Understanding Generational Marketing

Once upon a time, in a world where the internet was non-existent, there were but two generations – young and old. But since technology weaved its way into our cultural fabric, society has been split into generational cohorts based on the period of years during which we were born, i.e. baby boomers, Generation X, millennials and Generation Z.

As a marketer, it’s crucial to be aware of your target demographic and which generation they hail from. That way, you can tailor your strategies towards their tastes, interests, knowledge and background. Generational marketing is the term used for segmenting and targeting your market by specifically according to age rather than gender, location and other such variables.

But just how well do you know each generation? What age group responds best to email marketing? Who has the highest spending power? Being in a position to answer these questions brings you a richer understanding of who exactly you’re catering to, and how best to do it.

Here is a breakdown of the four generational cohorts and their key characteristics for marketers to keep in mind.

Baby boomers (born mid-1940s to early 1950s)

Baby boomers, a moniker which pays homage to the spike in post-war birth rates at that time, grew up without the internet and didn’t rely much on technology in their everyday lives. That being said, it hasn’t taken them long to catch on, and today many boomers are just as tech savvy as their younger relatives. According to a study by DMN3, 96% of baby boomers use search engines, 95% use email and 92% shop for products and services online rather than in person. When it comes to social media, Manifest says as many as 86% log on daily with Facebook being their preferred platform.

Baby boomers have the biggest spending power of all the generations. Since most of them are empty nesters, they need not worry about too many typical family expenses such as tuition fees and mortgages. They are more likely to spend their money on hobbies, holidays and other luxury items. But as they enter retirement and rely on their pensions, boomers tend to be concerned with value for money. They also tend to exhibit strong customer loyalty, remaining faithful to their favourite brands.

How to target them

  • Baby boomers value quality. If you can prove that your product is the bee’s knees, this will help you win their trust.
  • Cash-back programs. Baby boomers tend to buy into loyalty schemes, and this is a great way to build customer lifetime value.
  • Focus on traditional marketing. This generation generally use social media to connect with family and friends so they will likely ignore your ads.
  • Focus on short-form blog post. Baby boomers report that they typically don’t read articles with more than 300 words.

Generation X (born mid-1950s to early 1980s)

The bridge between baby boomers and millennials, Generation X experienced a relatively technology-free childhood, without the luxury of computers, mobile phones and internet. Unlike their parents, many Gen Xers lived through a period of economic recession where there was a collective emphasis on saving money. Today, this cohort has their hands full, juggling careers, homeownership and raising kids.

Generation X is making up for lost time when it comes to technology usage, having become very digitally curious in their later years. Nearly 9 out of 10 Gen X social users are on Facebook, with just under half on Instagram while Twitter and Snapchat remain the least popular with Xers. Though they grew up engaging in traditional, in-person shopping, this cohort tends to embrace online commerce. In general, they are skeptical of marketing material and can be impervious to overly salesy jargon.

How to target them

  • Coupons via email marketing. Gen Xers deal with lots of daily expenses, and coupons are a great way to save some coin. Since they are usually always plugged into their Outlook and Gmail accounts, email is an ideal delivery method.
  • Emphasise corporate social responsibility. This age group tends to be concerned with how products and services can benefit the society and the environment.
  • Send them ads about lifestyle programs. Take advantage of Facebook’s targeting options and send your Gen X audience timely and appropriate ads like nurture programs – month to month updates for pregnant moms, anniversary and birthday deals etc.
  • Try direct mail. According to a study, 86% of Gen Xers still collect their post every day and 68% have enjoy the coupons they receive.

Millennials (born mid-1980s to mid-1990s)

Millennials grew up in the thick of technological transformation. The internet is their world they don’t tend to go very far without their smartphone firmly in their grasp. Millennials are the poster children for pop culture and tend to dominate social media. But it’s not all so shallow - they are also the largest generation of entrepreneurs. Naturally, they are slowly outnumbering the baby boomers in the workforce. Known to prioritise social issues over economics, millennials are soft-hearted and would rather take a less-paying job that they love than a boring, big shot job. This also means they value life satisfaction more than financial security.

Despite this mindset, Millennials have big spending power which makes them a lucrative segment. When they shop, they have the propensity to overindulge. They adore the ease and convenience of e-commerce and can rack up huge orders at a time. Millennials look up to and prefer brands with values and ideals relatable to them. Traditional marketing material won’t work on this cohort. Their buying behaviours are heavily influenced by what they see on social media, especially on Instagram, so leverage these channels at all costs.

How to target them

  • Bring in the new trends. Millennials are a tuned in bunch, always looking for the next big thing.
  • Use reviews. They rely on friends and family recommendations and tend not to make decisions without prior discussion with people they trust. Make sure to cast a spotlight on shining reviews and testimonials to win them over.
  • Add incentives to your social media marketing strategy. According to Yahoo, 63% of millennials are likely to ‘check-in’ to your business if they are about to receive a discount.
  • Utilise loyalty or rewards programs. 77% of millennials are willing to participate in rewards and loyalty programs – think coffee shop punch cards.
  • Incorporate podcasting. Many millennials favour listening rather than reading. See if there is scope to start a company podcast.

Generation Z (born mid-1990s to early 2000s)

The post-millennial generation, Generation Z makes up almost 30% of the world’s population. This cohort is arguably the most heavily influenced by technology and the internet. Unlike other generations, Z is likely to have been exposed to tablets and smartphones since infancy. They spend an average 4 hours and 15 minutes per day on mobile with 95% of them owning a smartphone. Although they are generally social-media-addicted, Gen Z appears to be more independent and self-confident, not relying too much on their parents even for money. They have managed to extract skills and competences from technology from a young age.

Of course, with so much screen time comes repercussions. There is concern that Gen Z’s attention span is dwindling. Incessant scrolling and instant gratification means this group has trouble focusing on things like study and reading. Their exposure to content means one has to work hard to grab and maintain their attention. Gen Zers have a staggering spending power of over $140 billion, so it’s worth the exertion.

How to target them

  • Optimise your pages and site for mobile. Cater to the crowds and make sure your site and online marketing material is fully responsive across devices.
  • Leverage the power of personalised experiences. This generation is already bombarded with ads they can’t relate to, so try to stand out with tailor-made emails and advertisements just for them. Track their online journey and use remarketing.
  • Offer quality service and products. Not everyone in the Gen Z group has stable finances or a full-time job yet so their purchases tend to be limited. Make sure they get bang for their buck.
  • Create valuable, consistent and authentic content. Gen Zers crave authenticity. Avoid shallow narratives and content form; cultivate genuine and authentic content that tells a story.

Final thoughts

Every generation grew up in a different world, which means they all have different perspectives. There are so many factors to consider when it comes to speaking their marketing language. Evaluate who you are selling to, and which cohort they belong to. Put your finger on their pulse. Take advantage of the rich insights we can gather about their feelings and behaviour, and use them to build a fully targeted strategy that will send your sales into the stratosphere.


Need help building a killer online presence? At Elephant in the Boardroom, we know how to get you noticed. Whatever your target audience, we have the skills and expertise to reach them digitally. For a free consultation, check us out at www.elephantintheboardroom.com.au.

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