Wendy Troncone
Wendy Troncone 14 November 2016

Generational Marketing: Using Age and Other Relevant Factors to Market to Your Target Audiences

When reviewing all marketing options, from purely online to traditional offline methods, it’s often best to use a mix of (both online and offline campaigns. Older generations may not be as trusting or comfortable using the Internet to gather information or establishing contact or accounts.

However, younger clients may rely primarily on newer technologies to research and evaluate potential purchases and affiliations. An important thing to consider is no one marketing campaign or overall plan works in every situation.

The Bottom line? It’s important to know how to marry traditional advertising methods with the latest in online and mobile technologies to develop and convey messages to reach the largest number of the desired targeted market(s).

To truly gain the competitive advantage with any marketing campaign, businesses and non-profit organizations must design a carefully calibrated mix of offline and online advertising techniques with proper analytical monitoring to ensure effective ROI. Properly crafted campaigns effectively increase brand awareness, generate higher ROI, and help to stretch dollars, especially in today’s tough economy.

A customized approach is particularly essential in areas of personal finance. Relationships with financial services and banking customers are based on privacy and depending upon age, people have widely varying ideas about security and trust. This is apparent in younger customers’ openness to online banking and bill pay, account set-up, managing investments and assets, and other related services.

Healthcare is another area where a deep-rooted understanding of generational differences is key to the long-term process of attracting, acquiring and maintaining a steady clientele base. Quickly identifying and acting on the specific need(s) and concerns of each customer can play a vital role in keeping them as a client.

Regardless of the product or services you are offering, knowing your target market’s characteristics and nuances is the first step to getting a grasp on what may compel potential clients to buy your products and services, or keep the present ones.

Here’s an overview of what makes each generation unique:

Pre-Depression Generation (aka G.I. Generation, Veteran Generation, WWI Generation)
Birth dates: Before 1930

A dwindling demographic group of 12 million, our eldest Americans are conservative, altruistic, and less materialistic as they grow older. Many live alone, and keep themselves company with television, radio and print reading materials; they also place high value on contacts made via face-to-face and through personal services, or at formal social gatherings and recognition events. As expected, their concerns tend towards health, aging, financial and personal security, and disposition of valued belongings and assets. They rarely use the Internet. However, since their children and grandchildren most certainly do, marketers may reach them ‘second-hand’ by using technology.

If you are a bank, and you have decided to target this group with your marketing efforts, successful campaigns will involve newspaper and magazine ads. This demographic also loves to listen to the radio, and they remember the call out radio advertising. In terms of TV, they are not as apt to watch anything on cable, so cable spots do not appear to be as effective as other traditional methods. Traditional advertising works well, but remember some are not able to drive anymore, so radio and direct mail are equally as important.

Depression Generation (aka Silent Generation, Traditionalists, Swing Generation)
Birth dates: 1930-1945

This group of patriotic and hard-working Americans is 28 million strong. They value morals, social tranquility and family togetherness; distrust change; and skew toward financial and social conservatism. Romance (think candlelight, soft music), formality (Sir or Madam, firm handshakes), and sacrifice and responsibility for the common good appeal to them. They like respectful and easily digested written and face-to-face communications. Reach them traditionally (direct mail, radio/TV/billboards/print, as well as through their network of trusted professional advisors and even telephone), but don’t forget the Internet. Many of these folks have been cajoled online by offspring posting family photos on social media and websites. Keep usability in mind (larger text, non-moving menus/navigation, easy scanning, etc.) to successfully use technology to augment your reach into this group.

Baby Boom Generation (aka Boomers, Me Generation, Baboo, Love Generation, Woodstock Generation, Sandwich Generation)
Birth dates: 1946-1964

80 million Baby Boomers…..that’s a lot of people that value individualization, self-expression and optimism, not to mention the intention to “Be Here Now.” Still America’s largest demographic, most are career-oriented (even workaholics) with an increasing amount of both discretionary income and time. Family responsibilities are important; health, energy and wellness are major goals. Target markets are multiple and deep: anti-aging, natural/organic products and foods, travel (including adventure vacations and music-based tourism), expensive restaurants, personal trainers, real estate, and anything to make life easier.

Boomers have a sense of fun and informality; like options and flexibility; want quick fixes; and are cause-oriented. They appreciate references to life stages (think Empty Nesters, caregivers for aging parents) versus age. Use the full range of marketing available – 70% of them use the Internet, particularly for health information, jobs searches and social networking – but don’t neglect word of mouth, email, direct mail, open houses/health fairs, and target organizations (like AARP). Present all the facts and information: they like to be in charge of making decisions.

An important fact to remember, is that according to recently released Pew Research Study, based on US Census Bureau information, the net worth of households headed by individuals 65 years and older is 47 times greater than households headed by people 35 and younger. This report shows you the importance of targeting this older demographic audience with the more traditional marketing methods such as newspapers and radio.

This age group, from 46 to 65+, is 120+ million people of the Baby Boom, Depression and Pre-Depression Generations. This is close to half of the overall US population, making it one of the most highly sought after markets that will be required you to utilize a higher amount of the more traditional marketing methods.

