Gen C and the Multichannel Marketing Imperative

Editor’s Note: You can hear Sandy Carter, Esther Janssen and Fran Barfoot discuss these issues in more depth on Dec. 4, at 2 p.m. on the webinar “The Secret to Managing Multichannel Marketing.” Click here to register, and bring your own questions for the live Q&A!

No matter what vertical their company is in, marketers need to communicate with hyper-connected customers known as “Generation C,” agree the panelists at Target Marketing magazine’s recent luncheon at The Union League Club of New York.

On Oct. 29, speakers from IBM, SAP, Chubb Insurance, CitiMortgage and the nonprofit Human Rights Campaign took on the subject of “The Secret to Managing Multichannel Marketing: How you need to focus your efforts for 2014.”

About 77 percent of customer communication now comes through Generation C, says Sandy Carter, IBM general manager of ecosystem development and social business evangelism, and Target Marketing Direct Marketer of the Year for 2013. Carter explains the term—coined by Brian Solis—stands for “connected.” It’s mostly identified with Millennials, but includes customers of any age who represent the always-on influencers who consumers seek out for advice when deciding on a purchase.

Marketers should court Gen C so its members can become brand advocates, Carter says. “This Generation C is really looking for a company who treats them as one customer across all channels.”

That’s why it’s never been more important to understand social and mobile, agree Carter and panelist Jen Knox, vice president at SAP. Generation C “doesn’t do email,” according to Carter. Knox points out connected people check their smartphones 150 times a day. This year, Knox says SAP is focusing more on social selling. IBM is reaching Millennials for recruiting through Facebook, which, Carter says, translates to word-of-mouth marketing.

For donors to the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), feeling connected to the organization and believing that what they’re giving is making a difference in bringing about equal rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people is what matters most, says Dane Grams, HRC’s director of direct response.

Knox seconds that marketers must remember motivations—such as the need to be treated fairly. That’s why it’s imperative to be customer-centric.

As for how consumers now believe they’re being treated, Carter says this: In 2008, about 11 percent of consumers rated customer experiences they’d had as “exceptional.” Today, that number doesn’t even reach 3 percent. She thinks that low percentage is due to companies maintaining customer communication in channel silos.

Grams says HRC communicates with donors across all channels, even though “our best channel is street canvassing.”

For CitiMortgage, channel attribution is the Holy Grail, says Esther Janssen, the company’s vice president of marketing performance. After CitiMortgage looks at incremental lift in each channel, allocations follow. “We’re a very metrics-driven organization,” she says.

Breaking down silos so budget allocation per channel actually meet customer needs meant aligning key performance indicators and taking a look at how compensation is tied to those channels, says Frances Barfoot, vice president of commercial strategic marketing and the marketing communications manager at Chubb & Son.

“We just started to put people all in the same boat, Barfoot says. That way, no one at Chubb & Son was on the shore, trying to direct the boat away from customer needs.

Heather Fletcher is senior editor of Target Marketing. Reach her at

Heather Fletcher is senior content editor with Target Marketing.