There is no one marketing strategy that works for all consumers. Segmentation helps marketers identify a target audience and plan a campaign based on their preferences and buying behavior. Generational marketing is a technique that uses segmentation by separating audiences based on their generation. These groups often share certain preferences as they have been shaped by similar life experiences.
With the rise of social media, each generation grew up differently, becoming accustomed to different ways of communication. Because of this, the differences in how people make consumer decisions are more prominent today than ever before. Addressing them allows marketers to understand the best ways to reach each age group, better target their demographics, and plan a stronger campaign.
Baby Boomers refers to those born between 1946 and 1964. As a generation that did not grow up with much of the consumer technology used today, they tend to embrace new platforms slower than those who have grown up with it. Despite overall lower mobile phone usage, Baby Boomers still spend a significant amount of time on the internet via desktop computers or laptops. With 85% regularly browsing and shopping on their computers, this generation makes up half of all retail sales, purchasing for themselves as well as for family.
How should marketers target the Baby Boomer generation?
- Facebook: 70% of Baby Boomers have an account
- Commercials: this generation watches the most cable TV, so traditional commercials can be an effective way to reach this audience
- Blogging: Boomers tend to spend time on desktops for internet browsing rather than mobile phones, so longer form content is on the table
- Direct mail coupons or magazines still drive purchasing decisions, as this generation still appreciates traditional forms of communication
With Gen X being the smallest generation, including those between born 1965 and 1980, they are sometimes overlooked or grouped in with another demographic by marketers. Gen Xers grew up with more technology to adapt to than Baby Boomers. Similar to Baby Boomers, they have a high spending power. In fact, they earn more money than any other generation. According to the US Department of Labor, they surpass all other generations when it comes to spending on eating out, entertainment, clothing, and housing.
How should marketers target the Gen X generation?
- Commercials: 85% watch traditional television
- Facebook and Twitter: 8.5 million use Twitter regularly and the majority are on Facebook, making both of these platforms top choices for digital ads
- Email: mobile and desktop email are both widely used as their top preference for messaging
- Blogging and company websites: working with these trusted sources of information is a great strategy to reach Gen X, as researching businesses online is popular
Born between 1981 and 1996, millennials stand out from the older generations because they grew up with rapid technological advances and are especially eager to stay on top of new technology. For millennials, smartphones are more than just a way to communicate, but serve as the primary source of information. “Look it up in the dictionary” turned into “Google it,” and millennials had a first-hand look at how technology has transformed day to day lives.
How marketers should target the Millennials:
- Mobile marketing: phones are their basic source of information — allowing them to follow internet culture and humor, read news online, and follow politics online. Content, websites, and ads should be mobile friendly to reach this audience.
- User generated content: with a stronger online presence, they are the most influenced by their peers, seeking out others’ opinions, reviews, and ratings online
- Influencers have become a main source of information and new products that younger generations look to for advice and recommendations
- Videos: growing up in an age where any information was readily available, Millennials mark the shift towards a shorter attention span and appreciate content that is to the point with plenty of visuals
Although Gen Z is the youngest generation, spanning 1997-2020, some of them are soon to be graduating college and getting full time jobs. Therefore, they will have a new increase in spending power, which could be a good opportunity for marketers. They also have the most power to influence their parents’ purchases. There are many digital routes in which Gen Z can be targeted, as this generation uses their mobile phones the most.
How can marketers best reach Gen Z:
- Visuals and video content: like Millennials, they also have grown up to have shorter attention spans and are attracted to visuals
- Newer social media platforms (especially TikTok and Snapchat): Gen Z is driving the adoption of these new platforms, and marketers who can quickly adapt will see success, particularly if they can master multiple digital platforms simultaneously
- Influencers: many spend hours a day browsing social media platforms and being exposed to influencer posts. While this generation is more skeptical of endorsed posts, authentic influencer content can be incredibly impactful.
- Sustainability: 76% of Gen Z is concerned about a company’s impact on the planet when deciding to purchase, making sustainability an important factor when choosing brands
How can this understanding improve a company’s marketing?
Looking at the data, it is clear that generational preferences in technology and media impact the marketing channels specific audiences are the most exposed to. If marketing to just one generation, revolve your marketing around what will best reach that crowd. For example, younger people react more to videos and brief online content. If you are marketing to all generations, use tailored techniques that appeal to each individual generation or use content that all age groups access (Facebook, Twitter, blogs).
Although each generation shares similarities, it is important to note that also not every member of one generation acts the same and assumptions cannot be made for each individual. However, there are enough differences that marketing to a specific generation of consumers should be tailored in order to reach target audiences efficiently and build stronger relationships with consumers.