Generational marketing can help focus your online efforts on channels where your audience spends time and is most likely to buy.

generational marketing

As any marketer knows, growing your business means competing against other brands for the attention of new and existing audiences. There’s a constant need to find new ways to reach potential customers with your marketing campaigns.

One targeting approach is generational marketing. We are aware that different generations have different habits and behaviours. What if we take a closer look at how these groups respond to different marketing approaches and make buying decisions?

Your budget may not be generous enough to cover multiple marketing tactics, such as social media, PPC, print media, digital audio and email. You may not have to if you use generational marketing strategically.

Understanding who the members of your target audience are and where they already spending time online can help you create impactful advertising campaigns.

What is generational marketing?

Generational marketing is customizing campaigns to best align with the values and preferences of different generations.

A generation is defined as a group of people born in the same time period. While the individual members are unique, they tend to go through life stages together. Their similar experiences affect their values and preferences. These similarities can help you identify each generation as a target audience and adjust your messaging, so they are more likely to respond.

Generational marketing can be a starting point for connecting with specific audiences and influencing their decisions.

What are the five generations you should know for marketing?

While sources don’t always agree on exactly where the divisions should occur when grouping generations, Pew Research defines them as follows:

  • Traditionalists, or the silent generation (born 1928 – 1945)
  • Baby boomers (born 1946 – 1964)
  • Generation X (born 1965 – 1980)
  • Millennials, or generation Y (born 1981 – 1996)
  • Generation Z, or the centennials (born after 1996)

Why is generational marketing important

Members of a generation often behave similarly when it comes to how they embrace or use technology, make their buying decisions and respond to different kinds of marketing.

You’re more likely to be successful if you create campaigns that take these generational habits and characteristics into account.

You will also gain a deep understanding of where your target audience spends time online. With this knowledge, you can create impactful marketing campaigns that directly target your ideal customers on the platforms where they spend their time.

How do you market to different generations?

You can find plenty of data on how different generations use technology and social media platforms, how they shop, and what experiences might inform their buying decisions. You can also gather other information about their interests, values and preferences.

Most importantly, you can access data that tells you where they show buying behaviour. For example, some people may have embraced Facebook but will only visit your website via a pay-per-click (PPC) Google ad. Perhaps they spend time on Instagram but have never purchased anything through social channels.

From here, you can build effective marketing campaigns for the platforms most likely to influence each group. Then, explore all the features and shopping possibilities of each place your target audience hangs out so you can optimize your campaign for the best results.

Here are some key tips for marketing to each generation.

Marketing to traditionalists

  • Be trustworthy and keep your word.
  • High-pressure sales techniques are a turnoff.
  • Don’t stereotype them as elderly or helpless.
  • Use authority figures to bolster your marketing messages.
  • Keep online content easy to access and read by using accessible font sizes and design choices.

Tip: Try direct mail, radio, television or face-to-face interactions.

Marketing to baby boomers

  • Keep your messaging clear and avoid slang.
  • Offer useful or valuable information.
  • Watch out for age stereotyping but be mindful of accessibility.
  • They shop online, but you should test your mobile checkout process for ease of use.
  • They like transparency and being able to contact you with questions or concerns.

Tip: Try Facebook ad campaigns and video ads, and keep your website updated with valuable information.

Marketing to Generation X

  • Ensure your website is up to date with information to review before purchase.
  • This group is responsive to coupons, promotions and preferred customer discounts.
  • Gen X is mobile-friendly and active on social media.
  • They dislike more intrusive marketing tactics, such as text campaigns or retargeting.
  • Reviews and word-of-mouth recommendations can influence this group.

Tip: Try social media campaigns and PPC ads. Offer coupons and promotions to followers, and be proactive in building positive online reviews.

Marketing to millennials

  • This generation is tech friendly.
  • Millennials use social media as a customer service channel and expect timely responses.
  • They appreciate humour and memes in advertising.
  • This group likes reviews and recommendations.
  • Loyalty programs can work well.
  • They buy experiences and outcomes, not products.

Tip: Consider social campaigns and set up social commerce, invest in community management to uphold customer service, and explore loyalty programs and influencer campaigns.

Marketing to Generation Z

  • Tech is an integral part of their lives.
  • Video is popular, especially if it shows experience and life post-purchase.
  • This group likes brands to demonstrate company values, such as diversity and social responsibility.
  • Be transparent and accountable for missteps.
  • Show personality in advertising and engage with them personally.
  • Don’t underestimate their spending power, as they influence their parents as well.

Tip: Communicate your company values, advertise on social with social commerce features set up, and incorporate video into your advertising campaigns to show this audience the experience of owning and enjoying your products.

Which generation is of most interest to marketers?

The generation you target depends on what you sell, who your ideal customer is and where the most opportunity lies for you to grow your brand. Identify the generation which is the best fit for your company today and align your marketing approach to what you know about them.

You may find there are other generational groups interested in what you are selling. You can customize your messaging to target them, too. For example, some product lines are well suited to be offered to a secondary audience.

How can I apply generational marketing in my business?

When you can target audiences based on generational differences, you have a much higher chance of creating successful advertising campaigns. You’ll be offering memorable brand interactions using the channels your audience responds to most warmly, building connection and trust along the way.

Another opportunity for marketers lies in watching the generational groups that will next age into your products. For example, while millennials may not have been buying houses 15 years ago, they certainly are today. Likewise, baby boomers used to be the target audience for retirement advertising, but generation Xers are now 41 to 56 years old and saving for their retirement.

You can be prepared for these changes and offer your products and services in ways that appeal to these new groups of potential customers.

Segmenting your marketing campaigns based on generational marketing isn’t the only strategy you should be using. Ideally, all of your marketing is well-positioned to meet your audiences where they spend time online.

Not sure if you’re mastering this area of your marketing? Work with a trusted agency to make sure your marketing investment is being spent wisely.