Generational marketing was established once marketers realised that each generation responds differently to different types of marketing. In this blog, we will break down each of the 7 generations and discuss their unique characteristics as well as how to market to them effectively.
What is generational marketing?
Simply put, generational marketing is when the audience is segmented into generations based on the year in which they were born. Each generation spans approximately 14-20 years. Everyone falls into 7 generations:
- Greatest Generation – 1901-1927
- Silent Generation – 1928-1945
- Baby Boomers – 1946-1964
- Generation X – 1965-1980
- Millennials/Generation Y – 1981-1995
- Gen Z – 1996-2010
- Generation Alpha – 2011-2025
While you can segment your marketing to each generation, you should also target your audience via psychographics (personality, lifestyle, social class, behaviours, and habits) and demographic (age, gender, location etc) factors.
Why is generational marketing so important?
You are aware of the importance of defining and segmenting your audience based on psychographics and demographics. Generational marketing uses a common demographic; age, and then builds knowledge around that age group. For example, those who fall into any given generation will have lived in a similar time period and had similar life experiences of certain events, they also share similar customs, traditions, and societal norms.
The Greatest Generation (1901-1927)
With an average age of well over 100, and accounting for less than 0.5% of the population, this generation witnessed so much in their lifetime; 2 World Wars, the great depression, the first man in space, and undoubtedly seen the most significant growth in industrialisation. In this generation, many began their lives with no electric lights and limited technology.
The greatest generation characteristics
The greatest generation took on a lot of personal responsibility. They were also one of the hardest working generations with labour being a very manually intensive job.
How to market to the greatest generation
Sadly, few remain from this generation, but to market to them, it is best to use a “you deserve it” message. This generation generally does not use the internet, so to market here you will need to use more traditional methods of marketing such as newspapers, leaflets and direct marketing.
Notable greatest generationers:
- Queen Elizabeth II
- John F Kennedy
- Frank Sinatra
- Alan Turing
- Marilyn Monroe
The Silent Generation (1928-1945)
Named the silent generation as children should be ‘seen and not heard’. A smaller generation than its predecessor or successive generation, likely due to WW2. This generation witnessed the horrors of WW2, through their young childlike adolescent eyes. Some of this generation lived away from their families for a time due to the war.
Silent generation characteristics
Like their predecessors, this generation married and had children young. They held the traditional views of their predecessors. The silent generation is known for its strong work ethic and sense of civic duty. Due to their upbringing, this generation is very thrifty, they prefer to repair rather than replace and only replace or upgrade when necessary.
How to market to the silent generation
To market to this generation, you need to earn their trust as well as prove your value and worth.
- Use traditional marketing – The silent generation generally gets their news and information from newspapers, so advertising in these mediums would be preferable to say using social media. This generation is also the most active TV watchers so you can also market to them using TV advertising (although this can be very costly).
- Understand their weaknesses with tech – This generation in general will not be tech-savvy and those that have embraced technology will be more likely to use a computer rather than a mobile phone. This generation is more likely to place an order in-store or over the telephone.
- Trust their brand loyalty – The silent generation is brand loyal and will generally ‘stick with what they know’. You will have to work very hard to get them to try a different brand than their current one. If they are already a customer, then they will likely remain so.
Notable silent generationers:
- Stanley Kubric
- Diana Ross
- Elvis Presley
- Joe Biden
- Billie Jean King
The name baby boomers were coined from the increase in birth rates following WW2. Born after WW2 and when the country was rebuilding, this generation saw the rise of TV, the rise of civil rights movements, as well as Woodstock festival.
Stats taken from Smart Insights & HubSpot
Baby boomer characteristics
Growing up in an era of reform, this generation is confident, independent, and self-reliant. Unlike the previous generations, baby boomers were more optimistic, as they were growing up in a post-war economic boom. This generation openly questioned authority and challenged the status quo (think women’s and workers’ rights, strikes and so forth). Your baby boomers had a strong work ethic and were focused on their careers. This led them to be a competitive bunch and goal centric.
How to market to baby boomers
This generation has accumulated their wealth and has a decent amount of disposable income, with some already enjoying their retirement. This generation is one of the most populous so is a huge target market.
- Use Facebook as the primary social media platform – While this generation may not be digital natives, the majority have embraced modern technology; in fact, almost 70% own a mobile phone and baby boomers are the fastest-growing demographic joining Facebook. Therefore, Facebook is your go-to social media channel. Avoid using slang in your marketing communications. If you are to advertise to baby boomers, use in-feed ads to really get noticed.
