THE BLOG
12/11/2014 10:57 am ET Updated Feb 09, 2015

If You Want Me to Care About Your Brand, Then Know What I Care About

A colleague once gave me a piece of advice about writing - "Write as if you're writing for family members." This advice has always served me well, until I sat down today and really thought about the meaning behind these words. See, the problem is that it doesn't specify which family member I'm writing for - my wife? My son? They'll both interpret what I have to say differently, and while my words may be relevant to one, they may miss the mark with the other.

Therein lies the challenge many marketers are facing today. With all the avenues of communication available to brands - from traditional advertising and marketing to 140-character tweets and even wordless Instagram photos - the issue is not just about reaching consumers, but rather resonating with them.

We have access to all kinds of data that help us learn about our consumers - we know who they are, what they like, and where they shop. But there's little data that tells us how to form an emotional connection with them. Going back to my wife and son, what is relevant to a female Baby Boomer is vastly different from what a male Millennial cares about. It makes sense then, for marketers and brands to want to tailor their messages to best cater to the relevant priorities of their target audience...

...but how? How do we find out what these priorities are, what consumers care about? And, taking it one step further, how do we figure out which of these priorities matter most to them?

Recently, MWW conducted a study to get to the bottom of this, and the  results are worth noting, particularly the breakdown of generational (Baby Boomer versus Millennial) priorities. A lot of focus is placed these days on the impact Millennials have on society - from the workplace and politics to technology and entertainment - but Boomers shouldn't be discounted; they are the  largest generation in U.S. history, making up approximately 25% of the total population, still controlling a majority of consumer spending power. Running a PR agency that employs a lot of Millennials, the results were interesting to me on both a personal and professional level, and worth a read for any marketer trying to connect with either generational demographic. Here are three insights to keep in mind:

Boomers are the anti-Millennials. This may seem fairly obvious, but our research showed that Baby Boomers place a high value on certain life priorities that Millennials, frankly, just don't care much about. And Millennials identified a wide variety of high priorities, whereas Boomers attached a high importance to a smaller set of values.

So what matters more to Millennials versus Baby Boomers? Millennials placed a high importance on "maintaining an even work/life balance," "making a lot of money," "having achievements recognized," and "being a leader." Boomers, on the other hand, valued "living in a just society," "being tolerant," "being loyal to cultural traditions and traditional priorities," and "playing by the rules."

Boomers are traditional, Millennials are trendy. Millennials prioritized "being a trendsetter" 4x higher than Boomers did, likely a result of growing up in the digital age, where information and trends are instantly shared with one another. It's worth noting that Millennials also prioritized "staying at the forefront of technology" 2.7x higher than their parents. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Boomers identified that it was extremely important to them to remain loyal to traditional views and values, rather than gravitating towards the latest trends and feeling like they're constantly trying to "keep up."

Boomers care about the greater good, Millennials care about the great them. This is in no way meant to sound like Millennials are selfish, but instead represents the Millennials' interest in having their own achievements recognized. They believe that together - but also individually - they can change the world. Boomers, however, seem to care more about the greater good of society - instead of going at it alone, they ask "what is best for society?"

So whether you're a marketer trying to get your message across to a specific demographic, or a CEO sitting down to share his thoughts in a blog post, the goal is the same for everyone - say something that forms a true connection with your audience, that taps into the priorities that matter most to them. At the end of the day, isn't that what we're all trying to do?

Remember, what you say matters, but how you make people feel matters more. To quote the great Maya Angelou, "I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel."