Generational Marketing: How to Target Millennials, Gen X, And Boomers

As marketers, we know it is hard to acquire customers. We get their notice with content marketing & nurture them through cycles of emails, believing that they will bite & commit to our product. It is even harder when you are trying to market a product to so many different demographics—a 55-something who is unfamiliar with digital marketing is going to respond very differently to a FB advertisement than a 20-something who is well-versed in digital marketing methods.


I know when brands are targeting me online—I see your cute branding & slightly-sarcastic lingo! How can brands make sure they are targeting all the demographics successfully? Which generations reply best to telephone calls, who is most possible to shop in-store, or get hooked because your creation is eco-friendly? Do not worry. I have done my research.


Marketing to Baby Boomers

Who are Baby Boomers?

The team who still leaves & listens to voicemails. They were born between 1946 – 1964 & grew up during the American-dream. As their younger colleague have taught boomers how to use technology, this group is slowly embracing it. Pew Research, by 2014, 66% of adults aged 51-64 used social networking sites, with the vast majority engaging with FB to revive “dormant” relationships.

The Boomers are the most probable to misunderstand FB remarketing advertisements clogging up their Newsfeeds but still be receptive to direct marketing or sales tactics; they like to talk to people. Boomers have the biggest value as consumers in the market. They spend the most money on every shopping trip and as they’re hitting retirement, they’re more likely to splurge on items that are not on the grocery list. This generation even spends the most on technology—the whole thing from premium cable to the latest smartphone.

Five Tips for Marketing to Baby Boomers

1. Take gain of Brand Loyalty

My aunts & uncles fall into the Boomer generation and if I have learned something from watching their shopping tradition it is loyalty. When my uncle get a rumor that his favorite deodorant was changing their formula, he went out & bought enough to last him the rest of his life. Same things happen when my aunts find their favorite wines, they’ll buy every bottle Trader Joes has as if it is Apocalypse Now. If you can make that your product is great quality & will be necessary for an unknown amount of time, you could be able to acquire some Boomers as customers.

2. Go for the Up-Sell

A good way to capitalize on the additional cash Baby Boomers are dishing out is to utilize up-sells. This generation is a fan of entertainment, wine and buy the most prescription medicine (I am not kidding!). They incline to like knowing the value of a service—how it’ll make their lives easy—without feeling pushed. What perfect way to not be pushy than to ask if they would like to add $10 per month for an extra 110GB of storage? Pro salesman Jeffery Gitomer, up selling can help build better relationships with your customers; it is also much easier to up sell than to generate a net-new sale!


3. Tie in Cash-Back

Cash back can be a bit of a promise for someone who is not trying to spend a ton of money to earn it. Boomers are used to spending enough at certain places that cash-back plans have a good appeal. A great & obvious example of this is credit cards! 49% of baby Boomers rely on credit cards and would prefer to spend more as resist to leaving money on the table. Most of the Boomers are big fans of American Express because the points they can generate through huge purchases—which can then fund a vacation / buy a nutribullet for their niece…


4. If It Ain’t Broke, Do not Fix It

This group is the most susceptible to traditional marketing & sales tactics. Boomers tend to need to talk to a real person before they make a acquisition—but do not call during dinner! Marketing methods seen as intrusive on their individual lives are not welcomed, but traditional television & newspaper advertisements are okay! Because most Boomers use social media to keep up with long-lost friends, they’re most likely going to report your Facebook advertisements as spam.

They’re also the least likely to understand that long-form blog post; Baby Boomers describe that the articles they like the most are only 310 words.

It seem obvious, but Boomers are the least likely to make an acquisition on their smartphones—but this’s a good reason to reevaluate your mobile checkout. Would your grandmother get through it seamlessly?

5. Plot Twist: Skip the Discounts

Baby Boomers have been enjoying retirement for a few years already or are entering retirement—something they have worked tireless to achieve. US adults over 51 spend $3.2 trillion annually & have accumulated $16 trillion in financial assets; which is better than the total GDP of countries such as Italy, Russia, the UK & France!