- Use video to highlight the features and benefits of your products – Baby boomers love to have all the information about a product before they buy it, so provide key benefits and clear headings to draw them in. Video will work well too, again include the key benefits of your product. If you are using video, always add captions. The majority of video on social media is watched without sound so clear captions will help your marketing.
- Loyalty Schemes work well – Baby boomers are a brand loyal market with the highest rate of disposable income. Even so, why not really secure them as a lifelong customer and offer them to be part of a loyalty scheme?
- Still use traditional marketing tactics – Baby boomers love to talk to others so traditional tactics such as directly calling them still work for this generation. If they are in-store, try upselling.
- Don’t age them – Baby boomers are still active so avoid using terms such as ‘golden years’ and ‘elderly’!
Notable baby boomers:
- Lady Diana Spencer
- David Bowie
- George W. Bush
- Theresa May
- Tim Berners Lee
Often called the forgotten or middle child generation, this generation had the lowest number of births than any other generation before or after it. Gen X makes up only 20% of the population. The difficulty with Gen X is that they are harder to pin down into closer targeted groups. The older part of this generation is akin more to the baby boomers, while its younger counterparts are akin more to millennials. While this generation spans the same amount of time as other generations, there were huge developments in technology which has led to the disparity within the generation. Notable events in this generation include the Vietnam War, Watergate, the AIDs epidemic, and Y2K.
Stats taken from Big Commerce & Sprout Social
Characteristics of Generation X
This generation is tired and very busy! Generation X has managed to achieve highs in their career while raising a family. Gen X are a lot more tech-savvy than their predecessors and in fact, are more likely to be early adopters of new and emerging technologies. Again, very independent and self-reliant, Gen Xers will get the job done, although not without some cynicism and scepticism.
How to market to Generation X
Due to its smaller size, marketers often overlook Gen X, however, it is worth noting that this generation has large spending power, both personally and professionally. They are also another generation that is brand loyal, although they will leave a brand if they feel the brand is not doing enough to keep them.
- Offer loyalty discounts and vouchers – A generation who experienced first-hand the recession; with some losing their jobs and some just beginning their careers. With that in mind, this generation tends to be more financially savvy. By offering discounts and vouchers, this generation feels they are getting a bargain and as a brand, you are retaining their loyalty.
- Use omnichannel marketing – Your gen Xers may look online for something, do some searching around that product and then visit the store to purchase that product. Omnichannel marketing works best with this generation, so you can target (and retarget) them on social media as well as send an email campaign.
- Get on social media – While a large portion of this generation has not bought into the ‘selfie culture’, Gen X are the second most prominent generation on social media, with Sprout Social claiming that they spend almost 2 hours a day online. Take the time to interact with your customers on social media and you will be rewarded greatly by this generation!
- The customer is always right – Gen X care greatly about customer service. Remember when we said that Gen X are the most brand loyal? Well, that all changes if you do not meet their customer expectations. A brand needs to show that customers are at the forefront of its operations, so that means answering any queries either via social media or email promptly. This will build trust with your audience and turn those customers into lifelong active customers.
- Try email marketing – When asked, 80% of Gen Xers said that email was their preferred way of receiving brand promotions and news. To tie in with offering discounts, you can entice Gen X to sign up to your email and offer a 10% discount for example. This also allows you to gather more information about your target market and you can keep in touch with them regularly via email.
Notable Gen X’ers:
- Robert Downey Junior
- JK Rowling
- Tiger Woods
- Emmanuel Macron
- Kim Kardashian
One of the larger generations and most researched, millennials experienced the birth of reality TV, the rise of social media, as well as the devastating 9/11 terror attacks. Growing up during the recession, this generation has experienced a slow jobs market and low wage growth.
Stats taken from Smart Insights & HubSpot
Millennials are the last generation to grow up without technology but are early adopters and tech-savvy now. Millennials are less consumerist than their previous counterparts, they prefer to save their money on things such as travel and hobbies. Millennials tend to be more socially and environmentally conscious and are willing to pay a premium for goods and services that are sustainable. This generation values satisfaction over financial gain, with over 60% saying they would prefer making 50% less, than working at a business that they think is not attractive and does not meet their values. Millennials are also the largest generation of entrepreneurs.
Marketing to millennials
- Step away from traditional marketing tactics – Millennials don’t want to be contacted via telephone. 75% of millennials will not answer the phone as it is too time-consuming, although over 80% said they get anxiety before summoning the courage to answer or make a call.
- Social media marketing is the way to go – Millennials connect with brands on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter (and to some extent TikTok). Millennials want to see you show what social good brands are doing. You should be including plenty of high-quality imagery and video in your marketing.
