Identifying Audiences by Generation
March 13, 2023
Carefully targeting your audience is a crucial component of every media plan. Without over-generalizing, it is important to recognize that the different generations have shared values, behaviors, preferences, and attitudes towards products and services. By understanding the unique characteristics and preferences of each generation, brands and agencies can create more effective marketing campaigns that resonate with their target audience and increase engagement.
This post, the first in a series on generational marketing, will seek to answer the question: what are some of the unique characteristics, behaviors, and personality traits of each current generation?
Sometimes called the Silent Generation, these are the babies that were born before and during World War II. These are elderly individuals in their 70s, some of which have not yet retired. Their parents experienced the Great Depression and instilled a strong work ethic that make the Traditionalists reluctant to fully leave the workforce. They are also known for their loyalty and dedication to their work and their families. They also love their careers and often don’t know what they would do to occupy time if they retire.
As consumers, Traditionalists tend to value quality and reliability in products and services. They are often frugal and price-conscious, but they are also willing to pay more for products that are well-made and trustworthy. They tend to prefer established and well-known brands and may be less interested in newer, trendier products.
Mostly raised by Traditionalists, the Baby Boomers have probably been studied more than any other generation. Rebelling against their parents’ strictness with money, the Boomers embraced consumerism and launched the behavior of ‘keeping up with the Joneses’, utilizing the new trend of consumer debt financing to define their status with material possessions.
Baby Boomers are also known for their idealism and activism, and have been involved in social and political movements such as civil rights, feminism, and environmentalism. As consumers, they tend to value quality and service over price, and they are willing to pay more for products and services that meet their needs and preferences. Baby Boomers also value experiences and are willing to spend money on travel, entertainment, and other leisure activities.
Often called ‘the forgotten generation,’ this is a smaller generation that is sometimes lost in all the attention on the friction between the Boomers and the Millennials. Generation X is known for being independent, self-reliant, and adaptable, due in part to growing up in an era of family breakdowns, rising divorce rates, and increased economic uncertainty. They have also been characterized as skeptical, pragmatic, and less idealistic than previous generations. But members of this generation are more expressive and more likely to wear their heart on their sleeve than their parents and grandparents.
As consumers, Generation X tends to be pragmatic, value-conscious, and focused on their families and careers. They are less likely to be swayed by marketing hype and more likely to make informed decisions based on practical considerations. Although not as tech-savvy as Millennials, Generation X was the first generation to grow up with personal computers and technology. They are comfortable with technology and are early adopters of new gadgets and devices.
The largest and most-studied generation besides the Baby Boomers, the Millennial generation was born between the early 80s and late 90s. Along with Gen X, Millennials are considered a ‘sandwich’ generation, often put in the position of caring for their Boomer and Traditionalist parents while also raising their Gen Z children. Often slandered as the ‘participation trophy’ generation, Millennials do have a higher sense of entitlement and a greater reluctance to perform work they don’t find meaningful.
As consumers, Millennials are comfortable with technology and driven by convenience, which means they tend to shop online more than previous generations. They also value personalization, so brands and agencies need to focus on providing tailored experiences that cater specifically to this demographic. Additionally, millennials are more likely to research products before purchasing them, so brands need to make sure they have an informative website and presence across multiple channels.
Raised in a digital world, Gen Z is enormously tech-savvy. Highly active online, they possess a greater level of self-awareness and a surprising amount of buying power, making this generation very influential on (while also being very influenced by) older generations.
As consumers, Gen Z relies heavily on social media for information, inspiration, and validation. They are more likely than older generations to buy products that are popular among their peers or endorsed by social media influencers. Having grown up in an era of instant gratification, they expect fast and convenient shopping experiences. Gen Z are more likely to buy from brands that offer quick delivery, easy returns, and frictionless payment options.
In future posts, I will expand upon the behavior and preferences of these individual generations, as well as how to identify and target the different personas within each generation. A greater understanding of what motivates each generation, what products they prefer, and how they interact with brands online can help brands and agencies better target their media marketing efforts to these broad demographics and specific personas. In the meantime, feel free to reach out with any specific questions on how we can help you target your next campaign!