Marketing to different generations: how to do it right

Every brand wants to develop a marketing strategy that engages its target audiences. The reality is that there are no good “one-size-fits-all” marketing strategies.

This article will help you distinguish between customer generations and adjust your marketing efforts to reach everyone you need them to. It’s definitely not an axiom, and you always need to do deeper target audience segmentation, but there are some basic rules of thumb to use.

Let’s establish the four main generations:

  • Baby Boomers: born between 1946 and 1964
  • Generation X: born between 1965 and 1980
  • Generation Y, or Millenials: born between 1981 and 1996
  • Generation Z: born between 1997 and 2012

As you develop your strategies, letting go of stereotypes will make it easier to reach across generations.

It is also important to not let stereotypes seep into your messaging: don’t portray seniors as someone helpless, Millennials — as selfish, or Gen Zers as only being interested in what they look like or how they are perceived by peers.

Marketing to Baby Boomers (1946–1964)

Following the Second World War, the world experienced a population “boom.” People born during this period are called “boomers.”. This generation boasts significant population numbers and enough economic impact to continue influencing the world’s economies.

Baby boomers have experienced great political, social and economic changes and are now slowly embracing technology. They are generally comfortable with basic smartphone apps but spend considerably more time on computers than on mobile devices.

Even though baby boomers may be less familiar with technology than other generations, they, surprisingly, spend the most on it — everything from cable TV to smartphones — as compared to other generations.

Tips for Baby Boomer marketing:

  1. This generation is receptive to direct marketing tactics, and they like to talk to real people. Face-to-face communication and phone calls are good tools for approaching baby boomers.
  2. Stop using slang and hashtags. Generation-specific language can alienate users and can often make businesses appear insincere. When creating content for baby boomers, keep your language clear and concise.
  3. For a brand that targets baby boomers, it is important to use simple messaging that is easy to understand. Use clear headings and bullet points to convey key selling points. Keep the focus on how the product or service will benefit them and why it’s worth a financial investment.
  4. Use Facebook. Baby boomers use Facebook far more than any other social media. The platform is used to keep in touch with friends, family, and loved ones, as well as to stay informed. As a result, Facebook ads remain a mainstay to reach new and existing customers.
  5. When launching a Facebook campaign, you can use advanced targeting covered in this article to identify a baby boomer audience. Additionally, as videos dominate the social media site, using them can help brands communicate with boomers more clearly.
  6. Make things accessible. Use a font of 16 pt or larger to ensure clear readability, proper button sizes of at least 44 pixels high to accommodate finger sizes on mobile devices, and create contrast with dark texts and light backgrounds, and vice versa.

Marketing to Generation X (1965–1980)

The majority of people in Gen X are busy, middle-aged professionals with families. Older Gen X-ers have similar traits to Baby Boomers, with younger people of Generation X moreso resembling Millennials. They enjoy spending time with their families and learning 21st-century technology. Even though people of Gen X tend to be overlooked, they, as the previous generation, also wield great power in the workplace and the economy.

Tips for Generation X marketing:

  1. A typical Gen X person has strong family values, with great importance placed on their family’s safety and financial future. To connect with this generation, make earning their trust a priority, offer them a reliable product or service.
  2. Since Gen X has been there for the Internet revolution, the Cold War, the Moon Landing and everything in between, this means that they have seen a lot of ads and have been the target of a lot of marketing. As a result, it is important to pursue an authentic and transparent message throughout the marketing campaign.
  3. Facebook is also the most popular social media used by Gen X. So, having a Facebook-specific marketing plan to encourage online purchases would greatly benefit your brand.
  4. Using email marketing to target Gen X can be a win-win for both your audience and your brand. People of this generation tend to check their email on a fairly regular basis, which means they are more likely to see your message there. By creating highly visual emails that highlight your products or services, this type of marketing is both an effective and a non-costly method of bringing in Gen Xers.
  5. Provide discounts. Since Gen X grew up exposed to various discounts in newspapers, magazines, and on TV, offering a discount along with their first purchase can be a great way of turning this discount-loving generation into loyal customers.
  6. To help Gen Xers feel more secure, offer free return shipping with your package to provide them with a safety net if something goes wrong. Make sure that the return policy on your website is easy to understand.
  7. People of Generation X enjoy taking a trip down memory lane, so adding a little nostalgia to your marketing tactics would better engage this audience.

