Marketers: Are You Meeting Your Audiences’ Generational Needs?

New Survey by The Economist Intelligence Unit in Association with Peppercomm Shows Content Preferences Differ Dramatically from Younger to Older Generations, While Misconceptions Abound

In what may come as a surprise to content marketers, older and younger business executives overwhelmingly prefer traditional articles over multimedia, but there is a significant gap in how and why these groups look for content. This is according to a study by The Economist Intelligence Unit, in association with communications firm Peppercomm, that explores how business executives of different generations and experience levels find and consume business content.The study focused on 700 global business executives and found two distinct groups of B2B content consumers: the younger group with up to 10 years of experience (Generation Next); and those with more than 10 years of experience (Business Veterans). While both groups share a broad disappointment in branded business content, they diverge in how they find, consume and ultimately judge the credibility of the content. Key findings from the survey include:

  • Reasons for seeking content are similar across experience levels. Both Generation Next and Veterans indicated that they seek content to research a business idea and keep up to date with their industries, but 69 percent of Veterans and 46 percent of Generation Next noted that they were turned off by content that felt like a “sales pitch.”
  • There are notable generational differences in the forms of content that business professionals prefer. Both Generation Next professionals (69%) and Veterans (91%) prefer content in the form of articles, and turn to social media (Twitter, LinkedIn) relatively infrequently to access business content. However, there is a significant difference in the importance placed on research reports and whitepapers. While 65 percent of Veterans find research reports helpful, only 30 percent of Generation Next professionals felt the same. Similarly, 37 percent of Veterans find whitepapers helpful versus 12 percent of Generation Next professionals. In addition, Generation Next professionals are more likely to favor video (21%) than Veterans (12%), while Veteran users are more likely than Generation Next to prefer other multimedia such as infographics (24% versus 12%).
  • Time spent and devices used to access content vary greatly across generations. Veterans spend much more time perusing business-related content, with 57 percent spending at least four hours per week with content versus only 31 percent of Generation Next professionals. Both experience levels prefer desktops/laptops for accessing business-related content, although there are differences with respect to other devices: 16 percent of Generation Next professionals prefer smartphones, while 15 percent of Veterans prefer tablets.
  • There are varying criteria for judging the credibility of content. The Veteran demographic feels that the reputation of a company holds more weight than colleague recommendations (41 percent versus 10 percent). Generation Next, however, is more evenly split, with 28 percent focusing on company reputation and 27 percent on colleague recommendations. Traditional media, additionally, matters more to Veteran executives, who are more likely (35 percent) than Generation Next professionals (23 percent) to consider media articles important for finding trustworthy content. Generation Next professionals are also more likely to indicate work colleagues as a source of trustworthy content (35 percent versus 17 percent of Veterans).

“One size does not fit all. Whether you are trying to reach the C-suite or the next generation of business reader, this body of research underscores that marketing content requires a tailored approach,” said Elena Sukacheva, Managing Director, at The Economist Group. “To put the reader first, you have to know the reader.”

“As platforms, delivery tools, audience preferences and business needs continue to change, marketers must keep pace or risk having their content fall on deaf ears,” said Ted Birkhahn, President and Partner at Peppercomm. “The more brands think like publishers and news bureaus, the more effective they’ll be at content marketing by staying in touch with the wants and needs of their target audiences.”

The survey was conducted with the Economist Intelligence Unit’s Opinion Leaders Panel, made up of more than 100,000 global executives. More than 40 percent of the business executives surveyed are C-level, representing a wide array of industries, geographies, and company sizes. The complete survey results can be found here:

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About The Economist Group Content Solutions

In an era of information overload, The Economist Group Content Solutions helps organizations be heard by the world’s most influential people. With 60 years of experience of delivering content to clients, bolstered by 650 expert analyst and editors worldwide across 200 countries – underpinned by an unrivaled in-house survey panel that bolsters the qualitative and quantitative analysis we undertake – we have the depth and breadth to deliver vital business intelligence which can rise above the noise.

About Peppercomm

Helping clients see around the corner and determine what’s next sets Peppercomm apart from other integrated communications and marketing firms. It also enables us to push boundaries while mitigating risk for clients in financial services, consumer, B-to-B and multi-industry sectors. Our unique approach enables us to attract the best people who, in turn, help us win and retain the best clients. And, while we’ve won countless awards, our shining moment is being named Best Place to Work in New York City by Crain’s New York Business. We were founded in 1995 and maintain headquarters in New York, with offices in London and San Francisco. Go to for additional information.


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