Marketing to Different Generations

Everyone is different – you cannot acquire customers by using the same old strategy across all segments. There are many criteria on which you can segment your target audience, and one of them is generation.  

Every generation has different ways of thinking and behaving, and they react differently to marketing material. This gives rise to questions such as: How can you customise ads in order to serve different generations? Which generation is most likely to shop online? Who should you target with your latest product?  

Rather than focusing on a single data point, generational segmentation offers marketers a robust consumer profile that can be used to identify a client’s values, motivations, and buying habits. 

What is Generational Marketing?

You can target and classify customers based on the generation they were born into, and this is called generational marketing. It is a robust approach to targeting as it focuses on the experience of the target audience instead of isolated data points such as age or gender. 

For example, think of the pandemic and how it has affected all of us – this experience is much more relevant to our current state of mind than our age as it’s had such a broad impact on almost all aspects of our lives. Our anxieties about our society collapsing are a shared experience among us; of course, the pandemic affected all generations, but it affected each one in different ways – the working generations saw the impact in their ways of working, while for retirees the experience limited family time and for children it impacted their education and early social skills. Through this example, you can see how each generation has important shared experiences that have impacted their mindset in a way that marketers can relate to.   

As well as common experiences, each generation has its own set of values and common interests that shape how members of that generation think and act. For example, 57% of Generation X believe they are still recovering from the Great Recession today, and as a result, they can be very cautious in the way they spend their money. They also prioritise saving for retirement over spending, as they have experienced the anxiety caused by unstable income.  

Generational Marketing Break Down by Age

There are five major generations today: silent traditionalists, baby boomers, generation X (Gen X), generation Y (millennials), and generation Z (Gen Z). In today’s age, you should focus more on Baby Boomers, Generation X, and Millennials for sales as they have strong purchasing power; however, an understanding of the other two generations is important if your product or service specifically targets them, and understanding the youngest generation prepares you for future trends.   

Silent Traditionalists (1928–1945)

The silent traditionalists do not get a lot of attention from marketers, but let’s not forget that they’re the wealthiest generation and can boost your sales significantly. They account for more than half of all financial institution depositors and control nearly 70% of all assets in the United States. 

This generation has undoubtedly seen a lot, including World War II and The Great Depression. Their struggles, among other factors, lead them to become hardworking and sincere individuals – you can appeal to these values, as well as others such as tradition and being family and community oriented.  

How to market to them: Appeal to this generation by being straightforward. You don’t have to sound cool to advertise to them, just be direct and to the point. Have exclusive offers that make them feel special and entice them with eye-catching visuals.  

According to 60% of silent traditionalists, email is their preferred digital contact method. 72% of people from this generation believe that using a phone is the best way to communicate with others and 56% of them use computers. To target this audience correctly, make sure you use multi-channel marketing to begin with, and later you can adjust your strategy based on which channels are the most successful. Most importantly, do not make these individuals feel old through your advertisements, and remember that most of them will not be using recent technologies, so the best way to reach them would be through direct mail, radio, and TV. Where relevant, use images that focus on family and community, and keep in mind that this generation look out for good deals and heavy discounts.  

Baby Boomers (1946–1964)

Baby Boomers get their name from the post-World War II surge in birth rates that resulted from improved financial conditions and economic growth. This generation marks the beginning of the “woke era” and the rise of TV, the civil rights movement, the women’s liberation movement, and the music event, Woodstock. 

They did not grow up with advanced technology, so they might not be completely comfortable using the latest innovations. However, they are well versed with TV and computers. This generation is made up of headstrong, independent individuals who are not that easily influenced by their peers, and they love to purchase things online, even more so than millennials. (Boomers spend $548.1 billion each year – overall, not just online.) 68% of Baby Boomers own smartphones and 96%  use search engines. Since 2012, this generation has been the fastest growing demographic on Facebook. 

How to market to them: Baby boomers are most active on Facebook compared to other social media platforms so make sure you target them with your advertisements. The best way to reach them is through informational videos that educate them while advertising your product. Do not use clickbait or make promises that you cannot keep, otherwise you might find yourself caught in a lawsuit. 

Generation X (1965–1980)

Generation X is the smallest segment of the population, so it’s no wonder that 54% of this demographic feels overlooked by brands and marketers. They are often referred to as the middle child of generations because people keep forgetting about them. Even though they are comparatively small in number, there are over 65 million people in this generation. 

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, Generation X outspends all other generations when it comes to housing, clothing, eating out, and entertainment. While you won’t find them dancing around on TikTok, they are very much active on social media.  

There are two main types of Gen Xers – those born near the start of this generation who share more characteristics with the baby boomers, and those born at the other end of the spectrum who are more like the millennials. This could be the reason this generation gets overlooked so often, as marketers may generalise them into the categories of their predecessors and successors.   

How to market to them: It can be tough marketing to this generation. To attract them, focus on your SEO as 72% of them use the internet to research businesses. They also respond positively to corporations that use nostalgia to advertise their products, such as celebrity endorsements or music from their childhood. Gen Xers respond best to customer loyalty programs because they are the most brand loyal generation. 

Millennials (1983–1996)

Millennials are not just the largest generation in history (and the largest segment of the workforce), so if businesses want to get the best out of their marketing efforts, targeting this generation is crucial.  

They choose value over convenience and are more prone to spending than saving. Millennials are certainly very hard to please as they do not fall for false advertisements or performative actions. They believe in supporting businesses that are authentic, and expect everyone to be environmentally conscious, inclusive, and politically aware.  

How to market to them: The best way to market to millennials is by being your most authentic self as a business. Make sure you use social media to attract them but remember, they will not fall for empty promises.  They are the least brand loyal generation and will most definitely do what works best for them, so to keep them engaged, you have to be consistent with your quality. Also, there is a high chance that your business might get cancelled over trivial mistakes, so be prepared for the turbulent behaviour of this generation and make sure you don’t say anything that could be considered offensive.  

Generation Z (1997–present)

This generation is very diverse, and they live and breathe technology. They emulate many characteristics of the millennials, they actively reject stereotypes, and are on a mission to make the world a better place. They have high standards, and they will not settle for less. Gen Z is demanding – for example, they will not let unethical means of production slide, nor political incorrectness. You have to get it ALL right from the “vibe” to the message.  

How to market to them: Traditional marketing like print advertisements, magazine ads, or TV commercials will not suffice for Gen Z. You need to invest heavily in influencer marketing, because the most effective way of delivering a message to them is by letting Gen Z talk to Gen Z. Remember that most of them do not have direct purchasing power and will go to their caregivers when they want to buy something, so make sure you consider them as well. Inclusivity is also a big factor that you must consider within your strategy. 

Even though generation is only one of the criteria you must consider within your strategy, it provides a solid framework for planning and assessing tailored marketing initiatives, which aids in the development of future strategies.  

While some strategies are more important to consider for certain generations, keep in mind that some of them will work for everyone – for example, avoiding clickbait, being informative, and being more visual and accessible. The major differentiator in generational marketing is the channels you use and the way you communicate with your audience – so always make sure you meet them where they are.  

Need help with marketing your product? Click here to see how I can help you in marketing your product across generations. 

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