Gen X Wants the Steak, Gen Y Wants the Sizzle Too

Dec 06, 2013

Surprise, surprise. New research shows that there are pretty big differences between what consumers want in a brand based on when they were born.

A new GfK Brand Benchmark Study, which assessed U.S. consumers’ relationships with products and services in 48 categories, found that while people in Generations X and Y are attracted to functionality, the Gen Yers place more value on brand image.

GfK created archetypal relationships such as Best Friend (BF) and Guru to better assess the depth of consumers’ relationships with brands.

Best Friend relationships are those in which a brand is viewed as "trustworthy, understanding of consumer needs, reliable, and committed." According to GfK, brands viewed by more consumers as Best Friend can have as much as five-times the share of wallet as competitive items. The higher ranked BF brands also generate three-times more positive word of mouth and 2.5 times the number of recommendations as those on the lower end.

In Guru relationships, a brand comes with buzz, being viewed as "being of superior quality, unique, and more visible than other brands." Gen Y indexes at 148 (the average being 100) when it comes to Guru relationships.

How valuable are archetypal definitions for marketers looking to achieve a deeper understanding of the relationships consumers have with brands? What brands would you equate with GfK’s Best Friend and Guru designations?

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7 Comments on "Gen X Wants the Steak, Gen Y Wants the Sizzle Too"

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Ken Lonyai

The GfK archetypes are interesting – I never thought of things in quite those terms. It’s hard to say how accurate the assessments are and what these definitions mean to understanding audiences on their own, but as an additional tool and perspective, I think they have value.

For many, Amazon fulfills the Best Friend role as a place where you can find what you want and have confidence in the item and its delivery. Google or Apple do well as Guru brands.

Max Goldberg

Archetypal definitions are cute, and provide some understanding of the relationships that consumer have with brands, but they offer little depth or guidelines for marketers. Every brand strives to build a loyal relationship with consumers. They do this through traditional and non-traditional marketing.

Consumers want to be heard and appreciated. They want value and convenience. They want to experience a brand. The more marketers can meet and exceed customer expectations, the better they listen to consumers, the stronger ties they will build and the more loyalty they will engender.

Let’s dispense with the cute names and by trying to lump all consumers born in a certain time period into one group.

Matt Schmitt

I think brands would do well to heed studies on archetypes and the (real) differences between generations in brand engagement and expectations.

While the “Best Friend” archetype is more straight-forward and familiar (providing functionality and value) I think the Star and Guru models should be given some real thought and attention.

The idea that younger audiences care more about a brand’s image and buzz should be viewed from a particular perspective – that of the audience. I think younger audiences relate to branding much differently because of their tendency to consider and shape their own personal brand much more actively. In today’s world of constant communications across a wide variety of social platforms, audiences judge brand efforts for style and buzz, because they are active in their own branding on a constant basis and are more likely to be loyal and engaged with brands that not only provide value, but also approach branding with media savvy.

Gene Hoffman
Gene Hoffman
3 years 10 months ago

It sometimes baffles me how many experts are mesmerized by the archetypal definitions being taught at GURU U these days. Next will come Gen Z and what it will expect from marketers to help us better understand the relationships consumers have with brands.

Amazon tops the Best Friend designation and Apple and Starbucks are top Guru designations. RetailWire belongs high on the Guru list too, since it seems to encourage more speculation and insight as to why designations mean so much in the ever revolving world of marketing and retailing.

Ralph Jacobson

I think we can all name some great brands, both retailers and CPG that exhibit these desirable characteristics mentioned in the article. I believe deep consumer insights, consumer engagement and experience analytics and marketing performance optimization capabilities are critical to marketers looking to leverage their brand value.

Craig Sundstrom

I’m in the “Doubter” category: I’m 2.8x more likely to reject superficial stereotypes, and a whopping 83% less accepting of contrived statistics.

Seriously though, I really don’t think much is gained by trying to pigeonhole customers into neat categories; on the contrary, I think much is lost: obviously there are certain age-based factors – for example, an 85-year old is [statistically speaking] less likely to have a smart phone than an 18-year old – and if those are starting points for your strategy(ies), then fine; but there are always large segments of a population that don’t conform to the model, and not going beyond that will give you anything but a “deeper understanding.”

Eric Chester
Eric Chester
3 years 10 months ago

While all of these studies can be helpful and should be considered, it’s important to know how the research was actually done and how the data was collected before making any hard and fast decisions based upon them.

There’s a lot of disinformation being circulated based on generational stereotypes.


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