Marketing to Millennials (1981 and 1996)

The generation of Millenials is generally well-educated and tech-savvy. With student loans to pay and/or children to raise, they have not reached their full buying power yet — as compared to baby boomers or Gen Xers.

But unlike baby boomers , or Gen Xers, almost all Millenials use the Internet. According to Pew Research, 9 out of 10 millennials in the U.S have a smartphone. This should make the largest living generation an aiming point for every brand.

Millennials are more likely to choose an online store over a physical one when making a purchase: this generation accounts for over 54% of online purchases.

More than other generations, millennials value brands that make environmental and social impacts. They are also more likely to be loyal to a brand when the brand gives back to charities, or other special causes that ensure that their money is being used in an ethical or sustainable manner.

Tips when marketing to Generation Y:

  1. Millennials value brands that create a personal connection. By spending a lot of time on the Internet, millennials expose themselves to large amounts of advertising, so the brand needs to tailor to diverse types of consumers. People of this generation are also better at detecting the product’s and/or service’s authenticity. So, going above and beyond with this element of an advertising campaign can help build trust towards your company.
  2. Build a strong online presence: to make sure that consumers engage with your content and spend as much time as possible on your page, it is essential to create a brand presence that is easy to navigate and pleasing to look at. That includes websites with nice designs and a strong social media presence.
  3. Stop using words you think are trendy. Millennials (as well as Gen Z teens), are done with seeing “LOL, epic, shook, yass, etc.” in advertisements. Not only does it take up space in paragraphs that millennials do not want to spend more time reading, but it also comes off as insincere and cringe-inducing. The same goes for overusing emojis. Your brand needs to capture their attention with information that is clean, interesting, and straight to the point.
  4. Millennials like to plan things out with their friends — they can rely on others’ opinions when it comes to both the location of tonight’s dinner and of the neighborhood to move to. So, a great way to indirectly market to millennials is to make sure that your customer experiences and reviews are positive and up to par.

Marketing to Generation Z (1997 and 2012)

You might have heard that the teens or young adults of Gen Z have an attention span of about 8 seconds and that is what is killing your marketing strategy. . In reality, while a short attention span might still be a problem, young people of this generation are quicker at filtering out information that they don’t need.

Having grown up with technology, the digital natives of Generation Z are more likely to buy from brands that showcase clear values, have a strong online presence and community, and are inclusive.

Tips for Gen Z marketing:

  1. Establish your brand’s personality. When marketing to young Gen Zers, your company has got to say goodbye to the perfectly curated content focused on millennials. People of this generation want brands that have a strong voice and personality. Advertising with irony, using catchy music, and involving influencers are entertaining and easily-digestible ways of bringing in younger audiences.
  2. Engage with customers: as mentioned earlier, reviews clearly play a big role in building brand trust, but this is crucial if you want to target Gen Z. You want to increase the number of your reviews , as well as react to positive and negative reviews. Customise your responses. This way, your potential customers can see that it is not a one-size-fits-all reply and the issue has been acknowledged, while everything is being done to resolve it.
  3. Gen Zers worry about protecting their privacy, so it is important for your brand to highlight your commitment to keeping their data safe and secure.

Understanding the characteristics of your target audience(s) makes it so much easier to effectively interact with your audience and generate engaging content. Still, it is important not to paint everyone with a broad brush — customers born at the junction of two generations can possess qualities attributed to both.

Brands should look at this as an experimenting opportunity for content and communication channels.

Digitize. Immediately! Co-founder, CEO @iplace.agency Portugal