get a lot of media attention and scientific study simply because they stand out. This explains why the nearly 80 million Baby Boomers and the 75 million Millennials have been the media darlings for decades. Those generational groups are both large and distinctive.

Conversely, smaller and less notable generations get overlooked. Meet Generation X (born 1965 to 1980), the red-headed step-child of 20th century generations. Gen Xers, as they are commonly referred to, have been largely ignored by the population patrollers. As the name implies, they have been Xed out of the demographic spotlight. Born from 1965 to roughly 1980, this somewhat overlooked generation today ranges in age from about 35 to 50. That may very well be part of the problem. This ‘generation’ doesn’t cover the usual 18-20 year span of most generations. Gen Xers also aren’t young and trending or gray and retiring. Some might even argue that they haven’t really redefined society. For the media, this generation hasn’t delivered much in the way of fire, fuss, or freshness. In most of the ways we take stock of generations – their racial and ethnic makeup, political, social and religious values, economic and educational circumstances and technological engagement – Gen Xers are somewhat low-key, smack between adventurous abundant Boomers like Steve Jobs and Sir Richard Branson and the engaging, modish Millennials like Mark Zuckerberg. That said, although many businesses are fascinated with Millennials, it would be wiser to focus on the well-educated Generation X, especially since many companies are now led by Gen Xers.
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Marketing and Selling to Specific Generations – Part 3

There are six generations alive in the U.S. today. Assuming that for the most part the GI and Silent Generations are retired, very soon we will have four very different generations (Baby Boomers (ages 51-70), Gen Xers (ages 35-50), Millennials (ages 15-35) and the newest iGeneration (now teenagers) working side-by-side for the first time in history. That’s due, in part, to the fact that people are living and working longer. These four generations will also be customers, with very different values, experiences and styles. They will likely also partake in very different kinds of activities. This is both exciting and challenging. How can a business manage such diverse audience of customers and employees? Knowledge is key.

Today, we’ll look at the Baby Boomers (born 1946-1964). Of all the generations living in the U.S. today, the most well-known and well-documented is probably the Baby Boomers. Born from 1946 to 1964, Baby Boomers were the children of either the GI Generation or the Silent Generation. The parents of Baby Boomers were patriotic, respectful of authority and accepting and trusting of government. Those parents also believed in absolutes, sacrificing for the greater good and following the rules. But the age of conformity, sacrifice and towing the line ended with the arrival of the Baby Boomers. Boomers are known to be mavericks, bucking trends and taking risks. What’s more, even what was known about this generation a decade ago is still evolving. Meet the “Me” Generation.
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Marketing and Selling to Specific Generations – Part 2

There are six generations living in the U.S. today. Each spans a period of approximately 15-20 years or so. The oldest is the GI Generation (born 1901-1926). They are followed by the Silent Generation also referred to as the Conformists or Traditionalists (born 1927 – 1945). Then came the well-documented Baby Boomers (born 1946 – 1964) followed by Generation X (born 1965 – 1980) and then Generation Y also known as the Millennials (born 1981 – 2000). The most recent generation to emerge (born 2001 to the present) is being dubbed the iGeneration. They are also being referred to as Generation Z, plurals or Generation Wii.

So what is the purpose of labeling and defining generations? Most people in business, marketing and the media would say that the labels help them connect with and understand specific audiences. Called generational marketing, marketers use the trends and truisms for each group to customize their strategies in line with the values and qualities of the audience. For the media, the labels help to describe and ascribe cultural, social and political trends. But those labels are completely irrelevant to the people in those cohorts. The labels do nothing to shape the identity of the generations. It is life experience that shapes and defines them. Each generation is believed to share a host of qualities and characteristics that are a reflection of, reaction to, or rejection of events occurring whilst they were coming of age.

Indeed, it’s easy to overstate or over-generalize the qualities of a generation. Not everyone identifies with the labels of their generation. For example, the generation known as the Silent Generation, is viewed as one of traditionalists and conformists. Yet, much of what is now known about this generation shows that those labels may not be a perfect fit. While this generation may have followed many of the characteristics of the GI Generation before it, it also bucked many trends. And, given their net worth, it is a generation that businesses should understand well and engage. Continue reading

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Nepotism, Part 2

Nepotism can be found in practically every industry in the world, even in the highly competitive fields of construction, real estate and finance. Billionaire real estate tycoon Donald Trump has always given his adult children special employment opportunities. His son, Donald, Jr., age 35, is Executive Vice President of the privately-held Trump Organization. His daughter, Ivanka, age 31, also works in her father’s organization. His son Eric, age 29, is Executive Vice President of Development and Acquisitions. It is doubtful that even the most exceptionally brilliant, well-educated and hard-working 29-year-old could land an EVP position at a billion dollar organization unless he was related to the owner. In fact, Trump’s children openly admit that nepotism got them in the door, but also assert they’ve had to pull their weight after landing the job.

