The Same Kind of Different
By Tamara Choat
National Swine Registry Director of Marketing & Communications

"I like what you're doing, but you need to do something to help us old fogies." This was the comment from the kind gentleman I met in our office last week. He was complimentary of the work of the Marketing & Communications Department, but was confused how to use the new online tools. Could we make an instruction manual, he asked, so he could navigate online without help from his son?

Differences in generations intrigue me. We're all familiar with the term "Baby Boomers." Most of us are familiar with "Gen Xers" as well - I myself am one.

What I didn't realize is that, although some of the labels are more recognizable than others, every generation in our country has a definition and an identity.

International demography expert Kenneth W. Gronbach defines them - and their influence levels from different forms of marketing - as follows in the U.S. Postal Service's April 2010 Deliver magazine:

GI Generation (born before 1925): Made up of those who lived through and fought in WWII. Also known as “The Greatest Generation” because of its contributions to the second World War.
  • Silent Generation (born 1925-1944): . Those generally thought to be too young to fight in WWII and those born during the War. The smallest generation of the 20th century as a consequence of low Depression-era birth rates.
  • Baby Boomers (born 1945 to 1964): Children of the GI and Silent Generations. The second largest generation and one of the most coveted, with about $2 trillion in annual buying power.
  • Gen X (born 1965 to 1984): Largely children of the Silent Generation. Regarded as technologically “bilingual,” but do not respond to Internet marketing efforts.
  • Gen Y (born 1985 to 2004): Also known as “Millennials,” “Echo Boomers” and “The Net Generation.” They are the children of the Baby Boomers and the largest generation. The most coveted buying group, consuming at a rate of more than five times the Baby Boomers.
  • Gen Z (born 2005 to present): 2007 was the largest birth year in U.S. history. Latinos make up about 14 percent of our total population but accounted for more than 25 percent of total babies born in 2007.

After reading Gronbach’s generational descriptions and analysis of the impact various communications tools have (or don’t have) on each group, I began to relate scenarios.

Last fall our neighbor girl and her friend, both freshmen in high school, asked me to come over to talk about FFA. They were interested in taking ag classes and joining. I excitedly told the girls about developing an ag project, competing and traveling, and most importantly, networking with others. They listened intently – all the while texting nonstop on their cell phones. So much for the “networking” part, I thought.

A member of my family who falls into “The Silent Generation,” is admittedly not familiar with computers – but knows just enough terminology to cause humorous confusion. She wanted to make sure she was alerted at the birth of her first great-grandchild. “You make sure and call me,” she told her granddaughter. “I don’t want everyone else to see that baby on eBay before I know about it.”

Yet, just because I feel texting in the company of guests or hosts is rude, and that eBay is not the best place to put newborn children (or any children!), doesn’t mean that my generation is the only one that has it right.

No matter our age, our demographic group, and our familiarity with technologies, we all have similar needs in communicating. We all want to understand and to be understood. We all want to find information to meet our needs, and answers to our questions. We all want to contribute and learn, to produce and gather ideas.

My answer to the kind gentleman who would like an “instruction manual” – thank you for the reminder that we may not always “speak the same language” of technology, but we all have the same needs.

And we at the National Swine Registry will continue to work to present content and information that meets the needs of all those in our demographic group.

The different times in which we grew up have influenced us, but not separated us. We all want to share in this industry, to develop our youth, to build a business, and to learn from others. We’re all really just “the same kind of different” after all.

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