The Ultimate Guide to Generational Marketing…
What is it?
How do I implement it?
What are some tips?
Here’s the how, what, why, and when of Generational Marketing.
Eight years before the birth of Google in 1998, digital marketing began its humble beginnings by creating the Web 1.0 platform. Our world quickly adapted to the internet from the boom of computers in the 1980s, but with those adaptations came preference.
Older generations are still accustomed to traditional marketing strategies, while younger generations grew up with digital marketing. Tailoring your marketing strategy to your audience is an essential way to ensure you’re reaching the ideal customer.
Whether it’s the Silent Generation, Baby Boomers, Gen X, Millennials, or Gen Z- it’s pertinent to know your audience. Craft the ideal digital marketing strategy by honing in on generational marketing. Learn how with RiZen Metric’s ultimate guide to generational marketing- from learning about what generations are to tips on incorporating it into your marketing plan.
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Table of Contents
- What even is a generation, anyway?
- What makes generations different?
- The Generational Breakdown
- Generations and the Internet
- What is Generational Marketing?
- Things to Avoid When Using Generational Marketing
- Marketing to Baby Boomers
- Marketing to Generation X
- Marketing to Millennials/Generation Y
- Marketing to Generation Z
- How to Implement Generational Marketing into Your Strategy
What even is a generation, anyway?
A generation can quickly be defined as a cohort of people with a common age group, usually spanning 15-20 years. Generational analysis dives deeper into this categorization by looking at demographics and historical events, cultural influences, attitudes, and general consensuses by a group of people.
The process of setting bounds for a generation is carefully determined by a wide range of issues, behaviors, and characteristics. People within a generation tend to share similar views and experiences of events such as war, political shifts, and popular culture (such as music, television, and social media).
What makes generations different?
Generations, which are defined by birth year and not age, mark differences in cohorts that can be cultural and behavioral, changing over time. For example, someone who was born in 1990 would be considered a Millennial but likely had different priorities and preferences in 2010 as a 20-year-old than they do now in 2022 as a 32-year-old. Likewise, a Baby Boomer’s characteristics would be different now as they are older than they would have been in the 1970s.
The Generational Breakdown
- The Silent Generation: 1928-1945
- Baby Boomers: 1946-1964
- Generation X: 1965-1980
- Millennials/Generation Y: 1981-1996
- Generation Z: 1997-2011
- Generation A: 2012-current
It’s important to remember that the generational breakdown differs slightly from resource to resource. Additionally, the size of the generations is related to the U.S. Census population in 2021 and changes from year to year.
The years which delineate generations do not have a specific deciding factor. For Baby Boomers, the generation was defined by the spike in births following the end of World War II and ended shortly before the invention of the birth control pill, which caused births to decline. Generations typically range from 15-20 years.
The start and end dates of both Millennials and Generation Z are still widely different across platforms. For example, some sources say that Generation Z began in 1996, 1997, and even 2000, 2001, or 2004. For clarity, this article will use the most widely agreed upon years for generations (i.e., Generation Z starts in 1997).
The Silent Generation
Years: 1928 to 1945
- Age range: 78-93
- Size: 21.7 million
The Silent Generation, marked by World War II and the Great Depression, are the parents of Generation X and the grandparents of Millennials, and some of Generation Z. The Silent Generation makes up for the majority of the “senior generation” in the US today, but will soon be passed out by Baby Boomers.
Years: 1946 to 1964
- Age range: 58-76
- Size: 69.6 million
Formerly the Largest Generation in the US
In 1999, Baby Boomers made up the largest percentage of people in the US at 78.8 million. By the mid-20th century, Baby Boomers are estimated to only account for around 16.2 million. As of the 2020 census, they accounted for 69.6 million.
Events that Shaped Them
With the rise in population size, Americans were forced to discover new ways to meet supply and demand. This introduced the birth of mass manufacturing, which began in the early 1900s, but boomed in the ’50s-’70s with plastic products– a cheaper alternative to meet demands. Civil rights activism (1954-1968), the Space Race (1957 – 1975), Woodstock, the Cold War, the Cuban Missile Crisis, and Beatlemania (the rise of rock music) are just some of the events that shaped this generation.