If nepotism is that widespread and prevalent in businesses big and small, it stands to reason that there must be some benefits to nepotism. Certainly, it could be argued that the children of the world’s most successful entrepreneurs are likely to have attended the finest schools and have a keener understanding of the family business than any outsider. Yet, many human resource experts have come to regard nepotism as ultimately damaging to business. That is because it often interferes with a company’s operations and possibly creates an environment that is demoralizing to employees. Even though widespread, nepotism as a strategy to fill the best jobs has some serious drawbacks.
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Nepotism, Part 1

It was recently announced that 84-year-old media mogul Rupert Murdoch will be handing the leadership reigns of the 21st Century Fox / News Corp. media conglomerate to his son, James Murdoch. As part of the reorganization, Fox COO Chase Carey will step down from his role. James Murdoch got the appointment despite the 2011 revelation that News Corp’s News of the World reporters were hacking phones to get the scoop on stories. At that time, News of the World, a U.K.-based newspaper, was managed by James Murdoch, who was called before British Parliament to answer questions about the matter. News of the World closed shortly after the scandal. The debacle did not affect James Murdoch’s selection to take over leadership of the media conglomerate from his father.

For as long as businesses have existed, so has nepotism. Nepotism is the practice among those with power or influence to favor relatives or friends, especially by giving them jobs. It stems from the Latin word for nephew, which kind of goes to the heart of the practice. The most familiar forms of nepotism have been passing down the leadership of a family business from father to son and giving key positions in a family business to children, grandchildren, nieces, and of course, nephews. It’s a practice that has been around — and accepted — since ancient times. With small family businesses in olden times, it was only natural that a son apprenticed with his father, learned the family business, and eventually took over when the father passed or was too old to work. Back before there were colleges, technical programs and other paths to learn a trade, an apprenticeship in the family-business was the primary way to pass skills from generation to generation. It was not only a good thing, but also a necessary one. It was also natural for a parent to want his family to continue to benefit from a business he built from scratch. But nepotism hasn’t been restricted to just mom-n-pop shops. Like Century 21 Fox / News Corp., conglomerates have been handed down from parent to child. Indeed, sons have even inherited kingdoms from their fathers since time immemorial.

The world has changed a lot since ancient times. Almost everything about how businesses operate has changed, evolving to accommodate new technology, systems for teaching trades and occupations, and methods for recruiting and managing staff. There is no longer a need for nepotism. Yet, nepotism still exists; alive and well in the 21st century in organizations large and small. What has changed is how nepotism is viewed by many. Not only do some complain about the unfairness of nepotism, but business pundits question if nepotism is bad for business. That begs the question: is nepotism a good thing or a bad thing? Is it an invaluable pipeline of highly-qualified talent that business owners and leaders can tap inexpensively to fill key vacancies? Or is it a human resources scourge that, when allowed to spread unchecked, contaminates and kills businesses?
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Intellectual Property: Are your Brands, Products and Services Protected? – Part 1

The average person knows very little about patents, copyrights, trademarks and service marks. They all fall within the complex legal realm of protecting the rights to something unique created by or belonging to a person or company, generally referred to as ‘intellectual property’. If you ask the typical entrepreneur if his brand needs a trademark or service mark, he probably wouldn’t know. And if you asked an average CEO to explain if or when a product needs a patent, he is unlikely to know the answer. In fact, even the average attorney knows little about this niche area of the law. It focuses on that special axis point where creativity and invention intersects with business and marketing.

