Just as businesses sell a product or service, companies have to sell their name as a brand. Time is dedicated to building reputation, but the divide among the three generations alive today make it harder for companies to manage their message. In its most basic form, reputation is about trust. So how does a company gain the trust of a very diverse public? Knowing their defining characteristics and ideals, a company can focus its reputation message to appeal to one or all three of the generations.
Born between 1946-1964, the Baby Boomers are made up of the heads of corporations close to retirement age (26). Heavily influenced by devoted parents, this generation grew up hearing about the struggles of the Great Depression and World War II. As a result, each is influenced by money and dedicated to earning reputable status in a corporation. They have adapted to technology but prefer face-to-face interaction over a shortly-worded email. Though they are old enough for retirement, these workaholics are still loyal to their business as they likely have dedicated most of their lives climbing the hierarchy (26).
Generation X makes up a smaller age range born between 1965 and 1980 (26). Due to their parents’ drive to work, many of this generation were known as “latch-key” kids forced to grow up and become independent at a much younger age. But their parents’ also motivated them to earn a living. Today they hold mid-range management jobs gradually working up the hierarchy. They are strong with technology as it applies to their work though they struggle to keep up with the most recent trends. But their commitment to work is limited as this generation seeks a balance between work and home life (25).
Though motivated by a different parenting style, the children of Generation Y also seek to shape their job into their lives. Also known as the millennials, Generation Y was raised between 1981 and the early 2000s (26). Their parents were loving and potentially overbearing causing this generation to desire independent lives. Their motivation lies in the ideal of doing something that they love. For some, this means fitting a career into their life; for others, it means working life around a career that they love. They differ from their elders in political and social views being very tolerant and liberal. Most importantly, this generation values their respect and does not offer it unless someone has earned it. Obviously they have grown up in the digital age so communication is primarily digital, though still hands-on.
One thing that unites all of these generations is a quality that they want to see from others: initiative. Baby Boomers want respect because of their experience. Generation X is similar, but these individuals want to see companies who have been built despite challenges, and they don’t necessarily care about how old the company is. Finally, the millennial generation wants a company to earn their respect and that means they want to see the effort to reach them on their terms.
This initiative is the gateway to earning trust of the generation whether they are customers, investors, or partners. More specifically, Baby Boomers want to clearly see the financial advantages of supporting your brand as well as other long-term rewards. Generation X wants to see the values of the company that balance profits and ethics just as they balance work and life. Millennials want you to earn their attention and are more focused on the short-term advantages of their support and investment. Many businesses are dedicating a majority of their time to this generation as it is the biggest and the headliners into the future. However, if a business allocates its proven initiative toward Baby Boomers and Generation X as well, their trusted reputation will be built with a wider foundation.
Source: Canavor, Natalie. Business Writing Today: A Practical Guide. Second Edition. SAGE Publications, Inc.: California. 2016. Web.