Upcoming Senior Generation
Baby Boomers will all be over the age of 65 by 2030, making them the upcoming largest generation of seniors the US has ever seen. This shift in the increasing senior population increases the need for geriatric care and is changing the healthcare system.
As many people in this generation are retiring, a large majority are still working and continue to work. In fact, most of the younger Baby Boomers are still employed, and around 29% are actively still seeking employment. However, the COVID-19 pandemic did cause a sharp increase in retirement.
Years: 1965 to 1979/80
- Age range: 42-57
- Size: 65.2 million
Events that Shaped Them
Defined as the “Baby Bust,” Generation X followed baby boomers by a drastic decline in births during these years due to the creation of the birth control pill. Many were shaped in adolescence by the Vietnam War, women’s rights movements, the AIDS epidemic, and the Divorce Reform Act in 1969. With more single parents and women in the workforce, Generation X grew up more independently and skeptical in adolescence than their former generations, making for a generation exposed to more media.
Generation X was at the forefront of the beginning of the digital revolution that began in the US in the 80s. Unlike Millennials and Generation Z that grew up with technology, Generation X grew up without computers. When the rise of computer technology became more popularized in the 1980s, Gen X grew to adapt.
Also known as the “MTV” generation, Gen X’ers who were young adults and adolescents during the ’80s and ’90s were greatly influenced by television. Oftentimes, this phrase is used to describe the younger half of the generation.
Millennials (Generation Y)
Years: 1981 to 1996
- Age range: 26-41
- Size: 73.2
Generation Y.1 and Y.2
Occasionally split into two separate groups, Millennials can be defined as both Generation Y.1 (26-30) and Generation Y.2 (31-41). This was coined by Javelin Research, who determined that Millennials are in drastically different stages of life depending on their age. The latter years have established families, while the younger years may still even live at home. Changes in the economy greatly impacted this generation and internal differences.
The Largest Generation Yet
To this date, Millennials have outnumbered Baby Boomers in population size at around 73.2 million Americans compared to the current size of the Baby Boomer generation at around 69.6 million.
Younger Millennials Living With Parents
Millennials and Generation Z were especially impacted by the pandemic, leading to an increase from 48% to 52% of young adults (aged 18-29) living with their parents in 2020. A newer study by Pew Research conducted in March of 2022 found that nearly 40% of men aged 25-29 still live with their parents, further dividing the differences within the Millennial generation.
Millennials are known as the tech-savvy generation, growing up with the humble beginnings of mobile phones and social media. They heavily utilize social media and are very interested in tech.
- Age range: 10-25
- Size: 67.8 million
Events that Shaped Them
Dealing with the aftermath of 9/11 in 2001, the majority of Generation Z was either too young to remember or not born when the tragedy occurred. Growing up in adolescence and early adulthood through the 2008 recession, the boom of technology, political discourse, and the pandemic among other factors has greatly shaped this generation.
The Smartphone Divide
Generation Z is of course divided as well, with the latter years identifying more with the younger Millennials than the younger Generation Z in many ways. With the boom of smartphones in the mid to late 2000s, older Gen Z’s did not get their smartphones until they were a teenager, which is drastically different from a study done in 2021, which found that the new average age a child receives a smartphone is aged 6. Nonetheless, Generation Z is still the most technically native generation, growing up during the creation of much of our modern technology like iPhones and artificial intelligence (AI).
Most Educated Generation
Generation Z is also on track to being the most educated generation, with over half of college-aged adults (18-21) enrolled in higher education. They also outpass all other generations with the highest likelihood of receiving a college degree with a parent who also has a degree (Generation X).
Most Ethnically Diverse Generation
In 2018, a study conducted confirmed that Generation Z was the most ethnically diverse generation in the US, with 52% non-Hispanic white, compared to 62% of millennials (2002), 70% of Generation X (1986), and 85% of Baby Boomers (1968).
Generations and the Internet
Percentage of Generations that Use the Internet in the US
- Baby Boomers: 75-85%
- Generation X: 96%
- Millennials: 98%
- Generation Z: 99%
While all the generations are using the internet, there are generational differences in the consistency of use. A study conducted by Pew Research in January 2021 discovered that nearly half of young adults 18-29 (Gen Z and Millennials) consider themselves to use the internet constantly, with the older Millennials and younger Gen X (30-49) trailing at 42%. This is followed by people aged 50-64 (Older Gen X and younger Baby Boomers) at 22%, and those 65+ (Baby Boomers and the Silent Generation) at only 8%.