The over-51 crowd accounts for 51% of all consumer expenditures, but marketers are only spending 11% of our budgets on them.  There is a great opportunity to grab those additional dollars that Boomers are dishing out! Make marketing full-price or “top-shelf” product to them. No one wants to become drinking $7 wine in their 60’s or buying used furniture on Craigslist they just downsized to after their last 24-year-old moved out. Boomers are going to be okay with splurging on themselves in departure.

Marketing to Generation X

Who are Generation Xers?

Gen X is the tiny generation, born between 1965 – 1980 & often referred to as the bridge between Millennials & Baby Boomers. Gen Xers are juggling child care, homeownership and reaching the peak of their works. Think of the 42-year-old who went to high school in the 80’s & hated the first Bush era and is working in green energy & has little kids to contend with. They remember how video killed the radio star & are more pessimistic about having enough money to retire.

They are dealing with children, paying mortgages & tuition and working a LOT. Turns out, they are on online—more than 82% of this generation reports that they’re on FB, MySpace (what?!) and Twitter. They’re more on par with technology adoption & use with millennials and are more likely to be politically loyal during their lives than either of the other generations.  Generation Xers claim to be the most dedicated to lists shopping, but fessed up to making the most unplanned purchases on their shopping trips. This generation is our true mixture when it comes to marketing. They develop without the shopping experience, so they still like a trip in-store, but have completely embraced online shopping as well.

Five Tips for Marketing to Generation X

1. Everyone likes Coupons

Gen Xers were gaining momentum in the workforce. They do not think they can rely on Social Security after leaving. Gen Xers are saving up for home ownership, college, starting a business and retirement—which leads me to…COUPONS. I think Blue Apron and Plated do a good job with this, while offering a creation that would make Gen Xers’ lives easier.

Although email marketing seems to be old news, it’s still the best way to communicate with Gen X. This generation is plugged into Outlook constantly for work & updates from family, it is natural that they’d react positively to retail emails. Don’t mention they are checking email at work, at home, on tablets, iPhones & desktops.


2. Be a Goody-Two-Shoes

Erin mentioned in her post about marketing to millennials, do-good brands have taken an upsurge—organic, ethically produced creations are in high demand. The same thing can be said for marketing to Generation X. The generation is less prone to moving in the waves of trends & is more likely to buy a service or creation that somehow benefits society. Toms is a good instance of this—though not the most appealing type of shoe, their message of “one for one” bolstered this brand to success. A better way to push this branding is through Pinterest & Facebook!

3. Lifestyle Nurture Programmes

Generation Xers are using social media so much, we marketers have lot of to draw on. Thanks to Facebook’s insane amount of targeting selections, we can send advertisements to for anniversaries, new moms, birthdays and more. Some companies, such as Petco, offer to send disposable items to your house at normal intervals with is a great way to remember to stock up on kitty litter / dog food. Babies R Us & Toys R Us have a good email program that will send pregnant mothers updates month-to-month and then after birth with age-appropriate toys. This is a wonderful way to establish brand loyalty—you know what is going on! —make their busy lives a bit easier.

4. Give Gen Xer’s a Break

Although this generation is self-professed savers, they are not saving it all for college! About two-thirds of Gen Xers with a household income of $260,000 or more & half Gen Xers with incomes of less $260,000 plan on taking a vacation in the next year. This is a great opportunity across the board! Even if vacations are not directly related to your service & product, consider running a sweepstake. Advertise how you can help while they’re away—security businesses, looking at you—and goods that they can use on vacation. It is likely that this generation is not buying a vacation for one or two, but instead a family-friendly. Which means a lot of planning & money goes into it, use your marketing to win them over & they may use your service for years.

5. Plot Twist: Try Direct Mail

You can’t expect what seems to be an outdated form of marketing with this generation. But, according to a study from NuStats, InnoMedia, and Vertis, 87% of this generation brings in the mail every day & 68% have used coupons they received in the mail. They’re more likely to be receiving paper bills as opposed to electronic, & send birthday cards by USPS instead of email. The days of receiving Chinese take-out menus & newspapers of coupons in your mail box are not over!

