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Understanding the Generational Divide – Traditionalists

To be the most effective legacy marketer, we must really understand our audience. Applying behavioural science principles to

To be the most effective legacy marketer, we must really understand our audience. Applying behavioural science principles to marketing is key but before that, we need to really understand what makes people “tick”.

When you think about how products and services are marketed, you know that what works for you may not work for your parents. That’s the generational divide. According to the Oxford Dictionary, a generation is defined as (1) all of the people born at the same time, (2) the average time in which children grow up, become adults and have children of their own, (3) a single stage in the history of a family, (4) a group of people of similar age involved in a particular activity.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be breaking down the different generations that are immediately impacted by legacy marketing and the generations that are up and coming.

Traditionalist (1922-1945) 

The eldest generation today is the Traditionalist, also commonly referred to as the Silent Generation. This generation experienced the world through war and re-building. Their hard work and vision created the infrastructures we currently enjoy – sprawling suburbs, highways that connect the country, and traditional structures of government and business. 

As children of the war, they grew up during the depression, where hard times were felt by everyone. It was an era where people learnt to do without and where creativity was required to make even the smallest amounts of food, clothing and money stretch further.

Traditionalists learnt to work hard and

play by the rules in order to succeed

The hardship of the war and the Great Depression greatly affected this generation’s values and opinions towards family, religion, work and government. Nuclear families were the norm; they attended weekly religious service, they were very supportive of their government, and they learnt right from wrong in schools. Respect for authority and adherence to the rules was enforced using corporal punishment.

Traditionalists value old-time morals, safety, security, and consistency. They have more respect for brick-and-mortar educational institutions and traditional lecture formats than online web-based education and training. They value dedication and loyalty which translated into a strong work ethic and belief in an honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay. 

Life Defining Events

Each generational cohort experiences social, economic, and cultural events that shape its mindset and identity. These life-defining events bond people together through a shared coming of age experience. To fully engage with donors of all generations, it’s important to understand the life-defining events that each cohort has experienced to better appreciate the values, characteristics and skills each holds dear.

Traditionalists saw and lived through:

  • Rise of dictatorship
  • The Great Depression
  • Pearl Harbor
  • D-Day in Normandy
  • Korean War
  • Golden age of radio
  • War in the Pacific
  • Emergence of Silver Screen
  • Rise of labour unions
  • Nuclear Age

Impact on legacies

The youngest Traditionalists in your database will be 76 years old. Interestingly, a recent Canadian study showed that individuals over the age of 80 were not interested in leaving a gift in their will. Having already finalized their will, they are not interested in making any other changes. Basically, charities have missed their chance.

Key messaging to engage with Traditionalist donors:

  • Focus on how they are part of the organization’s family
  • Show impact through the lens of being able to stretch donations
  • Focus on values and morality
  • The organization’s dedication to realizing the mission

If you have Traditionalist donors who have confirmed their legacy gift to your organization, you need to make sure they know you will be a good steward of their gift. Continue showing them the impact of gifts and shower them with gratitude. Give them an opportunity to leave a testimonial or to share their story so they may inspire others to do as they did because it’s the right thing to do.

They’ll be happy to engage with you if you use traditional communication tools: telephone, postal letters, in-person meetings. Most will not be tech savvy so avoid digital channels.

Come back next when we explore how Baby Boomers differ from Traditionalists.

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