Best Practices for Marketing to Specific Generations

Jacquelyn Walhberg

Jacquelyn Walhberg About The Author

Dec 22, 2020 10:27:00 AM

Best Practices for Marketing to Specific Generations

In 2019, Netflix spent a reported $2.65 billion on marketing. Their biggest target audience? Millennials. Recognizing this group's growing needs and lifestyles combined with their desire to share content with friends, Netflix used their favorite social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter to reach them. Features that connect social accounts to Netflix satisfy millennial wishes and allow the streaming service to continually market to that generation. Offering exclusive content, ease-of-use, and continuously upgraded applications, the company's revenue that year grew to $20.15 billion

This kind of generational marketing targets consumers in an age group based on their preferences and behaviors. Done correctly, it gives the audience exactly what they want when they need it, in the way they would like to receive it.

Here are a few tips for marketing to specific generations. 

Identifying Generations

A generation is defined as a group of people born within a particular time span who share similar age and life experiences. Each generation covers approximately 15 years, more or less.

Baby Boomers

Born between 1946 and 1964, Boomers are currently between 56 and 74 years old. They are the biggest consumers of traditional media like television, radio, newspapers, and magazines. While this generation has the most wealth, they are concerned with outliving their retirement funds. Despite being traditional, a majority of boomers have a social media account. 

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Gen X

Between the ages of 40 and 55, Generation X was born between 1965 and 1980. While they still read newspapers, listen to the radio, and watch television, this group is increasingly tech-savvy. Members of GenX are involved in raising a family and taking care of aging parents. A higher percentage than any other generation has a Facebook account.

Millennials or Gen Y

Having a larger population than any other group, millennials, or Generation Y, is nicknamed the "Me Generation." Born between 1980 and 1996, this group is currently between the ages of 24 and 39. While they still watch television, streaming services such as Netflix are the popular choice over cable. Entering the workforce strapped with high amounts of student debt, millennials have less brand-loyalty than previous generations. They are incredibly comfortable with mobile devices and typically have multiple social media accounts.

Gen Z

Generation Z refers to the group born between 1996 and 2012. These 8 to 24-year-olds are typically students who grew up playing with their parents' mobile phones and laptops and got their own mobile device at about the age of 10. Growing up in a hyper-connected world, the smartphone is their preferred method of communicating and receiving content. They spend an average of 3 hours per day on their mobile devices. 

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Show the Target Generation in Your Ads

The best way to show your target generation that your product is ideal for them is to include members of the generation in your ads. Include them as characters interacting with your brand in scripted commercials, feature them in photo shoots, and get testimonials from them to help your audience relate to your ads. 

However, even though you are targeting a specific generation, remember to keep your efforts diverse to reach as wide an audience as possible. 

Avoid Generational Stereotypes

Relying on stereotypes insults your target generation and can have negative effects on your campaign. The last thing you want is for potential customers to feel alienated and ultimately turned off. Learn how the audience perceives themselves and find out what appeals to them. Brands that reject stereotyping enjoy more engagement, greater brand perception, and most importantly, higher revenues.  

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Know Where Your Audience is in the Buyer's Journey

No matter what generation you are targeting, it is essential that you understand where they are in the buyer's journey. This is your best hope for getting your message across. 

  • Awareness Stage: the consumer realizes a problem
  • Consideration Stage: the buyer looks for options to solve that problem
  • Decision Stage: the best solution is converted into a sale

The ability to speak to your target generation at each stage is the best opportunity for a successful campaign.  

Understand the Generation's Spending Power

What are the considerations of the generation you are targeting? Are they saving for retirement or trying to pay off student loans? Are they currently making life-long purchases, or are they more interested in short-term, in-the-moment spending?

When you note the target generation's ability to spend, you can better understand how to market to them. Your products or services must be within the purchasing power of the group in general. Not realizing this can have your audience feeling like you are out of touch with them.

Invest in Favored Platforms and Channels

Because the goal is to reach your target generation where they are, you must be prepared to invest in their favorite channels and platforms. For example, if you are trying to market to Gen Z, Facebook will not help you. Teens and young adults like Instagram and video platforms like TikTok and YouTube; Gen Xers and Boomers are more likely to depend on that Facebook account.

The times of day your audience tends to frequent those channels answers when you should advertise to them. Positioning your message across favored media during peak time frames offers the best chance for engagement. Other forms of online entertainment that your target prefers, like sporting events or concerts, are also good options. 

To capture a wide audience or target a consumer in a specific life stage, consult with your media partner for assistance in generational marketing.