Marketing Across GenerationsOne message (or media) does not fit all generations. Learn how the generations think, behave, and spend.
Generational Marketing is a way to generalize how macro-economic, technological, political, and social conditions shape values and behaviors across a rather broad range of individuals. It is, at best, a framework to utilize, but it’s not a prescriptive and effective strategy for connecting with consumers. To equate generational marketing insights with a silver bullet for targeting would be a mistake.
Still, there is value in understanding the underpinning characteristics of the current repertoire of generations
The Silent Generation
Born: Prior to 1946
Age Range: 69+
Also referred to as “The Greatest Generation,” the oldest living generation embodies many stereotypes associated with senior citizens.
- Brand Loyalists: They tend to be on stricter budgets, but remain extremely loyal to their preferred brands and businesses.
- Gift Givers: Shopping preferences lean heavily to gifts as they outspent younger shoppers by 33% this past year. Apparel, toys, and games are the most popular gift categories (with grandchildren being the lucky recipients).
- Less Diverse: In terms of racial makeup, the Silent generation is the most homogenous: 78% are white, 8% are Hispanic, 8% are Black and 5% are Asian or other.
- Growing Online: Silents are among the least likely to go online. However, once online they are enthusiastic emailers and information searchers. They are among the fastest growing population in social media; use of it has tripled in the last four years.
- Traditional Media Consumers: In terms of media influence on shopping process, newspaper dominates as their most influential medium. Other high-ranking media include: direct mail, in-store advertising, and television.
Born: 1946 – 1965
Age Range: 51 – 69
Baby Boomers are the single largest group within the generations and arguably the most revolutionary. Boomers are inherently different from earlier generations of older Americans. Twenty-nine percent of them graduated from college. And as of 2013, they accounted for 31% of the labor force in the U.S. Because they are so numerous, there is significant variety in their life stages and lifestyles.
- Varied lifestyles: Some are retired empty nesters, others are grandparents, some are single, and others are married with multiple generations living in their homes.
- Changing Traditions: If there is one defining characteristic, is it that Boomers have changed and will continue to change traditions and perceptions. They have rejected the familiar sort of life pattern set down by earlier generations.
- Working Longer: While many are approaching retirement age, a high number are choosing to work past the commonly accepted retirement age. While they continue working, the boomer generation will look to stay young with products that delay aging, healthy foods, and exercise equipment.
- Deep Pockets: Presently, Boomers represent more than half of the nation’s wealth and 26% of the buying power. Adults 55 – 64 outspend the average consumer in nearly every category, including: food away from home, household furnishings, entertainment, personal care, and gifts, and Baby Boomers spend close to 50% of all consumer package goods dollars.
- Largely Online: Boomers are online in larger absolute numbers than any other demographic group. Email is the most popular online activity for this market, followed by web browsing, research, and shopping. Internet is the most important source of information for Boomers when they make a major (high-ticket) purchase.
- A Variety of Messages: The top three media that led Boomers to take action after seeing an advertisement are television, newspaper (inclusive of print, digital, and mobile channels), and direct mail.
Born: 1965 – 1980
Age Range: 35 – 50
Gen X is often overlooked by marketers because it is not as sizable or extroverted as other generations. Interestingly, the average Gen Xer household outspends its Boomer and Millennial counterparts.
- Big (but Frugal) Spenders: Gen Xers are now in their peak earning and buying years. This is the most affluent generation, but they are also pragmatic and hold quite a bit of debt. They were impacted most by the Great Recession, and many continue to be in recovery from it.
- Work/Life Balance: They are established with careers, more likely to be married, and many have children. This leads them to be heavily focused on family and kids and finding a greater work-life balance.
- Considerate and Independent: Hallmark to this generation is their mindfulness of what others think–as well as their self-reliance and independence.
- Tech-savvy: Gen Xers are less likely to multi-task while watching TV than Millennials, but they are just as connected. Gen X was the first generation to embrace technology, from video games to desktop computers.
- Mixing Media: They favor email as their preferred channel for interacting with retailers. They are effectively a bridge generation: appreciating traditional media vehicles while blending with more modern (digital) channels.
Born: 1981 – 1995
Age Range: 21 – 35
Millennials are among the most talked about generation—second only, perhaps, to Baby Boomers. This group is sizable (as the children of Boomers) and diverse. Those born between 1981 and 1995 had different experiences: older Millennials were teenagers before the Internet became popular, whereas younger Millennials grew up on an entirely online world.
- More Diverse: In contrast to other generations, only 57% of Millennials are white, with the majority of share shifting to Hispanics.
- Well Educated: Millennials are the best-educated cohort of young adults in American history, and the correlation between educational attainment and economic success is even greater for this generation than previous ones.
- Well Connected: They are characterized by their fear of missing out, and it drives them to attend, engage in, and share experiences widely. They prefer to communicate via text, fuel an entire economy of sharing, and are optimistically focused on the present.
- Looking for Experience: Millennials are less materialistic and are more interested in experiences (78% would choose to spend money on a desirable experience or event over buying something desirable, and 55% say they’re spending more on events and live experiences than ever before).
- Engaged: They expect to be a part of every conversation involving them, and they prefer dynamic interaction rather than passive attendance.
- Philanthropically Driven: Millennials have an interest in pro-social and charitable efforts and are more likely to buy a product if the proceeds go to charity.
- Live Online: Millennials are adept multi-taskers, juggling two screens simultaneously. On average, they consume eighteen hours of media a day. Across the board, they are social: 71% engage in social media daily, with spend 30% of daily media consumption made up of social-media posts, photos, blogs, and other user-generated content.
- Harder to Reach: Millennials are keenly aware of marketing / messaging and easily tune it out.
Born: 1995 – Present
Age Range: Under 21
Already, Generation Z has distinguished itself from Millennials in very significant ways— from their deepest aspirations to their preferences on social networks. Gen Z has grown up entirely in the digital age, and they are savvier because of it.
- In the Know: They are adept researchers and can self-educate and find information with ease. They are comfortable with alternative methods of education, including watching lessons online, using digital textbooks, and collaborating digitally with classmates.
- Realists: Gen Z has grown up largely in a post-9/11 world, filled with uncertainty, recession, increased diversity, and shifting gender roles.
- More Accepting: Gen Z continues the trend of increasing racial and ethnic diversity.
- Changing Social: Generation Z is connected through social channels, but Gen Zers are among the fastest churning users of Facebook, leaving the social site for “incognito media platforms” such as Snapchat, Secret, and Whisper. Instagram, however, continues to find favorability for this generation.
- On More Screens: Multitasking is intuitive for Gen Zers: they prefer to have up to five screens active at once. They are creative and like to communicate using images.
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