Meredith Carter


Generational Marketing: How to Unlock Sales for Every Age

From the language we use to the subject matter, medium, frequency and tone, the way we communicate with different age groups is wildly different. You probably don’t FaceTime with your grandmother, and emailing your 20-year-old nephew would mean you’ll never get a response.

In our personal lives, the challenge is easy to see, and obvious to solve. Yet, in business, many companies completely miss the mark when trying to communicate their brand message to different age groups.

This is because creating a message that resonates with your target audience goes beyond identifying the problem your product or service can solve. You must also consider the best way to deliver that message across every age group who might be patrons of your brand.

The solution is generational marketing, a savvy approach that plays into each generation’s unique quirks and habits. By better understanding the nuances between different age groups, you can learn to speak each generation’s language and win them over with smarter messaging. 

What is Generational Marketing?

Generational marketing is a strategic marketing approach that segments audiences into age groups and targets each cohort based on the values and shared experiences that bind the generational group together.

Each generation observes a unique set of defining moments and cultural trends that resonate with the group throughout their lifetime – and these generational markers can have a significant impact on how any given age cohort reacts to brand messaging. Implementing generational marketing allows companies to create messaging that feels relatable to their full target audience. 

Note that getting results from generational marketing does not necessarily require the creation of new, separate marketing strategies or campaigns for each age group, but can typically be achieved with modifications of existing strategies, assets, or communications.

The Role of Age in Marketing

Crafting impactful marketing messaging for different age cohorts starts with understanding the different stories each age group associates with their generation. We all belong to a specific set of narratives we can relate to, and these narratives heavily influence our consumer behaviors. 

Historical context and collective moments matter. As a marketer, the more in-depth the knowledge of your target audience’s history and shared experiences, the more fine-tuned your messaging can be to tap into these generational touch points.

To complicate things, generations tend to react most strongly to messaging that references their formative years and their current lifestyle. This means that reaching a Baby Boomer requires an understanding of the cultural markers they connect with today, as well as the experiences they had in their teens or early 20s. Societal events from their 30s or 40s, for example, are relevant, but far less impactful.

Connecting with the youngest generation ought to be easy, as their formative years and current lifestyle are the same. Of course, few marketing professionals are Gen Alpha, so we are back to the drawing board!

Fortunately, plenty of research already exists for defining and understanding the generational differences we need to consider. The road map already exists. The challenge is figuring out how to position your brand message to navigate the map effectively.

Defining the Generations

    • Baby Boomers: Born between 1946 and 1964, Baby Boomers have seen it all, from rotary phones and black & white televisions to the latest in smart-home technology. They are not shy about spending money on indulgences in addition to necessities.
    • Gen X: Born between 1965 and 1980, Gen X are often referred to as the “middle child” of generations. This group holds a unique place, being both tech-savvy but also strongly connected to traditional values and the pre-internet world. They came of age during the rise of technology and adapted quickly, but are also nostalgic about old school ways.
    • Millennials: The first generation of digital natives, Millennials were born between 1981 and 1996. As consumers, they demand genuine connections with the brands they are loyal to and rate social responsibility as a must-have before parting with their dollars.
    • Gen Z: Born between 1996 and 2009, when growing up with social media was simply the norm, Gen Z’s online presence is virtually constant and companies must recognize that unlike previous generations, Gen Z sees the internet as the key platform for expressing themselves, which leads to a keen desire for authentic social media relationships with their favorite brands.
    • Gen Alpha: Born from 2010 up to the present, Gen Alpha is expected to be a landmark generation and globally, the largest in history. Having grown up surrounded by a constant flow of information and content, general messaging strategies often go ignored. This generation expects video and demands it be personalized.

Adjusting Your Marketing Strategy

Once you have identified the generation you are hoping to reach, the next step is to modify your marketing strategy to best connect. Below are some of the basic guidelines and tips we can follow as marketers to take advantage of generational marketing.

Marketing to Baby Boomers

When marketing to Baby Boomers, few brand characteristics are held in as high regard as trust and customer loyalty. This generation also values face-to-face communication and can still be marketed to via more traditional media, such as television and direct mail, along with digital channels.

  • Deliver clear and honest messaging that reflects trustworthiness
  • Focus on excellent customer service experiences
  • Leverage discounts, particularly personalized offers
  • Include more detailed product/service information
  • Flesh out marketing materials to be more robust

Marketing to Gen X

Uniquely positioned between the old and new, Gen X balances technology with tradition. When it comes to online shopping, however, behaviors more closely mimic Millennials than Baby Boomers.

  • Gen X are more heavily swayed by reviews and social proof than traditional discounts
  • Like Baby Boomers, a focus on customer care is linked to loyalty
  • Messaging should feel personal and genuine, more than dry and informational
  • Respond well to highly-targeted offers

Marketing to Millennials

Above all else, Millennials crave authenticity and value brands that align with the social issues they care about. 

