As a marketer and communicator, I’m always looking for trends. I have noticed that my 16 year-old son hasn’t asked me to buy him songs from iTunes in a while now. I know his appetite for music has not subsided and since his allowance has been, should I say, suspended, I know he hasn’t been buying any new tunes lately. Yesterday I asked him where he and his friends are getting their music. His answer surprised me: Youtube. Interestingly, Marcus’ generation is not interested in owning their music. They’re happy to stream it from anywhere they can. That’s a major shift from the millennials. While the marketing implications of how a generation behaves is important, the entire exchange reminded me that as a marketer and communicator I must also be a sociologist.
According to Wikipedia sociology is defined as:
The study of society. It is a social science—a term with which it is sometimes synonymous—which uses various methods of empirical investigation and critical analysis to develop and refine a body of knowledge about human social activity.
Being able to communicate effectively with any group of people means understanding not only their language, but their value system, motivations and behavior patterns. In America today we have several generations living together that are markedly different from each other: the frugal Builders, the spending Baby Boomers, the anti-establishment Gen Y, the cause-driven Millennials, and now the experiential Digital Natives.
Interestingly in any given Sunday morning, all 5 generational groups are likely to be sitting on a church pew. Much is written about the “language of culture.” I’m not sure that’s a valid statement any longer. I’m inclined to speak of the “languages of culture,” and I’m not speaking of English and Spanish here.
Micro fragmentation in messaging is here to stay. Marketers, communicators, and leaders must be aware of the audience–all of them–at any given time. Much like sociologists, communicators must be aware of their audience dynamics to still be relevant. Keeping up with 5 generational shifts beyond affinity groups is not easy, but must be done. I don’t think we have a choice in this matter. If we’re going to be effective in selling our ideas and products to an ever diversified culture, we must become better students of society.
What’s your take on the communicator as a sociologist?