Lumping people into “generations” based on population shifts on a graph and applying wholesale marketing techniques to them makes about as much sense as me telling you to avoid people born in the year of the rabbit, says Jay Thompson. Here’s why he thinks marketing by age demographics is a racket.

This is the final installment in Inman’s series on the ways people from different generations approach the homebuying experience. Click here for part one on millennials, here for part two on Gen Z, here for part three on Gen X and here for part four on baby boomers. Also, check back in the coming days for additional stories as part of Agent Appreciation Month. And take advantage of our Agent Appreciation Sale, and subscribe to Inman Select for only $85.

Jay Thompson is a former brokerage owner who spent over six years working for Zillow Group. He’s also the co-founder of AgentLoop. He “selectively retired” in August 2018 but can’t seem to leave the real estate industry behind. His weekly Inman column is published every Wednesday.

Open up the internet, and you can find a lifetime of reading about how to market to and deal with the generation of your choice. You can selectively target baby boomers, Generation X or the coveted millennials. Heck, even the early Gen Z gang are now in their late 20s and are prime candidates for buying or selling a home.

While the people who set the time frames can’t even agree on when a generation starts and ends, the marketing gurus will freely (well, usually you have to buy their course) preach how to best reach a specific generation. Yes, they lump everyone born between 1982 and 1995 into a group called “millennials” and teach you how to TikTok your way to wealth and fame.

But why limit yourself to a single generation? Why have different marketing plans and ways to deal with people using some arbitrary rules based on what year they were born? Why not market and sell to everyone?

There is a system out there that isn’t generationally based. It works for all, from the “Silent Generation” (born before 1945) to the Gen Z-er born yesterday. That system is the Chinese zodiac.

The Chinese zodiac consists of 12 animals and associates personality traits for a person depending on which animal corresponds to the year of their birth. For example, I was born in 1960, the year of the rat. Therefore, I’m a rat (according to the Chinese zodiac. And probably my ex-wife). So for your reading pleasure, we present how to market to people based on their Chinese Zodiac sign.

1. The rat

“Rats are full of good advice but they will never share their troubles with others. They are honest individuals and they enjoy living for the moment. They’re also capable of surviving any situation.”

This is perfect. After all, who doesn’t want a buyer that will never share their troubles? You want to live for the moment? Great, sign this contract right freaking now and buy this house. Who cares if it’s not exactly what you’re looking for? You can survive any situation. Deal with it.

2. The ox

“Oxen are capable of trusting others and will listen to their opinions with an open mind. However, Oxen prefer making decisions that are based on their own research.”

Dear Mr. or Ms. Ox, thank you for trusting me. You should. After all, I’m a real estate agent and who in their right mind doesn’t trust a real estate agent? Since you prefer making decisions based on your own research, I won’t even bother to really help you.

Go to Zillow, figure out a house value, and we’ll fill in the blanks on an offer. Just be sure to research “multiple-offer situations.” Thanks for the commission check.

3. The tiger

“Tigers love to be challenged and will accept any challenge if it means protecting a loved one or protecting their honor.”

Sweet! You want a challenge? Try being one of 43 buyers interested in that listing that’s been on the market for 15 minutes. Come on you spineless bastard, give up the appraisal and inspection and offer well over listing price or you’ll lose this challenge along with what little personal honor you had before we started this home-buying adventure 23 months ago.

4. The rabbit

“Rabbits prefer to avoid conflict. In confrontational situations, Rabbits approach calmly and with consideration for the other party.”

Avoid conflict? Consideration for the other party? What a load of crap. Forget working with rabbits.

5. The dragon

“Dragons prefer to live by their own rules and are driven, unafraid of challenges and willing to take risks.”

Tell your dragon that buying a former meth lab is full of challenges and a high-risk proposition. They won’t care. They’re driven and live by their own rules. Cha-ching! Might as well hit the “That was easy!” button and rack up the credit cards because your future commission check is golden.

6. The snake

“Snakes are very materialistic creatures, preferring to surround themselves with the finest that life has to offer. This is especially evident in the home, where luxurious furnishings and surroundings help Snakes seek the peace they need in order to thrive.”

Sounds like another pain in the ass client. Leave snakes to the luxury market real estate agents.

7. The horse

“Horses are perhaps a bit too centered on themselves and have been known to throw tantrums when situations don’t go their way.”

