How to Reach Baby Boomers, Gen-Xers and Millennials with Your Online Marketing

There’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all approach to marketing.

This is especially true when it comes to marketing to different age groups.

When dealing with different age groups, genders, income levels, etc., you need to be flexible and understand the psychology and habits of each customer base.

Easier said than done.

This is where customer segmentation comes in. Customer segmentation is the practice of dividing your audience into different types of people.

There are all kinds of ways to segment your customers. Some businesses choose to segment by value, frequency of purchase/visit, product interest, acquisition channel, etc.

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Without segmentation, I don’t think I would have gone very far in business. Using the power of segmentation in my email marketing, content creation, and analytics has allowed me to give the best value to my customers.

Segmentation is especially important in reaching different generations of customers.

When it comes to age groups, there are three primary generations you may need to reach at any given time.

  • Baby boomers – born between 1946 and 1964
  • Generation X – born between 1965 and 1980
  • Millennials – born between 1981 and 2000

I’ve seen a lot of marketers make mistakes when it comes to segmenting by generation.

  • The biggest mistake is thinking that members of a particular generation are all the same—they buy in the same way, respond in the same way, and can be reached in the same way. That’s simply not the case.
  • The other mistake is assuming that every generation can be reached in pretty much the same way. Again, that’s not true. There is enough difference between generations to make us realize that our marketing should differ when attempting to reach different generations.

That’s why I wrote this article. I want to dispel some myths around marketing to different generations.

First, I’m going to explain each generation—the facts and figures. Then, I’ll provide a quick list of the best marketing methods for reaching that generation.

Download this handy cheat sheet to learn about the best marketing methods for reaching this generation.

How can you use this article?

  • If you’re selling to all three generations, segment your marketing by generation. Use the marketing techniques most likely to appeal to that specific generation.
  • If you’re selling to just one generation, tailor your marketing around the techniques that will effectively reach that generation.

Ready for action? Here we go.

Baby boomers

A little over 76 million Americans fall into this age group. Baby boomers were born between 1946 and 1964. The “boom” refers to the way the population spiked around this time—post World War II.

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Of the three generations, Baby Boomers tend to have the most disposable income and account for nearly half of all retail sales.

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This generation is still growing as many boomers enter retirement and live longer lives due to improved healthcare.

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If you’re a young person, you may think of the Baby Boomer generation as “old-fashioned” or not tech savvy.

And you’d be wrong.

Digital marketing—even the most advanced methods—works for baby boomers!

In fact, 85 percent of baby boomers consistently spend time browsing and shopping online, and “66 percent of people over 50 in the U.S. routinely make purchases from online retailers.”

Fewer baby boomers than Millennials own a smartphone, but still a 43 percent ownership rate is quite high!

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When it comes to tech spending, boomers are the most liberal. They “spend more money on technology than any other age group.”

Nearly half the Internet population is comprised of people aged 45 and up.

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And if you want to talk about social media, this age group has got it covered! (Especially Facebook.)

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However, reaching this demographic requires a different approach from the approach you’d use trying to reach someone in their 20s or 30s.

For instance, a mobile marketing campaign is likely to yield only marginal results. Although 28.3 million baby boomers use smartphones, I still wouldn’t recommend it as a viable strategy simply because most view smartphones as more of a communication device rather than a tool for shopping.

MarketingSherpa’s research indicates that baby boomers are the least likely to use a smartphone to make a purchase.

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You may also think that social media wouldn’t be a viable medium for reaching this generation.

However, baby boomers account for more than a fifth of all social media users. It’s just that they primarily stick to traditional networks such as Facebook.

So using something like Instagram or Snapchat marketing probably wouldn’t be as effective.

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I also found it interesting that baby boomers spend more time consuming content than any other generation. In fact, roughly 25 percent spend 20+ hours each week consuming content.

What’s the best way to reach baby boomers?