Marketing to Millennials

The group that is slowly taking over the workforce & out-numbering Baby Boomers, Millennials were born between 1981 – 1999 & came of age during the early 2000’s. This group is most widely talked to & about on social media & in pop culture—our blog is no exception! Millennials started entering the workforce as the economy crashed and as a result, are the biggest generation of entrepreneurs. They’re notoriously soft-hearted & soft-shelled, valuing social issues far ahead of economics. The Brookings Institute, 65% of millennials would rather make $41,000 a year at a job they love than $110,000 a year at a job they think is boring.

That said, Millennials’re an economic force! With $210B in annual buying power, smart marketers are turning to new channels to hook this group. They’re the least frequent in-store shoppers—which I totally see, I just went grocery shopping for the first time in a month—but tend to spend big amounts when they do shop. This group is the most responsive to online shopping recommendations, opportunities from friends and family & are motivated by shopping ease. Millennials are redesigning the way that goods & services are being marketed by staying insensitive to traditional marketing tactics. This group decides where to eat based on Instagram pictures, selects hair stylists from Facebook & has their groceries delivered to their door.

1. Focus on novelty

Millennials like the next big thing. Comedies poke fun at trendy coffee shops & restaurants that are becoming popular by social media, Millennials are making the company owners a lot of money. Look at Apple—after Steve Jobs dramatically adjusted the way a traditional computer looked & felt, the Mac blew up. Now, Millennials are 21.7% more likely to own a Mac computer & this is the same generation that is infatuated with every new iPhone release. Think about the method the internet freaked out when Instagram faked Snapchat’s approach of expiring, provisional shares? Or the popularity of online dating apps & photography drones. Marketing to Millennials have to take an approach that shows a new viewpoint on a common problem or task.


2. Use Reviews!

Millennials are redesigning the way that goods & services are being marketed by staying insensitive to traditional marketing tactics. This group decides where to eat based on Instagram pictures, selects hair stylists from FB and has their groceries delivered to their door based on a review from a friend. Millennials like to talk & plan with their friends—69% report that they will not make a major decision until they have deliberated it with everyone they trust—everything from what neighborhood to live in & how to find it, to where to go on a first date or begin a business. Yelp has become a big source of information for businesses & customers alike, as well as TripAdvisor & Rotten Tomatoes. A good way to market to this generation indirectly is to make certainly your online reviews & customer experiences are up to par!


3. Connect with Millennials by Social Media Incentives

To try & harness the power of a millennial on social media, insert incentives to your marketing idea. According to Yahoo, 64% of millennials would be more “check-in” to a business on social channels if it meant they would receive a coupon or discount; 10% off is enough of an incentive to prompt 30% of respondents to visit a retail location. That is huge! Another way is to insert a gateway to an opportunity. You can have the rest of this experience after sharing with 3 of your friends on FB or Twitter.

4. Loyalty Programs or Utilize Rewards

If it were not for the tragic e. Coli scandal at Chipotle, their new loyalty programme would have been the biggest news of the season. Chipotle checks the boxes for millennials; ethically farmed meats & veggies, vegetarian selections, customizable but fast food with good advertising plans. According to the Harris Poll, 78% of millennials already do or are helpful to participate in rewards & loyalty programs & 73% of smartphone users are interested in using their mobile to interact with brands’ loyalty programs. The stores already doing this & seeing success are Starbucks, Fro-yo places like Red Mango and Boloco!

5. Plot Twist: Try Radio Commercials

Although radio advertising may seem an old-school marketing trick, perhaps video really did not kill the radio star; it certainly did not kill the podcast star. 92% of millennials report listening to the radio for a total of around 12 hours per week. In true, more millennials listen to the radio than Baby Boomers or Gen Xers, and podcasts are beginning just as popular as Netflix shows. If I find myself needing to make a website, it’s very likely I will choose Square Space as my platform. Why? Because they support my favorite podcast, You Should Know. Though I do not listen to the radio anymore since my commute has adjusted, I could tell you the place I would get laser hair removal in Philadelphia & which bars had the best deals for Eagle’s games. Even better, paying for an advertisement spot on the radio or podcasts helps out the show and long live NPR!

In Conclusion…

It’s important to keep in mind that every generation is comprised of unique personalities, not all everyone will respond the same way. Do not throw your other demographic targeting & segmentation strategies out the window!


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