“OK, Boomer!”: a term that’s making the rounds as Millennials take to social media to voice their generational displeasure against Baby Boomers. Millennials, Baby Boomers, Gen Z’s – what are the different generations, what makes them who they are and how do you market to them? More importantly, how does your prospective buyer’s generation help you develop an effective marketing strategy?
Getting Started with a Disclaimer …
Before we get started, born in 1977, I’m in the grey area between Generation X and Millennials. However, have a chat with me and you’ll quickly see that I identify more with a Gen Xer than a Millennial. Apologies in advance for any anti non-Gen-X sentiment!
Another disclaimer: there aren’t any hard starts and ends to different generations. Definitions are a very broad definition, so different people have slightly different times when one generation ended and the next started.
A final disclaimer: There are is no guaranteed single way to market a product or service to everyone all at the same time. People are different and make their buying decisions based on a multitude of factors from their age, income, social status, religious beliefs, life experiences and more. When considering generations, we’re looking at broad groups of people born around the same time period who grew up in similar social, economic and commercial conditions. Your marketing strategy should take a much closer look at your target market to identify how such conditions might affect their buying decisions and what marketing tactics should be used to effectively attract, engage and convert them.
Before Generations Were a Thing: The Silent Generation
Defining the generations starts with the Silent Generation. Actually, this generation didn’t have a label until the Baby Boomers were labelled. People wanted something to refer to the generation that came before them and thus the “Silent Generation” label was born.
There is no agreed upon start to this generation, but the end of this generation is marked by the start of the Baby Boomer generation at the end of World War 2 in 1945. This would make people of the Silent Generation 75 years old or older.
In a time before television and mass media, broad attributes of the Silent Generation include discipline, strong family values and a preference for the simple things in life.
The media of the Silent Generations day was radio, the early days of television, local newspapers and direct mail. If you’re looking to market your products and services to the Silent Generation, these marketing channels would be a good place to start.
The First Generation to be Labelled: The Baby Boomers
The Baby Boomer generation started when World War 2 ended in 1945 and lasted until approximately 1965. As soldiers returned from serving in the war and were reunited with their families … well, they were very happy to be home and nine months later a booming birth rate showed just how happy.
Today, Baby Boomers would be between 55 and 75 years old. Their generation is defined by extreme hard work: there was extreme competition as the Baby Boomers entered the work force, so if they weren’t willing to work long hours then someone else would. Even today, Baby Boomers are at work very early in the morning and aren’t afraid to stay late or work on the weekend. The world during their formative years was a rebuilding one following the war, so anything Baby Boomers wanted they had to work hard for to get.
Because of their age, Baby Boomers are a very lucrative generation to market at: they have relatively high incomes and a good amount of disposable income. Their children have moved out so they might have additional resources from downsizing their home.
The media of their day was the radio, television and direct mail. Newspapers were still a common platform but featured more national and international content as the spread of information was made easier by the evolution of the telegraph and telephones. Computers became a significant influence during their working lives, so email, internet searches and the early stages of social media are familiar to them and are marketing channels where you might find a Baby Boomer.
The Conscious Generation: Generation X
Generation X came after the Baby Boomers, lasting from around 1965 to 1976. Today, a Gen Xer would be between 44 and 55 years old.
As the children of the Baby Boomers, Generation Xers railed against their parent’s generation: they didn’t like the expectation of long work hours and intense competitiveness. As many of their parents worked long, hard hours, Gen Xers were often left to fend for themselves so are an independent and resourceful.
The world they grew up in underwent several important social evolutions: women began entering the workforce in larger numbers during the 1960’s, racism and discrimination became a mainstream issue following Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream Speech” in 1963, and in 1971 a small group of concerned individuals protested against nuclear weapon testing on an old fishing boat called “The Greenpeace”.
Computer technology was commonplace as Gen Xers entered the workplace and social media had evolved considerably. Today, Generation Xers use internet searches to find the products and services they’re looking for but also spend a considerable amount of time on social media. The radio and newspapers weren’t as prominent as they were growing up. Being relatively familiar with technology they consume content on platforms like Netflix, making television advertising of limited impact to them.
The Maligned Generation: Millennials
Oft criticized for being soft and entitled, people born between 1977 and 1995 are lumped into the Millennial generation. Today, Millennials would be 25 to 43 years old.
Born and raised in two-income homes, their parents nurtured and pampered them as not to repeat the mistakes made by previous generations. A common perception of the Millennial generation is that they are unable or unwilling to work hard to get the things they want because everything has been provided to them. The Great Recession of 2008 hit as many of the first Millennials came of working age making successfully getting a job difficult. Consequently, many were forced to accept jobs well below their academic or skill level. Millennials struggled with paying off and therefore carried large student debts, were unable to afford to buy their own cars, and lived at home longer with their parents. Maybe as an indirect result, the Millennial generation value people and purpose in the workplace over monetary reward.
Computers were household items as Millennials were growing up, and in their formative years smartphones and tablets became commonplace. Millennials generally don’t listen to the radio or read newspapers, preferring social media to find out what’s going on in the world around them. Search engines dominated the internet as Millennials grew up “Googling” things.
Today’s Generation: Gen Z
Gen Z’s (pronounced genzies) round out our list of different generations. Gen Z’s were born since 1996, making them as old as 24 today.
While they haven’t been around long enough to make their mark on the world, Gen Z’s are living in a world of on-demand immediacy: with full-time access to anything they want to know (Google, Alexa, Siri), anything they want to listen to (Spotify), anything they want to watch (Netflix and YouTube) and anything they want to buy (Amazon), the Gen Z buying journey is probably going to be very short. With a mobile device always within arms reach, digital marketing platforms will be where you’ll connect with a Gen Z. Social credibility is a high-value currency for Gen Zers so they can be influenced by social media influencers, and immune to the digital marketing bombardment they’ve experienced their entire lives they are more likely to prefer a well-executed customer experience over a traditional hard sell.
Intentionally Good Marketing in a Minute
Since generations started being labelled in the 1940’s, the main broad generational categories are the Silent Generation (born 1945 or earlier), Baby Boomers (1946 – 1965), Generation X (1966 – 1976), Millennials (1977 – 1995) and Gen Z (1996 or after). Different generations consume media – and therefore marketing – on different platforms relevant to their formative years and life experiences. Different things are important to them depending on the social, economic and technological conditions of their day. Part of developing your marketing strategy should be to consider what types of content they’re consuming and what message would most resonate with them. Understanding the generation your prospective buyer came from can help develop an effective marketing strategy.
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