We’ve been hearing a lot lately about the different generations in our country, but what does it all mean? Sure, we’ve heard the term “boomer” and “millennial” but do these archetypes have any place in marketing? The answer is yes!

What Determines a “Generation”?

According to The Center for Generational Kinetics, a leader in generational research, “A generation is a group of people born around the same time and raised around the same place.” This Ph.D. led group of researchers notes that people born in and around the same period of time exhibit similar characteristics, preferences, and values over their lifetimes. (CGK) Essentially, people born around the same time experience the same national and global events like economic shifts, national and international conflict, cultural movements, and changes in political structure that shape their viewpoints, personal habits, and individual philosophies.

What Are the Generations?

There are five commonly agreed upon generations currently identified in the United States:

  • Gen Z, iGen, or Centennials: Born 1996 – TBD
  • Millennials or Gen Y: Born 1977 – 1995
  • Generation X: Born 1965 – 1976
  • Baby Boomers: Born 1946 – 1964
  • Traditionalists or Silent Generation: Born 1945 and before

(CGK)

Finding Key Patterns Among Each Generation

Understanding buying patterns is a huge part of an effective marketing strategy. At the end of the day, whether you’re trying to get people to buy a product, invest in an idea, or take an action, you’re selling something. Understanding the buying philosophy of each generation is key to creating effective messaging and marketing campaigns that convert. According to CGK, all generations exhibit similar characteristics like communication, shopping, and motivation preferences because they have experienced similar trends at approximately the same life stage and through similar channels. (CGK) This means that members of any particular generation will develop and share similar values, beliefs, and expectations. In other words, what works for one group is not likely to work for the next.

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Predicting Buying Behavior

When we look at our target audiences through a generational lens, we can identify the best ways to reach, inform, and persuade them based on what we know they respond to effectively. For example, Generation X, responsible for about $357 billion in annual spend per year (Epsilon) are more likely to respond to email marketing than any other group, while Gen Z prefers the authenticity of video and face-to-face interaction (RRD)

Understanding What Motivates Each Generation

Gen Z

Annual Spend: $143 billion
Social media channel of choice: TikTok, SnapChat, YouTube
Most responsive to: Video, influencers
Device of choice: Smartphones

Key Characteristics:

  • Have never known life without the internet
  • Distrusting of branding and advertising
  • Prefers testimonials/influencer content
  • Prefers to see real people in real situations
  • Dislikes ads that make life look perfect
  • Prefers brands that contribute to social and economic causes
  • Most likely to pre-shop on smartphones
  • Does not like Facebook or Twitter

Millennials

Annual Spend: $322.5 billion
Social media channel of choice: Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest
Most responsive to: Reviews, Blogs
Device of choice: Multi-Device

Key Characteristics:

  • The largest group in the work force
  • Does not like traditional ads
  • Prefers user-generated content, social selling, word of mouth
  • Suspicious of being sold or lied to by brands
  • Prefers companies that support a cause
  • Very price conscious/seeks the best value
  • Motivated by brand engagement, especially through social media

Gen X

Annual Spend: $357 billion
Social media channel of choice: Facebook, LinkedIn
Most responsive to: Word of Mouth, Email Marketing
Device of choice: Desktop or Laptop

Key Characteristics:

  • Prefers honest and clear product and marketing messages
  • Requires clear paths to purchase
  • Most likely to conduct online research at home and shop in person
  • Most influenced by email marketing campaigns
  • Prefers unique, high-quality products
  • Customer service is the most important driver of loyalty
  • Incentivized by discounts/freebies/coupons
  • Does not care for brand engagement

Baby Boomers

Annual Spend: $548.1 billion
Social media channel of choice: Facebook
Most responsive to: Traditional Advertising
Device of choice: NA – Prefer in-person interaction

Key Characteristics:

  • Holds customer service above all other factors
  • Most likely to abandon purchase based on customer service interaction
  • Unlikely to test new products/maintains brand loyalty
  • Unlikely to use friend or family referrals in decision making
  • Highest percentage to prefer in-store shopping
  • Prefers to purchase local rather than online
  • Will use social media as entry point into brand or product research
  • Prefers loyalty programs, but they must be straightforward
  • Prefers simplicity and easy to understand content

The Silent Generation

Annual Spend: $162.9 billion
Social media channel of choice: NA
Most responsive to: Direct Mail
Device of choice: NA – Prefer in-person interaction

Key Characteristics:

  • Prefers direct mail, newsletters, postcards, flyers
  • Requires simple, straightforward content
  • Prefers imagery that relates to their age group
  • Values include family, patriotism, community, and respect

About Us

Ocreative is a Milwaukee marketing agency, with expertise and broad experience in developing digital marketing strategies, and growing their online presence, for their clients. The company’s core values include offering the highest level of customer service, award-worthy quality, and performance that surpasses client expectations. Ocreative is located just outside Milwaukee, and works with clients locally, nationally, and globally. Their clients have access to some of the most fun and knowledgeable professionals around – ones who inspire, educate, and problem solve. The agency provides marketing and brand strategyadvertising and designwebsite design and social media, and video expertise to their clients, fulfilling their desire for business growth, and their aspiration to make a mark on their industry.

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