Generation Gaps, Marketing Media, and the Plumber


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The marketing agency I work for is often approached by local Universities to work with senior business students on their capstone marketing courses. This spring we helped one class work through a marketing media planning session focused on one of our national plumbing clients. The students did an excellent job. In fact, I was impressed with their recommendations to leverage social media in addition to the print and interactive yellow pages that are traditionally used for advertising in the plumbing industry.

We had challenged the students to assemble a media plan that would also resonate with their generation (Gen Y). So, it’s no surprise that they focused on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube as some of the primary channels to capture their attention. Of course, most 22 years olds have never actually had to call a plumber, and that fact came out in the following exchange:

Alan: “What I would like for you to do is to close your eyes and imagine that you have recently purchased your first home. You walk down into your basement and you notice water on the floor because your hot water heater is leaking. What’s the first thing you are going to do?”

Student: “I’ll probably still live in this area, so I’ll pick up the phone and call my dad.”

Alan: “You’re not going to leverage one of your social media communities, or go online and do a search on plumbing? … Is your dad a plumber?”

Student: “Well – no; but he will know who to call.”

I’m a baby boomer and have three Gen Y’s (ages 18, 22 and 26) myself. I’m also a heavy social media user and have profiles on most of the major platforms. However; when I think about it, it’s not hard for me to imagine that the situation above would play out the same in my home. I can hear it now:

My 22 year old daughter: “Dad – my hot water heater is leaking!! Can you help me?!”

Alan: “Yes, let me grab the phone book so I can call a plumber. And don’t panic, I’ll be over in a second.”

Customer segmentation based on demographics is fine; just remember that social media and print media can interact and work together – there doesn’t have to be a generation gap.

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Alan See
Alan See is Principal and Chief Marketing Officer of CMO Temps, LLC. He is the American Marketing Association Marketer of the Year for Content Marketing and recognized as one of the "Top 50 Most Influential CMO's on Social Media" by Forbes. Alan is an active blogger and frequent presenter on topics that help organizations develop marketing strategies and sales initiatives to power profitable growth. Alan holds BBA and MBA degrees from Abilene Christian University.


  1. I loved it! ‘I’ll call Dad’ because that’s exactly what my kids do.

    However, the difference in my response vs. yours is that I wouldn’t pick up the phone book I’d do a local google search for plumbers and then try to cross reference it with a Yelp or Angie’s list report + a quick visit to the the Better Business Bureau website.

    Why? Two reasons: 1. The most visible plumbers (i.e., large display ads in the Yellow Pages) aren’t necessarily the best, just the ones with the largest ad budget and 2. Plumbers is one of those categories (along with auto mechanics) that I don’t have inherent trust in therefore I’m going to look for validation by the consumer community in making a selection – self-served ads via the YP won’t provide the unbiased (perceived) reviews that will help me make a decision.

    By the way, I might at that point take a look at the Yellow Pages just to see if my plumber of choice has any sort of printed coupons or offers.

    Oh, and this is not conjecture on my part, this is exactly the process I used in finding a garage door repairman after my system went on the fritz with my cars stuck behind a several hundred lb. door with a broken spring!


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