  • Conveying your brand’s social responsibility is no longer a buzzword, it’s a must
  • Speak truthfully and passionately about your brand’s values
  • Millennials bounce between platforms, making a multi-pronged approach more effective
  • This generation will spend heavily on online purchases for brands they align with, particularly for offers that feel highly-personalized

Marketing to Gen Z

Gen Z are digital dynamos, shaping tomorrow’s trends today across a wide range of social platforms. Recognize that Gen Z does not only interact with their existing network online. They are building out their circle, both personally and professionally via social media, making the types of interactions they resonate with far more personal compared to the older cohorts.

  • Establish a truly authentic social presence that feels like a real human, not carefully crafted corporate speak
  • Understand that Gen Z uses social media for self-expression and tie branding efforts into this phenomenon
  • Gen Z loves a brand with a strong personality
  • Focus on building a community and inviting this generation to become a member
  • Emphasize visual content
  • Always provide text or chat-based customer service options

Marketing to Gen Alpha

Gen Alpha have found their voice from a very young age and place a high value on having platforms to share their views and opinions online. Yet, in contrast to Gen Z, Gen Alphas are more willing to put down their tech and go outside because there is nothing novel about it. Many call Gen Alpha “technology-empowered, not technology-dependent.” 

  • YouTube is king – more than half of Gen Alpha first learn about brands over YouTube
  • Outside-the-box digital experiences are key
  • Do not presume Gen Alpha is simply a younger Gen Z
  • Reach Gen Alpha by building and engaging with them in online communities
  • Consider the values of Gen Alpha’s parents (Millennials and older Gen Z)

Generational Marketing and Social Media

Optimizing your content delivery strategy means determining which social channels are frequented by different age cohorts. Getting your messaging right is useless, if you publish the content in the wrong place!

To engage each generation where they are most active, here is a simple guide to where each age group is hanging out:

  • Baby Boomers enjoy the familiarity and ease-of-use of Facebook, and respond positively to remarketing ads.
  • Gen X came of age during the rise of email, making email campaigns an effective choice, along with reaching them on both Facebook and LinkedIn.
  • Millennials scroll through Instagram and Twitter for quick hitting content but also seek out meaningful blog posts on LinkedIn written by brands that speak their language on social issues.
  • Gen Z is rewriting social media rules faster than any previous generation. As true digital natives, they were able to swipe and scroll before they could walk. They gravitate towards video, on TikTok or YouTube, along with SnapChat stories.
  • Gen Alpha is even more heavily tuned into video streaming, accustomed to being able to find content that is hyper-personalized to their exact wants and needs. Putting all your eggs into the YouTube basket is often a smart strategy for reaching Gen Alpha.

Generational Marketing and Customer Interaction

As branding is a two-way street, it’s important to also consider how different generations like to interact with their favorite brands once your messaging has led to an engagement.

  • Baby Boomers, and to a lesser extent Gen X, value the ability to pick up the phone and reach a real person at your company.
  • Gen X often prefers email communications, provided their inquiries are responded to in a timely manner.
  • Millennials are mobile natives, utilizing text or chat interactions whenever possible.
  • Gen Z finds brands with a responsive social media presence to be more memorable, and respond poorly to social media interactions that are clearly generated by AI.
  • Gen Alpha are brand mature and value interacting with brands at a much younger age than any previous generation. The ability to engage with a brand is no longer a bonus, it’s an expectation.

Providing a wide range of engagement options for your customers to choose from ensures that no generation feels left out. While there are certainly cost savings to limiting available mediums for customer support, companies must recognize the generational consequences for cutting phone support, being slow to answer emails or failing to provide timely responses on social media platforms.

Marketing to Multiple Generations at Once

For brands whose target market ranges across multiple age demographics, the prospect of generational marketing can be daunting, but in practice, the art of marketing to multiple generations at once isn’t as complicated as it initially sounds.

Remember that implementing generational marketing is less about creating a fresh strategy for each group and all about making adjustments to your existing campaign to maximize the impact and efficacy of your messaging.

Create messaging that works for the age cohort you have identified as your core market, then tweak the cultural markers for the other groups and allocate resources accordingly to deliver each modified asset through the right channels to reach the intended generation.

Decoding What Makes Age Groups Tick Matters to Your Brand

Ignoring the power of generational marketing will leave one or more age groups feeling left out of your marketing message – but with a few small tweaks to your current strategy, you can expand your reach and expand the size of the audience loyal to your brand.

Ready to invite every generation in to be a part of your brand story?

Our talented team of creatives are experts in tailoring content that hits home with different cohorts, from Baby Boomers to Gen Z. We can help you build and deliver a new campaign from the ground up, with messaging that resonates across age groups.

To get started, contact us to schedule a consultation.


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