What is Generational Marketing?
Generational marketing can be defined as marketing strategies that tailor to individual generations and their specific attitudes, values, needs, and behaviors. These generational differences allow for a more customized approach to marketing, such as platform (i.e., Google vs. Facebook), a form of media (i.e., blog vs. video), length of content, tone & voice, purpose, brand, and the call to action.
In this way, generational marketing allows digital marketers to create a strategized framework that takes into account target audiences. However, this is not a holistic approach to creating a targeted marketing campaign, and other factors such as demographics, income, and location also have to be considered. Generational marketing serves as a solid foundation.
Things to Avoid When Using Generational Marketing
1. Broad generalizations about age
Your target audience for your service or product is likely more specific than just a birth year range, so too broad of generalizations about generational differences should be avoided. For example, if your target market was 18-24-year-olds 10 years ago, that audience (Millennials) would now be in their late 20’s and mid 30’s. Your new target generation for 18-24-year-olds would be Generation Z. This leads to differences in preference, delivery, and even demographics.
Stereotyping a generation involves oversimplifying their identities, values, and preferences. Ultimately, each individual is unique, and while there may be similarities across a generation, there are also still differences. There is no “one-size-fits-all” solution, so while understanding a generation can be a helpful starting point, it’s not the end-all-be-all of strategies.
In Chimamanda Adichie’s TEDx talk, “The Danger of a Single Story,” she discusses how stereotypes are not always incorrect, but they are incomplete. If we continue to only listen to one story about a culture or group of people, then we are missing out on critical opportunities for understanding. No one person will ever fit in a neat box.
Marketing to Baby Boomers
At around 69.6 million people, Baby Boomers aged 58-76 are still winning the lead for the biggest spenders compared to other generations. With this generation working longer and retiring later, they hold the largest share of wealth in the United States, with around $54.9 trillion (2019). Compared to Generation X ($28.6 trillion)and Millennials ($5 trillion), Baby Boomers have more spending power with increased disposable income.
With their growing tech-savviness and increased use of search engines and the internet, marketing to Baby Boomers is critical. 96% of this generation that uses the internet use search engines, 95% use email, and 92% shop online.
5 tips for marketing to Baby Boomers
1. Search Engines (such as Google & Bing) are the most effective digital marketing channel
In a case study done by DMN3, research shows that search engine marketing such as Google Ads had the most conversions compared to other digital marketing techniques such as social media advertising.
2. If you’re going to use social media, use Facebook
When targeting Baby Boomers for your advertising on social media, Facebook is the most popular platform. 78% of those aged 56+ use Facebook, according to one study done by Statistica in 2020.
3. Content Marketing: Baby Boomers enjoy reading
This generation is more likely to prefer long-form content over short blog posts. So when using email marketing or blog writing as content marketing for Baby Boomers, it’s important to focus on being thorough and informative. This also makes them more inclined to read an eBook or watch an informational YouTube video. This generation loves to read- so content marketing is an excellent marketing strategy.
4. Baby Boomers actively use YouTube
This generation loves to learn new skills and educate themselves. Studies show that they are the fastest-growing generation using YouTube, which makes them a more effective audience for video marketing. They are focused on how the product or service will be of value to them and care greatly about the benefits and features of a product. Scripts should not be condescending, and they want quick, direct, and authentic content.
5. Economical & Relevant Headlines over Clickbait
This generation is searching for information, ways to improve their quality of life, new hobbies, education, and solutions to their problems. They’re more straightforward and less susceptible to “clickbait” or “flashy” headlines compared to other generations. Make sure the content and headlines are relevant and to the point. Avoid slang and “trendy” words.
Marketing to Generation X
This independent generation is interested in how to do things themselves, such as DIY projects or products that can help them solve a problem they may have. At 42-57 years old, Generation X is in their family years, with children ranging in age from elementary school years to young adults. This mid-life age group was hit hard by the 2008 recession and statistically holds more debt compared to any other generation.
