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.
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
- Generation Z – born between 2001 and 2020
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.
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.
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.
Of the three generations, Baby Boomers tend to have the most disposable income and account for nearly half of all retail sales.
This generation is still growing as many boomers enter retirement and live longer lives due to improved healthcare.
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!
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.
And if you want to talk about social media, this age group has got it covered! (Especially Facebook.)
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
As they age and progress in their careers, their spending power will increase.
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.
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!
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.
This is my generation and the age group that many marketers try tirelessly to appeal to. And with good reason. They’re growing!
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.
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.
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.”
Unlike older generations who often have a lesser understanding of pop culture, many Millennials have an appreciation for memes and Internet humor.
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.
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.
Generation Z, known as Gen Z, the iGeneration, Post-Millennials, or the Homeland Generation is the newest group of consumers for brands to target.
The oldest members of Gen Z are just graduating from college. This means they are getting full-time jobs. With those jobs come full-time salaries.
As a marketer, you have a great opportunity to target people who just recently experienced an increase in spending power.
Just like Millennials, Generation Z also care about the planet: 78% of Gen Z are worried about world hunger and 76% are concerned about humanity’s impact on the planet.
Brand loyalty isn’t that important to this generation. They care more about quality than loyalty:
The best way to reach Gen Z is through social media. But don’t use Facebook. There’s been a decline in Facebook usage among this age group.
Instead, bump up your presence on Snapchat and YouTube.
Research shows 71% of Gen Z use Snapchat every day with 51% of them using it 11 times a day. Gen Z watch between 2 to 4 hours of YouTube video each day as well.
They watch YouTube videos more than television. Do you remember I mentioned that the Silent Generation watch 51 hours of TV per week? Well, Gen Z watch only about 3.5 hours TV each week.
Talk about a major difference between the two groups.
They enjoy using multiple digital media platforms simultaneously. That’s because their average attention span is only 8 seconds.
Keep this information in mind when marketing to Gen Z. You can reach them on the social platforms they use the most.
Just because they bought something from your brand in the past doesn’t mean they will do it again if they are not pleased with your product.
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.