  • Facebook. The majority of baby boomers have a Facebook account. Targeted ads and relevant content will catch their attention.
  • Slower paced videos. GIF-style videos, live videos, or videos backed by high-intensity music don’t hold as much appeal for them. Use videos to pack in a lot of information, and don’t be afraid of using longer videos.
  • Content marketing. Baby boomers consume a lot of content, so content marketing will be effective. Be willing to invest liberally in content marketing of all varieties—it’ll bring the biggest ROI.
  • Blogging. Blogging is a method of content marketing, of course, and it’s one of the most effective.
  • Email. An active email marketing campaign is always important and will be effective in marketing to this demographic.
  • Direct mail. Baby boomers are more likely to respond to direct mail campaigns than any other generation. If you are reaching this demographic, don’t be afraid to give it a try.
  • Coupon marketing. Many baby boomers have been brought up in environments where saving money was important. A smart and targeted coupon marketing approach will be effective in reaching this generation.

Generation X

This is the generation that’s most overlooked. For some reason, it seems that Millennials get the majority of the attention these days.

The Open Forum calls Gen X “the forgotten generation.”

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AdWeek also recognizes that they’ve been “largely overlooked.”

But unless you’re exclusively marketing to people under 40, you’ll want to gain a better understanding of this generation.

Even though they account for only 25 percent of the population, they have high spending power. Right now, they’re earning more money than any other generation. They are certainly willing to spend that money.

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As they age and progress in their careers, their spending power will increase.

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According to American Express, Gen-Xers claim “29 percent of estimated net worth dollars and 31 percent of total income dollars.”

Most tend to be financially stable and have a penchant for saving. Many remain traditional in the way they respond to advertising and marketing.

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Among them, 43.3 million use social media, 38.2 million are on Facebook, and 37.3 million have smartphones.

And when it comes to shopping online? This generation is definitely all in!

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Generation X is considerably more tech-savvy than baby boomers but not nearly as tech-savvy as Millennials.

What’s the best way to reach Gen-Xers?

  • Digital video. 78.7 percent of Gen-Xers download or stream video online at least once per month. Video holds appeal across generations, but Generation X seems particularly attached to it.
  • Facebook. It’s safe to say that this generation is firmly in the camp of active Facebook users.
  • Twitter. 8.5 million use it regularly. Don’t give up on finding these people on Twitter.
  • Blogging. Content of value will help you reap rewards when it comes to this demographic. Keep a laser focus on their pain points and aspirations, and deliver with your content.
  • Educational content. Gen X is recognized as an educated generation with higher high school graduation rates than previous generations. Over 10 percent of this generation are actively pursuing continuing education.
  • Email. Mobile and desktop email alike will continue to appeal to this generation.

Millennials

This is my generation and the age group that many marketers try tirelessly to appeal to. And with good reason. They’re growing!

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We’re the only generation who will understand terms such as “twerking,” “on fleek,” “turnt,” and, of course, “bae.”

Unlike baby boomers and Gen-Xers who haven’t always been exposed to computers, Millennials grew up with technology and have never known a world without them.

Some can’t even remember a pre-Internet world.

As a result, this demographic is incredibly tech-savvy.

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Ninety-one percent are regular Internet users, and the average person of this generation spends 25 hours online per week.

When it comes to smartphones, they aren’t just seen as a way to communicate. They’re a way of life.

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This age group is also likely to be active on a variety of social networks beyond just Facebook and Twitter. For many, social media is a primary means of communication.

Social media is the vehicle for peer influence“68 percent are influenced by their friends’ social media posts when making a buying decision.”

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Unlike older generations who often have a lesser understanding of pop culture, many Millennials have an appreciation for memes and Internet humor.

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They simply get things that baby boomers don’t.

In other words, they’re “hip” and “with it” or whatever the kids are saying these days.

If you’re looking to reach this age group, it’s imperative to have a strong online presence. It’s wise to put plenty of effort into online branding and take reputation management seriously.

Mobile marketing and social media are your best avenues, and “Millennials are 247 percent more likely to be influenced by blogs or social networking sites.”

Text/IM/SMS? It’s a thing, especially among this generation.

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Mobile and portability are key. Millennials are more likely to incorporate wearables into their everyday lives, not giving it a second thought.

Many Millennials are also eager to embrace the life of a digital nomad, exercising their mobility to its fullest extent.

Because this generation has arguably the shortest attention span of the three, it’s important to get to the point with your content and use plenty of visuals.

If you need to deliver long-winded information with a lot of stats, keep in mind Millennials often respond favorably to infographics.

What’s the best way to reach Millennials?