Great. I have no idea how to deal with this sort of person. I mean, seriously, who ever heard of a real estate client thinking only of themselves or throwing a tantrum? Refer horses to agents you don’t like.

8. The goat

“Home and alone is where Goats feel most comfortable. Goats prefer the couch because there they can relax and explore their minds.”

Home and alone? Relaxing on the couch? Did a real estate agent write this description? This is another slam dunk. Look Mr. Goat, this home is perfect for you. You can put a couch in the great room, any bedroom and even the garage. Pick a spot to relax and explore your mind. Enjoy yourself, I’ll be on the Kona coast fishing for marlin on your dime.

9. The Monkey

“The Monkey possesses such character traits as curiosity, mischievousness and cleverness.”

Avoid. Monkey buyers are the ones that open kitchen cabinets, look under the beds, flip light switches and flush toilets. And really, who wants a clever client?

10. The rooster

“Roosters are extremely sociable and prefer being the center of attention, always bragging about themselves and their accomplishments.”

What you have here is the perfect seller. Just nod your head politely and say, “I agree, your home is far superior to every home on the street. It’s worth at least $30,000 more than your neighbor’s house! Putting carpet in the bathroom was genius. Sign here.”

11. The dog

“The Dog symbolizes character traits such as loyalty, compatibility and kindness. Ensuring others are happy is more important to the Dog than wealth, money or success.”

Score! This is going to be like shooting fish in a barrel. All you need to do to secure the dog as a client is generate a few tears as you explain living on a commission, waking up every day unemployed and having no health insurance.

If you have children, all the better. Leverage the fact that you can’t give your kids what they need and you have no savings for their college.

12. The pig

“Pigs seek peace and will do what is necessary to maintain it. This trait, while admirable, sometimes makes it easy for others to take advantage of Pigs.”

They sometimes make it easy for others to take advantage of them. ‘Nuff said. Just do it. Don’t feel guilty. You’re a real estate agent for God’s sake. Close the sale.

There you have it! How to market to everyone.

For the record, this article is not intended to demean, berate or make fun of the Chinese zodiac, anyone of Chinese descent or any animal. What it’s intended to do is demean, berate and make fun of all these “marketing gurus” who pump out one article after another containing drivel about how to market to wide and basically random swaths of the population.

This makes no sense. Fine, I’ll grant you that some people in some population segments have some similar traits. But seriously, lumping people into arbitrary groups (“experts” can’t even agree on when the millennial generation begins and ends) and applying marketing techniques to that entire group is just nonsense.

Here are a couple of nuggets I found via a 45-second foray into Google for “Marketing to millennials”:

  • Customer experience matters. Really. I’m a baby boomer, and customer experience matters to me. To whom, exactly, doesn’t it matter?
  • Millennials are free-spending. (Just look at their avocado toast bills.) My son, who falls squarely into what most call a millennial, is the biggest tightwad I know. Heck, he moved to Puerto Rico just to lower his income taxes (OK, maybe that’s just smart, but still.) I, on the other hand, a late “boomer” at 61, like to spend money like it grows on the proverbial tree. It drives my boomer wife insane.
  • Deliver a great product at a great price. Well, this is stunning advice. Why didn’t I think of this strategy? But it only applies to millennials? Seriously?
  • If you want to be taken seriously by millennials, you need to know they love music. Why? Because they have AirPods? So do I. Granted, I had to get my daughter to show me how to save tunes to a Spotify list, but come on. Millennials love music? Boomers do too. I still have eight-tracks, albums and a turntable. When I was being fitted for hearing aids — how boomer is that? — the audiologist told me my hearing loss was most likely due to listening to loud music. In the 1970s. Before the first millennial was even born. This was the most idiotic “marketing to millennials” advice I saw.

I can’t look any further; it’s just stupid. Gen X, baby boomer, millennial, whatever, they are all people. Unique individuals with unique needs, wants and desires.

Lumping people into “generations” based on population shifts on a graph and applying wholesale marketing techniques to them makes about as much sense as me telling you to avoid people born in the year of the rabbit.

Jay Thompson is a real estate veteran and co-founder of AgentLoop living in the Texas Coastal Bend. Follow him on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. He holds an active Arizona broker’s license with eXp Realty. Called “the hardest working retiree ever,” as the founder of Jay.Life he writes, speaks, and consults on all things real estate.

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