A while ago a good friend said, “marketing to Millennials looks like marketing to everyone else.” Marketing to distinct generations is not as tricky as one may have you believe, and if you look closely, you will start to see there are many similarities in how generations are receiving messages as well as similarities in the way we can reach them.

A recent Pew Research study on revealed that 97% of Millennials (ages 18-34) are internet users (no shock there). In addition, 92% of Generation X (ages 35-50) are also internet users. A whopping 83% of Younger Baby Boomers (ages 51-59) are internet users, and a surprisingly high percentage of Older Baby Boomers (ages 60-69) with 76%, using the internet. With the Silent Generation (ages 70-87), 61% of its population are internet users. As you can see, there are a great number of Baby Boomers online – an easy fact to forget when you’re faced with a deluge of articles on marketing to Millennials. Yes, Millennials blazed the trail to the Internet of Things for everyone, but Boomers are not getting left behind. In fact, if you really think about it, Boomers were the first to use technology, many of them using systems like DOS and Unix long before the now common computer even had a graphic interface. This generation is still shaping the future of technology in a variety of ways. Tim Cook – born 1960. Bill Gates – born 1955. Jeff Bezos – born 1964. Jack Ma – born 1964. Reed Hastings – born 1960.

We can no longer assume Baby Boomers are not tech savvy. Boomer Laura Lee Carter says in her Huffington Post article, “From the invention of transistors to the development of the World Wide Web, we have gone from a few hours per day of black-and-white television when we were young, to e-mail and cell phones in the 1990s, to today’s total-immersion, 24/7 world news and infotainment cycle, with flashing ads everywhere we turn.” If that’s not a tech-savvy generation, I don’t know what is.

How large are these populations? According to Pew Research, in the US Millennials (ages 18-34) surpassed Baby Boomers in 2015 as the largest living generation. There were 75.4 million Millennials and 74.9 million Baby Boomers.

Baby Boomers are still an extremely large generation. Together with Millennials they make up nearly half of the population of the United States!

Social media for one is social media for everyone


Millennials and Baby Boomers both use internet almost equally often now. The current thought is of Millennials bringing (maybe “dragging) Baby Boomers to different parts of the internet. Eighty-nine percent of Millennials use some form of social media. Although, that percentage drops off sharply after Generation X at 74%, with only 54% of younger Boomers actively using social media and only 45% of older Boomers actively on social media.

It’s a social media world. So knowing how to win over one generation on social media equals the key to connecting with the other. The difference only comes in the direction you choose to market in – starting with Millennials or starting with Baby Boomers as your target.

But what about the “forgotten generation” or Gen X? According to Hootsuite, like Millennials, Generation X loves Facebook. Unlike Millennials, they’re far less interested in any other social network. Forty-eight percent of Generation X is on Twitter, but less than half of them call themselves active users. This group is even less interested in Instagram (19%, with 8% actively using the platform). Despite this, Generation X is overrepresented in the online shopper population Business Insider predicts Gen Xers present a huge opportunity for retailers with the generation representing 23% of online shoppers while only being 18 percent of the US population. In other words, the social commerce widget built from Millennial-produced content will win Generation X’s dollars too.

There’s another social network that Generation X loves, and that’s Pinterest. According to Ahalogy’s 2015 Pinterest Media Consumption Study, 36% of Pinners and 44% of daily Pinners are between the ages of 30 and 44. And, Boomers, like Generation X, enjoy Pinterest with 40.8% boasting membership.

As these statistics start to blend, you have to realize that channels are not the biggest differentiator when it comes to reaching or distinguishing your audience.

Differences in appeal


Generation Y is very conscious of brand image. For companies marketing their products, this presents an opportunity and a risk, all at the same time.

There are a few things to keep in mind here:

  1. Peer opinions are especially important to Millennials, and this is largely shaped by feedback on social media. Without this, all you have is your marketing message, and Generation Y doesn’t readily trust a marketer’s sales pitch. They value trust. We advise you to use all technological tools you have to establish relationships built on trust.
  2. Keep doing frequent updates providing relevant information about your products and services. Millennials have come to expect instantaneous information about the things they care about.
  3. Communication and advertising towards Millennials may include not only product attributes, but also social causes that those products support. This will help convey personal identity validation.

Some time ago, Gen Xers were thought of as “slackers” by many advertisers. Now poised to overtake the Boomer generation in spending power, marketers would do well to “unforget” this generation.

  1. Although the third largest segment (behind Millennials and Boomers), they control the largest segment of spending power. According to American Express, Gen X has more spending power than any other generation, with 29% of estimated net worth dollars and 31% of total income dollars. This presents a goldmine for marketers.
  2. Sure, they’re worried about crime, climate change and their health, but they still possess an overall optimistic outlook about their future. Messages that enhance that future are key.
  3. They are saving for the future, but they’re also enjoying life. According to American Express, “About two-thirds of upscale Gen Xers and half of mass-market Gen Xers plan to travel for pleasure in the next 12 months. Half of upscale Gen Xers and about one-third of mass-market Gen Xers plan to buy luxury products. Last, but not least, fine wines and premium beers are popular purchases.”

Boomers are very conscious of themselves. This can present a marketer with common traps they should avoid.

  1. There is a difference between “aging” and “aged”. Don’t call a Boomer “old”. Not only do they not see themselves that way, they certainly don’t act that way. Likewise, the words “senior” and “elderly” can make a Boomer think you’re not talking to them and ignore your message.
  2. Boomers feel entitled to live a “good life”. They are attracted to products and experiences that do that or can help them do that.
  3. Keeping the brand promise builds trust with your brand. Say what you’re going to do and then do it every single time.
  4. From Captain Kangaroo selling Schwinn bikes directly to his show’s audience through the 1960’s and being handed credit cards in their 20’s, no other generation seems bred to consume as this one…and to buy.

As marketers, we need to understand who our most likely target audiences are, but as good marketers, we cannot assume that these generations are as unique as many would have us think. With this knowledge, you now know how to reach out better to your audience.

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