Occasionally referred to as the “forgotten generation,” with most of the spotlight on Baby Boomers and Millennials, this small generation holds a lot of power and does not want to be forgotten about. They have money, resources, and influence- and marketers should not overlook this. They were hit hard by many economic downturns but also recovered.
This generation can be more skeptical and stressed, especially since they are in their prime working years while also caring for their families. Overall? They want stability as they begin to save for retirement and raise their children.
Marketers should remember the independency and entrepreneurial aspects of Generation X. They are interested in finances, saving, transparency, and ways to make their busy lives easier.
5 tips for marketing to Gen X
1. Generation X Researches Brands
Generation X is likely to research brands on search engines, Facebook, and YouTube prior to purchasing. They want to make sure that the brand in question will solve their problems, isn’t a scam, and is the most cost-effective solution. Tailor aspects of your marketing strategy to informative content that answers questions. Reply to reviews (both good and bad) and make sure descriptions and photos are present. Ensure that your business information is correct across platforms.
2. They Want Security- Loyalty Programs, Discounts, Transparent Return Policies, Good Customer Service
When searching for the best brand and doing their research, Generation X is searching for security. This means that loyalty programs, upfront policies on returns, shipping, fees, terms, and quality customer service (especially over the phone) are important. They enjoy discounts and sales.
3. Facebook, Google, Bing, & Youtube, Directories are major Platforms
Generation X is a big fan of Facebook compared to any other platform and spends time interacting with friends, family, and brands. After Facebook, they enjoy spending time on YouTube searching for informational videos and DIYs. Search engine advertisements on Google and Bing are also effective. They look into directories like Yelp and TripAdvisor, so these should all be up-to-date and straightforward.
4. Sales Tactics are a No– Keep it Personal
Generation X does not want to be ignored. Make sure that your responses are quick, informative, and to the point. They want answers to their questions and do not want to deal with sales tactics. They like interacting with real people over chatbots and want to feel like they can get to know the brand they’re looking into.
5. Create a Robust Website that’s Easy to Navigate
This generation wants a complete and easy-to-navigate experience when dealing with brands. Since most advertisements lead back to websites, copywriting should be clear and pages should have contact information, forms, and CTA’s that are concise and consistent. Built for UX.
Marketing to Millennials/Generation Y
As the largest generation currently in the US, Millennials may have not matched the spending power of Generation X and Baby Boomers, but they are in their most lucrative years. Aged 26-41, Millennials/Gen Y is a very talked-about generation, putting much of the marketing spotlight on targeting this age range. But how do you do it? Let’s learn more.
As Millennials are starting and growing their families, making big purchases such as first-time homebuyers. This generation makes up around ¼ of the US population, meaning as they grow in wealth, the generation will begin to take over a large portion of the US spending power.
Growing up with the internet, but not as native as Generation Z, Millennials are extremely tech-savvy. On average they are living at home with their parents longer and prefer leasing/renting to ownership, leading to a shared economy. They are holding off on getting married until their 30s and are putting off major purchases compared to older generations.
They care about technology development, globalization, and economic change, and their lifestyle is influenced by things like personal wellness/health and fashion.
5 tips for marketing to Millennials
1. Appealing to Instant Gratification
Growing up with the internet, both Millennials and Generation Z are used to getting information instantly at the click of a button. Millennials do not want to wait and are more likely to click on a click-bait headline than other generations. They want accurate information and fast. Appeal to this with your marketing strategies through headlines and CTA’s.
After all, instant gratification means instant feedback, which is an excellent way to get reviews and gather information about what’s working and what’s not and get an idea of your target audience.
Note: “Clickbait” does not mean “fake news,” although the two are often spoken about in tandem. By clickbait, we are referring to catchy headlines that grab the attention of the reader and are still relevant and accurate to the topic.
2. They Appreciate & Follow Influencers
Millennials would much rather get a recommendation from someone they “know” or a friend/family member than listen to the brand itself. Since their brand loyalty is lower than other generations, but they follow influencers on social media, using influencers to help market your product can be a good way to speak to the Millennial generation.
They may not be loyal to your brand, but they’d be more likely to if an influencer that they follow and trust recommends it. Working alongside influencers on social media (i.e., Instagram, YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn) is a good way to market to this generation.
