Marketing to the Different Generations
One Message does not Fit All
In the United States today there are basically six living generations that have buying power. These various generations have had different life experiences, which in turn have shaped their buying behaviors, the marketing messages that resonate, and the advertising channels they use. This is better known as generational marketing, which companies need to consider when targeting key customer segments. One marketing message and channel do not necessarily work for all generations. In this blog, we are going to explore the characteristics of each generation and the best ways to engage with them via marketing.
Exploring the Generational Differences
Each generation does have unique personalities. However, the information about the six different living generations below provides a foundation regarding how to market to them.
- Born between 1916 – 1928.
- Represents less than 4 million Americans.
- Tom Brokaw coined it “The Greatest Generation”.
- Life shaping events include fighting in World War II, children of the World War I generation, and first-hand experience with the Great Depression.
- Common characteristics include excellent team players, strong loyalty, community-minded, and assertive / energetic.
As mentioned above, this generation possesses strong loyalty not only to their job, schools, groups, and partner, but also to brands. New entrants to the market will find it difficult to acquire new customers from this generation unless they solve a problem they are experiencing. For example, the walk-in bathtub was created to help seniors with mobility, balance and safety issues. Falls increase significantly after the age of 65.
This generation has not readily adopted the Internet and e-commerce. It is difficult for them to trust and learn technology since they did not grow up with it. Even the recently launched GrandPad provides many technology apps such as video calling, weather forecast, games, and email, but the Internet and online shopping are not accessible with this device. They prefer to shop in stores or even let younger generations handle their shopping needs. Radio and TV are the best mediums to advertise to this generation. And, it is best to keep the advertising message traditional, no swearing and/or other types of inappropriate behavior.
- Born between 1929 – 1946.
- Represents approximately 28 million Americans currently.
- Life shaping events include fighting in the Korean War, Civil Rights, the invention of the television, and the introduction of rock and roll.
- Common characteristics include avid readers, disciplined, cautious, and self-sacrificing.
This generation can be reached best via newspaper ads, direct mail, and newsletters. They appreciate marketing pieces with larger print and a single image, not a collage. And, like the G.I. Generation, it is best to keep the message more traditional with language and grammar they appreciate.
However, unlike the G.I. Generation, they are much more likely to own computers (just as much as Baby Boomers). And, Facebook is by far the most common social network this generation uses, making it another good advertising channel.
Finally, if your marketing budget is large enough, another effective way to reach this generation is with television commercials. On average, seniors watch 51 hours of television per week. And, they view the commercials that many other generations skip.
- Born between 1947 – 1965.
- Represent approximately 75 million Americans currently, one of the largest generations in history.
- Life shaping events include being the first divorce as well as TV generation, the hippie movement, and post war optimism.
- Common characteristics include optimistic, team-oriented and driven.
This generation represents the greatest consumers of TV, magazines and radio. However, they are also avid users of the Internet, spending on average 27 hours per week on it, two hours more than a typical Millennial. Facebook is their preferred social media platform with 65.2 percent of Baby Boomers using it.
Almost three-quarters of the younger Baby Boomers (up to age 64) use a smartphone. Besides using it for social media, emails and calling, they also use it for searching product information online; therefore, it is critical that websites are mobile responsive.
Baby Boomers are the most likely to bargain hunt, particularly when it comes to clothing. Almost 28.9 percent will only buy it on sale. It may behoove a company to offer discounts, a gift with purchase or another type of promotion to earn this generation’s dollars.
- Born between 1966 – 1981.
- Represents approximately 65 million Americans currently.
- Life shaping events include the “latch-key” kid generation, rise of personal computing, feeling lost between two large generations, and Watergate.
- Common characteristics include entrepreneurial, independent and multi-career minded.
Generation X members still read newspapers and magazines, listen to the radio, and watch about 165 hours of television per month. However, they are also active on Facebook, with 64.7 percent using the social media site on average seven hours per week. A combination of traditional as well as digital marketing tactics works best with this generation.
This generation is often skeptical of marketing, and they are not easily convinced; therefore, testimonials and blogs with valuable research are popular with them. And, hard core sales tactics should be avoided with Gen X.
- Born between 1982 – 1999.
- Represent approximately 79 million Americans, currently equaling almost one quarter of the US population.
- Life shaping events include 9/11, explosion of the Internet and social media usage, and the Great Recession.
- Common characteristics include tech savvy, wealthier at a younger age, and more educated.
Since Millennials are digital natives, they tend to have a strong online presence, splitting their time mainly between Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and Snapchat. Brands should build a strong presence on Facebook, in particular, if they want to engage this generation. They follow brands on these platforms for their entertainment value and information.
Similar to Generation X, they also are big readers of blogs for valuable information. Promotional emails are still relevant too, but they need to be mobile ready because approximately 92 percent of Millennials use a smart phone.
Even though Millennials are considered less brand loyal than other generations, they are willing to share information in exchange for a personalized experience. Currently, 71 percent of Millennials participate in at least one loyalty program.
- Born between 2000 – 2016.
- Represents approximately 73 million Americans currently.
- Life shaping events include the War on Terror, Reality TV, and smart phones.
- Common characteristics include savvy consumers, multi-cultural, and brand conscious.
Gen Z or the Net Generation grew up in a hyper-connected world, often using their parents’ tablet and/or mobile phone before they had their own. A smart phone is their device of choice, spending at least three hours per day on it. Selling to this generation requires a presence on social and mobile in particular. Like Millennials, they are big users of Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram.
They do not like the advertising gimmicks of the past. Instead, they want direct and individualized messages that are communicated quickly. One of the best marketing mediums to convey these messages is video. They are the You Tube / Netflix / Reddit generation, readily consuming one to three-minute videos on their smart phones.
Marketing to the Generations
Knowing your customer segments and how to market to them is critical. As mentioned earlier, every generation has unique personalities, but these general overviews will help to deliver the right types of messages across the most frequently used channels.
The diamonddog team has experience using different marketing mediums to convey messages that appeal to the various generations. We welcome the opportunity to assist you with an upcoming marketing project. Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or give us a call at 847-269-1422.
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