  • Mobile marketing. Everything is about mobile. If your marketing isn’t mobile-first, it’s ineffective with or invisible to this generation.
  • Social media. Go deeper than just Facebook and Twitter. Find the niche networks where your target audience hangs out.
  • User-generated content is big. Millennials aren’t just content consumers; they are content creators.
  • SMS marketing. Because mobile.
  • Influencer marketing. Whether it’s a social media friend or a well-known influencer within a niche, Millennials respond to peer recommendations.
  • Video. The on-demand video revolution is changing the style and consumption of video marketing. The authenticity and real-time nature of Periscope, Snapchat, and other video platforms appeal to Millennials.

Conclusion

In order to cast the widest net and reach the largest percentage of your customer base, it’s essential to tailor your marketing campaign to individual age demographics.

You won’t succeed by trying to appeal to everyone. You succeed by appealing to the right people in the right way.

By understanding the different mindsets and tendencies of different generations, you can make your marketing efforts go farther and build relationships with people of all ages.

Are there any specific techniques you’ve found to be effective for reaching a targeted age group?

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Comments

  1. ujjwal kumar sen :

    Hello, @Neil

    After reading the article I must say, relationship building is the key to get success in online marketing to get huge number of referral customers, traffic and of course at the end it will be for long term business.

    Which exactly we required from online business.

  2. Roger Aburto :

    Excellent! Great information!
    No doubt about it! Neil Patel and his team deliver outstanding valuable material.

  3. Himmat Chahal :

    Article on fleek! Those infographics were lit af!

    But really, awesome article and I did really like the infographics. Very useful! The stuff on Boomers:Facebook makes sense.

    Gen X really does get *slept on* quite a lot, it seems. I mostly just hear about millennials, myself.

    Thanks for the article, can’t wait to read anotha one 😉

  4. Subhendu Pattnaik :

    Excellent information. Thank you Neil.

  5. growing old.

  6. Waoh! This is an eye opener, I will definitely incorporate this idea into reaching my audience when my marketing venture starts. Thanks Neil.

  7. Good stuff. However you should write more on this topic.

  8. Tony Daniel :

    Great insight. Your explanation is very good and infographics are useful. This really helps me to understand the expectation of different age groups. Marketing is challenging. However, your insights are the tools to reach the customers.

  9. Thanks for verifying my take on marketing to Baby Boomers (skip Instagram, focus on Facebook, don’t worry about selling via smartphones, produce lots of great content and posts).

    BTW: Typo “What’s the best way to beach baby boomers?” … beach…

    Keep up the good work.

  10. Many new blogging and online marketing newbies won’t have this on their mind. Thank you for providing this healthy food for thought in hopes of others being more creative with their content marketing approaches to target audiences.

  11. Jsbullock.net :

    Interesting. I’m wondering if email marketing campaigns are all but ineffective if your target audience is younger millennials. Until seeing this I would have said email marketing works for all segments. I would say being 34+ years, the messaging preferences table is spot on for my age group.

    …now to get into text/mobile msging marketing.

    • yah, the data is pretty interesting to look at. You’ll see how it’ll make your marketing efforts much more effective

  12. SEO Specialist :

    ROFl Title, but clean-cut about customers that’s why patel is perfect in marketing!

  13. I am assuming it is because they are not dying at young ages like previous generations (so there are still lots of them around) and as a result the actual market place Neil is talking about is growing because of this.

  14. Randy Downs :

    Glad folks are reaching out to Baby Boomers. This is one of the best markets from my perspective.

    Had not considered their liberal spending
    “spend more money on technology than any other age group.”

  15. Interesting way to look at it, thumbs up

  16. Very thorough article, as always!

    However, I’m not so sure about using SMS marketing on millennials. The messaging preference chart is from 2008 and a lot has happened on mobile world since then. I think the division would look very different if the data was from last year.

    I’m a millennial myself and even my baby boomer parents only use Whatsapp. ?

  17. Eduardo Cornejo :

    Hey Neil,

    Both your website name and when you make a new product, do you trademark these things? Where would you go for this stuff?

    I followed the Nutrition Secrets project but don’t think you ever mentioned anything of this sort?

    Hope you respond!

    Eduardo

  18. Ruby Basara :

    Too Good, Neil. That’s loads of information.

