Marketing to Multiple Generations

by Susan on April 29, 2010

I recently created this comparison to give my audience at the Lincolnshire International Partners Meeting an overview of how to market to the four different generations that are currently in the workplace.  The most important thing I learned while putting this together is that Generation Y, which hasn’t even hit its stride in terms of major earning years, has more buying power than Gen X.  It was also interesting to see just how many people make up that generation – nearly as many as the baby boom.  If your company doesn’t have a marketing strategy for Generation Y, you are missing out on a huge group of consumers with enormous purchasing power.

Silver Birds/Silent Generation Baby Boomers77 million Generation X54 million Generation Y/Millenials74 million
Age 65+Born 1945 and earlier 46 – 64Born 1946 – 1964 31-45Born 1965 – 1979 30 and youngerBorn 1980 – present
Major Influencing Events Great DepressionWorld War II

Pearl Harbor

VietnamThe Sixties DivorceThreat of nuclear war AIDS Sept. 11
Characteristics Hungry for knowledge & human interaction. Led the way toward social change and are now retiring. Grew up with prosperity and are into status symbols. Have high expectations and want to be fulfilled in every aspect of their lives. Are willing to live with less “stuff” to have the lifestyle they want. Work to live; don’t live to work. Postponed marriage & childbirth, so starting families now. Self-reliant, skeptical, independent. Want to be respected, and technology is an expectation. Very media savvy and team oriented. Patriotic.  Tending toward earlier marriage and childbirth than Gen X. Confident and culturally diverse.
Tech Savvy More active in chat rooms and message boards than Boomers! 80% use cell phones (same rate as ages 18 to 34). 71% of 60-somethings and 52% of 70-somethings used a search engine in the past week, compared with 77% of those ages 18-34. One in 4 uses social sites regularly. Grew up with VCR’s and video games. X’ers are very technologically savvy, had personal computers at school and home. Experienced the growth of interactive media. 49% of have built Web sites, and 25% have their own blogs. This technology-based group communicates differently than generations that preceded them.
How to Sell to Them Appeal to their interest in seeking new experiences. Too disciplined to spend frivolously, so appeal to their conviction that they have earned a full retirement and that they are still young enough to enjoy it. Prefer doing business with an established institution, so emphasize your company history. They don’t want a salesperson; they want a friend in the business. Testimonials and expert endorsements also tend to work with this group. Boomers want to have personalized service that doesn’t discount them for being 50+ but doesn’t appeal to them as though they wish they were kids.  Boomers want to do business with companies that are real and authentic, and that will give something back to their lives and the environment. Create new and meaningful experiences for them, and they will respond.  Status symbols are appealing. They know they are being analyzed and sold to and are more cynical than their predecessors. With more information at their fingertips via the Internet, they want to carefully evaluate their choices and reach their own purchasing decisions. This discriminating pattern often discourages brand loyalty.  They don’t trust companies or care about status, so focus on word of mouth marketing and social proof. Respond to their expectation for instant communication. They want to be treated with respect, and not condescended to.  TV isn’t King for Gen Y, and they don’t care about your ad. They care what their friends think and love to win.  Use word of mouth marketing through referrals and contests with this group. No matter what, don’t talk down to them.
Buying Power Consumers over age 50 now hold three-quarters of the country’s financial assets.  By 2010, nearly 33% of American adults will be over age 40, and they will have nearly $800 billion in combined economic power. $125 billion annual purchasing power $150 billion a year.



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