Social Monitoring in a Karen & Boomer Marketing World

Carol Feigenbaum |
 01/03/20 |
4 min read

Social Monitoring in a Karen and Boomer Marketing World

Sometimes segments are maliciously, but often hilariously, categorized in ways that brands may miss if they’re not listening. And misusing these monikers can be as bad as hijacking the wrong trend. Karens and Boomers are two labels to be mindful of, for example. Here’s why.

No One Loves Label

With everything being shared about Millennials and Gen Z, it’s hard to remember there are other segments to be mindful of. And then online language is its own animal as well. It offers trending terms/generational labels that brands should be prepared to incorporate in marketing materials as well, as it makes sense to do so.

Social monitoring reveals that Millennials do not appreciate being lumped together though, fyi. They resent it pretty passionately actually – and for good reason. They’re stereotypically portrayed as lazy, entitled, high maintenance job hoppers . . when they work, that is.

When, in fact, they’re the most socially and ethically conscious generation to date. Sure, they may have killed American cheese, but their sustainably sound hearts were in the right place. And they’re followed (and soon to be usurped) by the equally maligned Gen Z. Your marketing likely alienates Millennials and Gen Z in myriad ways, if you’re not listening closely online. And getting on either segment’s bad side can spell doom.

Gen Z creating names for other generations like Karens and Boomers

But, interestingly, these younger generations are quick to label others, right along with everyone else! And understanding the labels these digital nomads cleverly create offers insight toward reaching both those creating the labels and those they’re about. There’s always a smidgen of truth – and outrage – attached to each, offering both insight and promotion potential (or things to avoid!).

Calling folks “Karens” and responding to someone with “okay, Boomer” as two timely examples to touch upon. Particularly as brands are dipping their toes into attempts to incorporate each. And it could very well be a vat of acid, if they’re not cautious about it.

Okay Boomer Conversation

The “Okay Boomer” retort is a Gen Z favorite. It’s directed toward the legions of “older people who just don’t get it, a rallying cry for millions of fed up kids. Teenagers use it to reply to cringey YouTube videos, Donald Trump tweets, and basically any person over 30 who says something condescending about young people — and the issues that matter to them.”

okay boomer mentions going viral

Is it viral? Certainly.

It has even hit government discussions, as seen in this discussion around climate change in New Zealand’s parliament:

Boomer reference seen in climate change discussion in New Zealand’s parliament

Sentiment around it should put the phrasing in the danger zone from a marketing context though.

Sentiment around okay boomer should put the phrasing in the danger zone from a marketing context

Exploring the context to see emotion around it:

sentiment drivers around okay boomer

And what is being said, specifically:

popular posts about boomers

It reveals that what seems funny, may have a mean undercurrent that really tics off your target audience. Now, assuming you’re marketing exclusively to younger folks, then you can run with it. You may want to reconsider that variety of “edgy” when sorting out your brand persona if you have anyone over 40 occupying your target demographic though.

As a contributor at Forbes points out:“Brands that leverage the popularity of ‘OK, boomer’ could inch dangerously close to crossing the line with their boomer buyers. It’s one thing if your 16-year-old niece doesn’t understand you, but if the brands you buy from mock your perspective, well, that’s just a recipe for brand loyalty disaster.”

“Karens” on the other hand . .

Gen X as Karens

Gen Z has taken to calling Gen X — once a mere bystander in the generational wars — the ‘Karen generation,’ as in Karen, the middle-aged white mom who is always asking for the manager and wondering why kids are so obsessed with their identities.”

The sentiment tells us that it’s not nearly as popular as “Okay, Boomer” – nor as negatively received:

Karen sentiment not nearly as negatively received

And the vibe around it, from those the label is directed toward, have taken a largely “well, it’s not about ‘me’” approach. This is easy to do, as “Karens” are largely out of touch, somewhat racist and just unlikeable. And, the name is not exclusive to this stereotypical Gen X meme. It’s somewhat interchangeable with Sharon and Becky, when searching for a generic, basic name to riff off of.

Karen interchangable with other common names

And what does any of this have to do with that woman shouting at a cat? (It doesn’t.)

It’s kind of crazy. And exactly why you have social analytics to get to the root of all of these trending mentions, hmm? To help you put it all in context before stepping out with some over-the-top promotion and quickly stepping in it.

Understanding Labels Before Using Them

You can always explore “Know Your Meme” for the latest intel around a meme’s origin. And should definitely add that into your process if your strategy includes incorporating in-the-moment memes. But it cannot tell you how it’s being received by whichever audience. And “online” is gigantic group to be making generalized assumptions about.

Reach out and we’ll show you trending terms in your category and ways you’ll want to decipher them for context – and what you’ll miss when you don’t! Or you can just keep plugging along, sans insight. Whatever works, boomer.

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