While multinational companies have huge legal departments that handle trademarks and service marks for their intellectual property, the average mid-sized and small businesses generally do not. In fact, the leadership at small and mid-sized companies may not even give any thought at all to protecting the company’s intellectual property. Although they should protect their brand, products or services from possible infringement, most don’t. And that is risky business. The first step in protecting intellectual property is to understand the basics about the protections available and how they work.
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Go Mobile or Go Home

Marketing is constantly evolving. First there was print advertising. Then came persuasive radio commercials. After that came colorful TV ads. Then, with the evolution of technology and the advent of the World Wide Web, companies established an online presence. Business owners quickly surmised that without a website, their company would not be perceived as ‘legitimate’ or ‘reputable’ by most consumers. Even the smallest mom-n-pop shops set up simple, informative websites Then, as e-commerce flourished, websites became more sophisticated. Then companies were forced to go social. Social media sites sprouted up like weeds and companies had to get engaged or be forgotten. All of this marketing takes time and costs money. Still, the pace of change is relentless and businesses are now facing yet another change thanks to the growing tidal wave of Smartphones. Used by tweens, teens and adults of all ages, Smartphones are quickly taking over the shopping landscape and businesses are now feeling pressured to design websites that are mobile-friendly.

However, many companies have been slow to embrace the mobile revolution. After all, setting up and maintaining mobile websites, in addition to traditional websites, is both costly and complicated. Why go mobile when a company’s standard website works just fine and is delivering tons of traffic and sales? The answer: because Google has just said so. And Google, the 800-pound gorilla of the digital realm, will not take “no” for an answer. Continue reading

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Logo Mania

Often people confuse the words ‘logo’ and ‘brand’, and use them interchangeably. For many, the two words are synonymous. That is not so. A company’s brand is comprised of much more than its logo. A brand is a promise. It’s a unique combination of a logo, words, typefaces, colors, slogan, mascot, personality, price, customer service, aesthetics, attitude, voice, and more, all working together to convey the essence of the company or organization. That said, the company logo is a key, integral part of its brand and, often, it is the most easily-identifiable representation of the company’s identity.

It used to be that once a company created its logo, it stuck with that logo for a long, long time…. say 50 or 100 years if not forever, unless there was a very good reason to change it. That is no longer the case. With the rise of the Iinternet and improvements in design programs that have made it easier than ever to create digital art, companies are opting to regularly update their corporate logos. But deciding to update a company’s logo – or even create a new logo for a new company – has its challenges. Like art, the appeal of a logo is often in the eyes of the beholder. Those who decide to engage in this exercise should understand the common elements shared by the best logos of all time.
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Basic Marketing Tips for Startups

As a result of the downturn in the real estate and financial markets beginning in 2007-2008, many professionals changed careers. From realtors to lenders and from developers to appraisers, people left the lending, construction and real estate industries in droves. As the market contracted, many small companies went out of business. However, in recent years as the market has rebounded, professionals are slowly returning to these industries. Many are starting new businesses. Also, the adult children of real estate moguls and successful entrepreneurs see this as a good time to leave the parental nest and start businesses of their own. Moreover, changing market conditions has created opportunities for new businesses that never existed before such as crowd funding and trailer document tracking. For these reasons, real estate, building and lending startups are springing up at every turn.

Even though many of these startups are being led by seasoned professionals, starting a new business can be a challenge for even the most experienced businessperson. It is especially true for any startup on a tight budget which, let’s face it, includes most startups. While professionals launching a business in real estate, construction or finance may have a lot of technical knowledge and industry experience, they may not necessarily have much marketing know-how. Here are some basic marketing tips to keep in mind for any folks starting a new company or expanding their business with a new division.
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When a Company’s Brand Sends Mixed Signals – Part 1

Every company, no matter its size or purpose, has a brand. Regardless of whether the owners and leadership know what the brand is or what it stands for, the company brand exists. In theory, a company’s brand speaks about its purpose, voice and values. The brand reflects what the company does and does not do and how it wants to be viewed by the world. In practice, it also reflects what others – customers, potential customers, vendors, investors, and the general public — think about it. A brand reflects how the company is actually perceived by the world.

So a company’s brand is not just its logo or iconography, such as Nike’s swoosh or Apple’s bitten apple. Nor is a brand just it colors or fonts. That’s all just window dressing. A company’s brand is comprised of a multitude of elements that feed into the total picture or image (or in some cases the façade). Values. Voice. Personality. Corporate integrity. Product quality. Service delivery. Look/style. Marketing. Customer engagement. Approachability. A company’s brand is a reflection of all of this… combined. The better a company manages all of the elements that comprise its brand, the more likely it is to thrive long-term. To succeed, a company should be genuine in what it stands for and authentic and on point in everything it says and does. All of the messages should align.

But sometimes the messages don’t align. What happens if a company’s brand – this myriad of messages – sends mixed signals? What happens when there is a ‘disconnect’ between a company’s values and the quality of its products, or between its marketing messages and the actual service it delivers, or between its public voice and its online engagement? What happens to a brand where there are mixed messages muddying the brand’s image?
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