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Three breakout successes rocked the media and entertainment industry recently. In movies, of course, Star Wars: The Force Awakens shattered opening weekend records both domestically and globally. In music, Adele’s 25 sold seven million copies in the U.S. in its first five weeks alone. And on TV, NBC had some much-needed validation of its holiday event strategy with The Wiz Live, its third annual live musical, followed a week later by the TV movie Dolly Parton’s Coat of Many Colors. The Wiz ranked as the highest-rated entertainment show on NBC this year other than The Voice, scoring 11.5 million viewers and a 3.4 rating among A18-49. Coat reached 13 million viewers a week later.

As I shared in my latest MediaPost article, these examples demonstrate that in a world increasingly defined by narrowcasting, blockbusters can still exist. Movie critics increasingly lament the divide between teen pictures like Transformers and Fast & Furious, and more serious, adult-oriented (but low-grossing) films like Carol and The Danish Girl, but Star Wars shows it’s possible to market a movie appealing to multiple generations. The music and TV businesses are no less fragmented, but Adele’s record-breaking album and the high ratings for The Wiz and Coat show that going niche isn’t the only solution.

"Audiences are increasingly becoming fragmented, but Adele, Star Wars, The Wiz and Coat show that appealing to multiple generations is still possible."

If you’re trying to reach Gen Z customers and their parents, these three recent success stories show key ingredients you need in order to succeed.

  1. Shared experiences

Generation Z and millennials have a much closer relationship with their parents compared to previous generations. They discuss their lives with their parents, sharing entertainment recommendations with them.

Keeping your assumptions in check is important. Older-skewing brands have more potential to appeal to millennials and Gen Z than you might think. And don’t think of Boomers as over-the-hill; they’re more on top of contemporary culture than any previous generation that’s been in the 50- to 70-year-old bracket. To come up with shared experiences that appeal to different generations, engage with a wide range of your customers and learn about their motivations, behaviors and attitudes.

  1. Cross-generational talent

Thoughtful casting played a significant role in the success of the above-mentioned projects. Star Wars introduced a young, diverse, twenty-something cast (Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Adam Driver) but also brought back all the original stars who are favorites with Boomers and Gen X (Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill). The Wiz cast an emerging talent (Shanice Williams) in the role of Dorothy and added Stephanie Mills, the Dorothy from the original Broadway production, as Auntie Em, along with Queen Latifah, David Alan Grier, Mary J. Blige and other talent with Gen X and Boomer appeal. Adele’s 25 features a diverse group of producers who all have their own following, from Linda Perry to Danger Mouse to Max Martin to Ryan Tedder to Mark Ronson.

The lesson here: when you’re promoting your brand, use customer intelligence to identify talent that has cross-generational appeal. The people you hire can each bring their own constituency with them, and if enough constituencies show up, you suddenly have a broad-based hit. Engage with your customers to find out which personalities are highly regarded by each demographic and to identify the traits people look for.

  1. Strategic promotions

Timing—along with thoughtful marketing and distribution—can make a huge difference. Star Wars was originally slated for a summer release but got pushed to winter. The move—together with the strategic release of its trailers and a no-expense-spared world premiere—proved to be a blessing, fueling the hype for the movie. Adele’s 25 was four years in the making, but then the record label (XL) grabbed the Friday before Thanksgiving as its release date, capitalizing on the holiday shopping season. As for The Wiz and Coat, NBC scheduled them after the November sweeps, when competition is less intense.

When you’re marketing your brand, consider the timing and think about creating an event. Claim a date close to a holiday or a relevant season, and promote it strategically. Show teens and their families why your event is the way they should celebrate that holiday or season together. To ensure success, consider using market research to evaluate the dates you have in mind and the appropriateness of your brand for that event.


Audiences are increasingly becoming fragmented, but Adele, Star Wars, The Wiz and Coat show that appealing to multiple generations is still possible. By providing teens and their parents a shared experience with cross-generational appeal and the feeling of a must-see event, you too can awaken the force in your marketing strategy.

The Everything Guide to Gen Z

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