Age is a straightforward way to gain insight into your audience, and it’s a cornerstone of segmenting, or categorizing customers into different groups. “It’s no secret that different generations of consumers think differently,” Peter Daisyme, co-founder of web hosting company Hostt, said in Entrepreneur. What you learn can be incorporated into marketing messages and mediums. Or, as Daisyme referenced with CoverGirl’s 2017 decision to add 69-year-old Maye Musk as its oldest spokesmodel, you can ensure the brand remains diverse in marketing to different generations.

Some companies aren’t as effective when they target audience age groups. When they make sweeping generalizations about age groups in their advertising, backlash ensues. The proper context is essential to implementing generational marketing in a thoughtful, genuine way.

Context for Generational Marketing

You can have marketing strategies for different generations, but there are two significant caveats in play. Generational marketing should be done with other marketing aspects in mind, and you need to avoid clichés and stereotypes about age groups.

The first key is to remember the place of generational marketing. Unfortunately, there’s no easy way to define how age pertains to your industry and business. You’ll need to take the time to learn more about your audience and shopper preferences. If age is irrelevant to buyer personas in your industry and how your business is conducted (e.g., you only sell online), then you should move on to areas that make sense to guide marketing efforts. Get the data you need to determine how age is relevant to your brand.

The other thing to remember is how easy it can be to generalize. For instance, Daisyme warned against the myth that millennials are selfish and pointed out how important it is to not portray seniors negatively. It’s also a bad idea to engage in inauthentic attempts at fitting in. According to Generation Z marketer Gisella Tan in Medium, trying out social humor or using “lit” to describe a product to the youngest generation will fail unless the brand already has that type of identity.

Generational marketing has to be relevant and authentic to be effective. If both conditions aren’t met, marketing time and money are wasted and, in some cases, the brand could suffer.

Marketing to Different Generations

Here’s a quick look at major attributes for each generation.

Baby Boomers (1946 – 1964)

They may not be the largest generation anymore, but they’re not far behind millennials. And baby boomers are perhaps the most valuable generation, given their wealth. According to a report from marketing research publisher Packaged Facts, boomers possess 54% of all U.S. household wealth.

Boomers didn’t grow up with the internet. However, it’s a common misconception to assume that they’re not tech savvy. Overlooking this generation with digital marketing is a somewhat common mistake that exemplifies stereotypes in generational marketing. According to marketing data and technology company V12, boomers are comfortable shopping online and 85% research products online. In terms of social media, they stick to traditional platforms, with Facebook leading the pack.

Generation X (1965 – 1976)

Often forgotten in favor of boomers and millennials due to size, Generation Xers make up 25% of the U.S. population but have 31% of its total income dollars, according to B12. What’s most notable about this generation is their brand loyalty.

Gen Xers have the highest brand loyalty among all generations, based on a study by eMarketer. Their extreme brand loyalty beats out boomers and millennials, and most Gen Xers are less interested in trying new brands than younger consumers, according to marketing publication Retail Dive. More than 40% of Gen Xers stick to brands they like. In terms of technology, this generation is comfortable in digital channels, with email being the most important channel. Facebook and Twitter are the most notable social networks.

Millennials or Generation Y (1977 – 1995)

Millennials are digital natives. They consume a great deal of online content and are content producers themselves. A wide range of social media networks, digital video, and mobile are all relevant for millennials.

They’re swayed more by influencers than other generations, opening up opportunities for brands to locate niche platforms and communities that cater to certain segments of audiences. Another important attribute for millennials is their value for advocacy and referrals. According to technology company Medallia Institute, three out of four millennials perform extensive research before deciding on a purchase, and 50% say that online reviews were a major factor for a recent purchase.

Generation Z (1996)

Generation Zers were brought up with smartphones. As you can imagine, they’re incredibly tech-savvy. According to a study from customer management firm Epsilon, Gen Zers are two times more likely to use online-only stores than any other generation. They thrive on self-serve options where they retain control.

Gen Zers prefer Snapchat and Instagram for social networks. When it comes to media, “have all but abandoned traditional television viewing, opting to watch shows, movies and other digital content on their phones, tablets and laptops,” according to CNBC. “This shift has led content producers to go where Gen Z lives — YouTube.” They spend more than three hours a day watching videos online.

Integrating Generational Marketing

Marketing to different generations require thoughtful implementation. You’ll need to avoid stereotyping the tendencies and habits of certain ages. Instead, look at who your customers are (or should be), and then develop campaigns and messaging strategies that are more likely to reach and resonate with your audience. Insights about age should combine with other demographics and data that you have to create buyer personas and to test what works with your customers.

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