  19. This post is really awesome.. Thanks Neil

  20. Like always, great, awesome, content Neil. I couldn’t agree more with reaching the Gen X. Most of us seem to focus so much on millenials

  21. Well, glad to see such a segmentation. Without segmentation it’s very difficult to take our business ahead. It helps in diversifying our efforts and concentrating differently on different segments. Nice post!

  22. After this you have to learn their own language! You have to act and react as they do. After all it is a new generation. Marketing basics still works!

    • Exactly Jordan. This will help you identify the people you’re targeting, but it’s still up to you to figure out what they say so you can mirror their language

  23. Jahnavi Pathak :

    This post is really Help full to me.. Thanks Neil

  24. Hi Neil, thanks for sharing this wonderful post. 🙂

  25. Great post! A true X generation marketing bible! 🙂

  26. I noticed a website called Project Life Mastery has rating by stars enabled on posts. This rating shows up on Google listings, which stands out.

    Do you think this is worth adding?

  27. Jabe Esguerra :

    This isn’t the first time I’ve read about marketing statistics and landscapes for baby boomers, Gen-Xers, and especially Millennials. I was kind of reluctant to read, but seeing its from you Neil, I clicked anyway.

    And I wasn’t disappointed! You didn’t just lay down research, tables, and graphs. But you capped every section with action steps…a Neil Patel signature. In particular, I like how you “fleshed out” every generation (ex.: male Gen-Xers preferring subtle humor, Millennials as content creators, Baby Boomers as a thrifty generation, etc.)

    I’m not a professional marketer, but a content writer. But your post gave me a better idea how to write content for each generation.

    Thanks Neil!

    • Then this was perfect for you. As a writer, the will help you better relate to your audience so you can provide them with exactly what they need

  28. Good ideas on how to effectively market to specific target clientele. I have to agree that you need to understand the psychology of your potential customers. This entails understanding their different needs(may it be from Maslow’s, attribution, or cognitive perspective ).

    Nonetheless, there is not a clear line when it comes to customer segmentation. Sacrifices have to be done. With a proper approach, I believe that a combination of marketing strategies can be adopted to ensure that your target clientele is encompassing enough.

    Thanks for sharing.

    • We are all just blank slates who require different forms of motivations to help us move forward and take action.

      As you become clear about who your market truly is, you’ll learn to develop a connection that helps them feel connected, like you understand

  29. Shakeel Sharif :

    I love the quote in the conclusion:
    “You won’t succeed by trying to appeal to everyone. You succeed by appealing to the right people in the right way”

    That is an absolute golden nugget with tons of wisdom within it. Great research within the article, thanks Neil.

  30. Jamie Jamieson :

    Another great post. Nice work Niel.

  31. nice article on online marketing …with baby boomers ,gene-xers and millennials….

    • Once you can understand the distinct difference, you’ll begin to discover more effective ways to market yourself

  32. nice article on online marketing …with baby boomers ,gene-xers and millennials….

  33. Joseph Benson :

    Great as usual Neil. But do you keep these stats for making decisions for you or your clients?
    Are you making a database and searching for what you need to possibly make a call on what strategy you might use or do you have a general plan from years of business experience that you alter upon gathering details from your clients or business metrics from your own brands?

    • Yep, basically we’re continuously tweak our targeting more and more to make it as specific as we can to an individual

  34. AndersonCooper :

    Excellent Article Neil. Thanks for Sharing.

    Similar to Baby Boomers and Gen X, we can classify Millennials as Gen Y and Gen Z.

    Gen Y – Born between middle 1980’s and 1997
    Gen Z – Born after 1997

    Most of the Millennials are in Gen Z. The techniques you suggested to attract Millennials are more suitable for Gen Z people.

  35. Hello Neil, this is my first time I read your article and I love it! I think this is interesting to segment people by generation. Till now, all companies I know do it only by gender…I will try to implement it! Any way, I belief that even magnificent segmentation wont work, without a good website. What do you think? Recently I read an article about “What are the Most Essential Elements of an Effective Business Website?” which I can truly recommend!
    For sure I will come back to read your articles, Neil. Best,

  36. So, Neil. Where is your video content?
    Since you seem to recommend video content for all segments, why not create video content on Youtube & Facebook on a regular basis?

    I, for one, would love to see an #askNeilPatel content video series! Or a series of your keynote speeches.

    If you are doing something like that, I missed it.

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