- Product video and written information help sales – Millennials are more likely to purchase after watching a video of that product. The videos can be both from a brand and other users of the brand. Remember, UGC is often seen as the most authentic and truthful content out there. Millennials also want to consume loads of information. Give them ebooks, and informative blogs about a product/service you offer. Millennials really appreciate these forms of inbound marketing so be prepared to be a source of truthful information.
- Review, review, review – Your millennials often seek out their peers’ opinions of a product or brand so ensure you have plenty of reviews to entice them in. Always ask for a review from a purchaser. You can add a little card to the parcel or include a request in the dispatch email. You can also send them an email in the days following when your product has been received. You can even entice the reviewer further by offering a small tokenistic freebie or discount code off their next purchase.
- Entice millennials to your products – Millennials have a lower brand loyalty than any of their predecessors so you can lure them to your brand using special offers or even by being different. Again, this generation embraces sustainable goods and is willing to pay a premium, so if you can prove your brand is better for the environment or is sustainably sourced, capitalise on it and attract a new audience.
- Cristiano Ronaldo
- Serena Williams
- Lady Gaga
- Prince William
- Lewis Hamilton
The world’s largest generation amassing a third of the population. Tech-savvy, hyper-informed and a generation who has never known life without Google. The first generation of digital natives. This generation has a higher awareness and diagnoses of mental health conditions and is more open to talking about their feelings. During their lifetime, they witnessed the first black president of America as well as the legalisation of gay marriage, as well as BLM protests, all of this leading them to be more culturally diverse and left-leaning.
Stats taken from Thrive My Way & HubSpot
Gen Z characteristics
When you consider the world they grew up in, the world has never felt like a safe place for them. They saw first-hand the effects the recession had on their parent’s lifestyles, so are more financially conscious than their counterparts. This generation is characterised by its love of social media, especially Instagram and TikTok. While some of Gen Z are still in school, many are now entering the latter stages of their education and indeed getting jobs. Gen Z is going to be the most educated demographic with over 50% getting a degree (and at a higher cost than its previous generations).
Marketing to Gen Z
A Gen Z audience is constantly evolving and they are the least brand loyal, but there are a few things that your business can do to attract them to your brand. They want it now so you can appeal to their FOMO and incentivise your offering with words such as “limited edition”, “limited offer”, or “new customer offer”
- Use Brand ambassadors/ Influencer marketing – Gen Z loves influencer marketing. If you are doing collaborations with some influencers, make sure you both understand the audience and the product. You also don’t need big names like the Kardashians or Love Island stars, you can also use nano or micro-influencers. These influencers will have a smaller following but will appeal to a more niche audience.
- Keep it real – While Instagram is still the go-to app of this generation, Gen Z values authenticity over big brand advertising. Show the inside of your office, show staff at work, and have some fun ‘non-salesy’ videos. Let your customers see more than just the products you sell.
- Consider CSR activities – We are looking here at the brand’s products. Similar to millennials, Gen Z wants to see your business being socially and environmentally conscious. They want to know you care for the people in your supply chain and workforce as well as care for the planet. You can also use your voice for positive reasons, supporting LGBTQIA+, raising awareness of mental health etc.
- Get to the point and give them what they want! – Where previous generations appreciated long-form blog posts and videos, Gen Z wants automatic gratification; they want it now. Don’t have long intros on your video or they will switch off. Get straight to the point. Show you can resonate with them, if your audience wants you to use more humour in posts, do it; if they want to see more pictures of the office pooch show them that. Not every piece of content has to be a sales pitch. Constant sales pitches are a huge turn-off to Gen Z, they want to see you are authentic.
- Create interactive content – These days social media have given us plenty of options to make the posts more interactive. You could do a carousel image in feed or get creative with reels by adding polls and asking questions to get feedback (and get to know your audience more).
Notable Gen Z’ers:
- Greta Thunberg
- Malala Yousafzai
- Jadon Sancho
- Jake Paul
- Simone Biles
Since the oldest members of this age group are only 11, there are not many famous people from this era. Those that are, tend to be famous because of who their parents are (such as Princes George and Louis and their sister Princess Charlotte).
This generation influences parental spending by asking for goods advertised on both TV and online (such as YouTube ads), as well as spending on gaming such as v-bucks, Robux and so forth.
Stats taken from Smart Insights & HubSpot
Now you know how to market to all generations, it’s time to put everything into action. We are digital marketing specialists so if you need any help with any aspect of your digital marketing, contact us today. You can also sign up for our newsletter to get monthly updates, insights and tips to progress your marketing.