Generation X (aka Baby Bust, Slackers, Why Me Generation, Latchkey Generation)
Birth dates: 1965-1976

The 45 million adults in Generation X value family first, and multiculturalism and thinking globally are their norm. They place high value on techno-literacy (they produced the ‘90s stars, after all) and are well-educated free agents (yet sometimes need reassurances that their choices are sound). Gen X-ers question conventionality, are cynical and sophisticated, and they are very price conscious. They like things that are useful and practical. These are people with households to run, homes to buy, young children to care for, and they represent a strong market for cars, appliances, children’s products, and home improvement (they like cable and Internet home improvement channels). Approaching them in the role of consultant (not as a seller), use stimuli and challenging environments, and keep their skepticism about modern advertising in mind. They often think communally, and respond to marketing via direct mail, the Internet, e-mail, multimedia, word of mouth, social events and peer gatherings. Beware, be knowledgeable, and be honest: Gen X-ers have a reputation for brand disloyalty, demand trust, and like flexibility without long-term commitments.

Generation Y (aka Gen Y, Millennials, Echo Boomers, Why Generation, Net Generation, Gen Wired, We Generation, DotNet, Ne(x)t Generation, Nexters, First Globals, iPod Generation, iYGeneration)
Birth dates: 1977-1994

The 71 million children of the Baby Boomers are the second largest group. They are stable, open-minded and autonomous, and came of age during times of immense and fast-paced change: they are masters of a technological, electronic, wireless, global and increasingly transparent society. Keep these eight key values in mind when marketing to them: choice, customization, scrutiny, integrity, collaboration, speed, entertainment and innovation. Since this image-driven group spans in age from 16 to 33 years old, and tastes develop in teen years, early marketing lays the groundwork to earn their loyalty. They are truly ‘global citizens’ and embrace diversity. Music, fashion, humor (sometimes quirky) and green living are key touchpoints, and they react strongly to real life examples. Gen Y-ers love to shop, especially for prestige products and personal consumption (apparel, accessories, sports equipment, entertainment, etc) and household items, and they exert great influence on purchase decisions for cars, vacations and mobile banking. You’ll not be surprised to learn that 25% of today’s teens check Facebook more than 10 times a day, but a well-planned combination of online, offline and word of mouth is especially crucial with this group. Think magazines, TV/radio, ‘advergaming’ (ads on video games), event sponsorship, all forms of electronic media and web marketing, school-based news media and direct mail catalogs. Though they grew up with TV shows designed for them (MTV, American Idol, CSI, etc.), their interest in television is less than any other generation: mobile, digital, the Internet and content, especially interactive, is the best approach.

Marketing to Generation Z (aka Tweens, Baby Bloomers, Generation 9/11, Generation XD, Internet or iGeneration)
Birth dates: After 1994

These 29 million teens have always lived with the Internet, and are the first generation to use Chatspeak in real life, e.g., u r gr8. Accustomed to multiple messages bombarding them from all sides, they wield tremendous spending power ($43 billion) and influence an additional $600 billion of family spending: Kids influence more than 70 percent of family food choices, and nearly two-thirds of parents say that their children have affected their vehicle purchasing decisions. As a result, car manufacturers are capitalizing on “kidfluence” and now target marketing messages to those aged 6 to 14. Authenticity and peer-acceptance carry great weight, and music, fashion, haircuts, cosmetics and video games are very important to them. Generation Z-ers are conservative, value family, and are responsible: they are very optimistic and believe they can impact the world. They are global and diverse, with a wide mix of backgrounds, experiences and ideas. Instant access to the Web has bolstered their respect for knowledge (83% of 8-12 year olds say, “It’s cool to be smart”). In the U.S., 8-18 year olds spend one quarter of their media time using multiple media. In addition, 24% of 12-18 year olds use another media most of the time while watching television.

** The above information on the six generations was excerpted from “Marketing to the Generations,” a research study by Kaylene C. Williams (California State University, Stanislaus) and Robert A Page (Southern Connecticut State University). It was published in Journal of Behavioral Studies in Business (April 2011). To read the full study, visit << >>

Consider Multi-Cultural & “Green” Influences Too!

Beyond age-specific marketing approaches, cultural factors and population growth also carry considerable weight. Author Maddy Dychtwald in her book; Cycles: How We Will Live, Work, and Buy (Free Press, 2003), emphasizes the impact of the growing multi-cultural composition of the United States Between 2003 and 2025, the US Hispanic population will nearly double from 35 million in 2003 to more than 68 million in 2025, and will then represent 19% of the population. The number of Asians in the US will also nearly double to 24 million in 2025, an increase from 4% of the population in 2003 to 7% in 2025.

Many marketers consider these cultural markets to be ‘niches,’ but the numbers are too large and multi-dimensional for such a narrow focus. Savvy business owners know that numerous distinctions (socioeconomic, religious, cultural references, language, and country of origin, in addition to generational divides) must be addressed to successfully market to Americans who identify as part of the Hispanic, Asian or other cultural groups. Local, as well as global, companies would be wise to adapt their marketing and translation efforts to engage (and sell to) them in authentic and meaningful ways. It may be as simple as providing bilingual ‘how-to’ instructions, or more involved, such as creating brochures, websites and a full range of marketing materials in multiple languages.

Finally, with the overall US population expected to grow to over 350,000,000 people by 2025, a jump of nearly 25% over the year 2000 population, an increased focus on the environment, ‘green’ products and lifestyle must be folded into current and future marketing plans.

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