3. Make Your Product or Service Something Share-Worthy
In the age of social media, Millennials are turning to platforms like Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook to share brands. If this generation sees an opportunity to share a photo of a good meal, trendy spot, or good service, they likely will. This is an excellent opportunity for brands to focus on the aesthetic and physical aspects of their products and branding.
4. They Care About Your Brand’s Purpose & Mission
This generation cares about purpose. They want to know the company’s mission, where they came from, who they are, and if they support a cause. Millennials are more likely to purchase from brands that support a cause such as climate change and are passionate about “getting to know” the brand.
5. Social Media Brand Engagement is a Must
Millennials are more likely to directly engage with brands on social media. This means that good customer service on platforms like Instagram and Facebook is necessary, but they don’t want to feel like they’re being marketed. They want authenticity.
Marketing to Generation Z
Growing up with technology, Generation Z is the most technologically native and savvy generation. Nearly 100% of this generation uses the internet. Teens and young adults are mainly on social media platforms like Snapchat, Instagram, and TikTok.
Living in a time that’s focused on climate and social change, they’re focused on purchasing from brands for a cause, similar to Millennials. Generation Z is aged 10-25, meaning that most of the generation is in their teenage and college years. The majority still live with their parents, but many of them are entering the workforce in search of stability and independence.
Their trust in larger companies and organizations is declining, and they’re more interested in supporting small businesses. They get the majority of their news from social media platforms and stay up to date on news and societal issues. They respect brands who take a stance on issues more than brands who stay neutral.
5 tips for marketing to Gen Z
1. Short-form content is key
This generation is highly interested in short-form content, such as TikTok videos and Instagram reels and stories. When doing blog posts, keeping them short and to the point is important- they’re less likely than other generations to read long-form content or watch long videos. When tailoring content to Generation Z, make sure it’s short (i.e., 15 seconds), yet personable and includes the necessary information. They consume more video content than blog-style content, so videos are key.
2. They appreciate a sense of humor
Generation Z loves a good meme. Using memes, images, videos, or pieces of text that are funny, messages are spread quickly on the internet. With millions of shares on social media and this generation sending memes to their friends and family via texting and other messaging apps, appealing to Gen Z’s sense of humor is an excellent way to market a brand.
If your target audience is Generation Z, sharing relevant memes and other content on your social media can make for a sharable wildfire- increasing visibility and brand awareness fast.
Gen Z is not fond of racist, sexist, or homophobic jokes, and finds humor in dark or even “random” topics that may allow for a sense of escapism and coping with their current stressors. To learn more about Generation Z’s sense of humor, check out this article by StudyBreaks.
3. They enjoy interactive content
This generation enjoys interactive content in the form of social media posts, polls, blog posts, videos, and live streams. They want to be able to share their opinions and thoughts and interact with others online. Tailor your marketing strategy to be open-ended, allowing for interactions and conversations among this generation. They want to follow trends, and they also want to feel a part of them.
4. Generation Z wants to be heard
Gen Z wants to be heard and wants to know that the brands they care about are listening. Marketing techniques involving excellent (and quick) customer service and sharing content from customers are important to them. They want to hear the real voices of companies and the people that buy their products or services. They expect brands to respond to inquiries fast and lose interest if these responses take too long. This aspect of social sharing is a large trust factor for this generation.
5. Transparency is a Must
Since they are tech-savvy, they are experts at finding the information they need fast. Generation Z is also known as the “True Gen,” because of their fact-finding capabilities online. It’s important for your marketing strategy and brand to be as upfront and transparent as possible.
How to Implement Generational Marketing into Your Strategy
Now that you’ve read all of this information on marketing to the different generations, you’re probably wondering… how? Well, in short, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to generational marketing. It is majorly tied to your specific brand’s target audience, target personas, and how this changes over time. In fact, you may even target multiple or all of the generations (multi-generational marketing), in which case taking aspects from each generation’s preferences is necessary.
Generational marketing is just one aspect of a digital marketing strategy and must be interconnected with other forms of marketing to create a holistic approach. It may take trial and error- to see what works and what doesn’t with your specific audience.
Overall, generational marketing is a great starting point to understanding and tailoring your marketing efforts to your ideal customer. Interested in trying it out? Let us know how this guide helped you in the comments below!
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