The Essential Guide To Generational Marketing

An effective marketing strategy engages people at the right time, right place, and with the right message.

Written by
Monique Lorette
June 13, 2023

An effective marketing strategy engages people at the right time, right place, and with the right message. One way to accomplish this is to consider the differences in marketing to people of different generations or generational marketing. With any marketing, there is a target market, target audience, and buyer personas. A target audience is a group within the entire target market, and within those groups are subgroups of buyer personas. 

For example, if a business offers wine subscriptions, the target market would be anyone above the drinking age of 21. Within that market is the more specific target audience of wine drinkers. The target audience then breaks into buyer personas with different interests and backgrounds, such as new and experienced wine drinkers. When considering that segments of the target audience can contain different generations, marketing teams can adapt to developing campaigns for these various audiences. 

Here is our guide to generational marketing for lifestyle and leisure industries, including characteristics and strategies for different ages. 

What is generational marketing? 

In generational marketing, consumers in the target audience are divided and targeted based on the year in which they were born. The five generations that are going to be discussed are the silent generation, baby boomers, generation X (Gen X), generation Y (millennials), and generation Z (Gen Z). Aside from similarities across generations, each has its own beliefs, values, and expectations based on its experiences with technology, financial stability, education, and other generation-driven social factors. 

These behaviors impact how people get information, interact with brands and make purchasing decisions. While a generational marketing strategy should not be a brand's only approach, it does provide helpful insights that can boost the effectiveness of your campaign. Lifestyle and leisure brands can especially utilize generational marketing because it considers someone's life and what they are passionate about.

Silent Generation

Years: Born between 1928 - 1945 

Characteristics: The oldest generation to market to is the silent generation. Consumers in this segment crave products and services that simplify processes and everyday activities. They value stability and relationships with the brands they spend their money on. This generation is the least tech-savvy and engages with explicit content. 

Strategies: Because this generation may not be as familiar with modern technologies, reach them via traditional marketing like TV, newspapers, magazines, direct mail, and flyers, and some digital marketing like emails and Facebook. Content and visuals should be easy to read and understand.

Baby Boomers

Years: Born between 1946 - 1964

Characteristics: This post-war generation grew up during an economic upturn, hence the name “boomers.” Because of their age and experience in the workforce, they hold the highest purchasing power and disposable income. They spent the beginning portion of their lives without modern technology. Still, they take advantage of mobile devices, online shopping, and at least one social media channel to connect with friends and family. While many don’t need to save money for education or mortgage, some may be more cautious due to recent economic times. Nevertheless, they research products and services online, are motivated by good deals, and are brand loyal. 

Strategies: While some believe traditional advertising (print, radio, TV) is the way to reach this generation, most have smartphones, tablets, and computers and respond well to email and Facebook marketing. The best way to appeal to this group is through coupons, special offers, and loyalty programs. Content should be easily digestible with a clear layout and path to achieve the desired goal. 

Generation X (Gen X)

Years: Born between 1965 - 1976

Characteristics: The smallest and most overlooked segment is generation X. This group grew up in a recession and is more likely to be frugal with their money. Skeptical of typical marketing campaigns, gen X is less trusting of brands and relies on recommendations and reviews from others. While they are hesitant to change, they have been surrounded by modern technology for a significant part of their lives. However, they are most likely to stick to what they know, making them the most brand-loyal generation. They respond well to nostalgia and content that reminds them of their childhood.

Strategies: Gen X responds well to email and social (Facebook) marketing, loyalty programs, discounts, and incentives. They rely on reviews and research to establish a brand’s credibility. In addition, they value honest and straightforward messages, customer service, and a clear path to purchase. 

T-Mobile's unlimited plan is an excellent example of a generational marketing strategy targeting baby boomers and gen x demographics. It reassures this generation and appeals to their desire for transparency and bargains.

Generation Y (Millennials)

Years: Born between 1977 - 1997

Characteristics: Millennials are the first generation to grow up with modern technology and are the largest demographic currently in the workforce. Unlike previous segments, this group is more likely to spend than save and makes decisions based on value, not convenience. This generation is among the first to seek socially and environmentally responsible brands. Campaigns must provide authentic messages, and brands must be transparent with these consumers. Friends, family, and other social advocacy is important to this generation. 

Strategies: Although this generation has become less brand-loyal, marketing should incorporate personalized ways to reward loyal customers. Reach this generation through multichannel campaigns, social media marketing (Facebook and Instagram), email marketing, and SMS marketing. User-generated content and reviews drive their purchasing decisions. They want to spend money on a genuine brand that provides value over selection or ease. They engage with promotions and campaigns that help them become part of a community and donate to charitable causes. 

Generation Z (Gen Z)

Years: Born between 1996 - 2012

Characteristics: Although many people in this generation are still young, they hold significant spending power. While some stress financial stability, they are less likely to sign up for loyalty and rewards programs. In addition, they are the most experienced and dependent on technology, including smartphones and social media. Reviews and recommendations are more valuable to them than other generations. Brands that utilize social selling and actively engage with consumers through comments and messages are more likely to attract generation Z. They desire a more personal connection with brands with a human-like personality. Finally, this generation is more likely to trust brands that engage in ethical and social issues, such as those that are environmentally responsible. 

Strategies: Gen Z is the most familiar with technology and digital mediums such as TikTok, Instagram, Snapchat, and YouTube. Influencer marketing, reviews, and user-generated content engage this generation, especially in video form. They seek personalization and want to be spoken to individually. Brands that practice eco-responsibilities or donate to charities should use this to capture their attention.

Toms’ impact initiative is an excellent example of a generational marketing strategy that targets millennial and gen z demographics and encourages customer interaction. It appeals to these generations' desire to do good for environments and societies.

How do you use generational marketing?

Generational marketing is an initial framework for brands to build on. It helps give a better idea of target markets and their potential customer journeys. Based on generational behaviors and expectations, lifestyle and leisure brands can determine when and where to find them, how to communicate with them, and how to gain their loyalty. Because there is no universal marketing strategy that is effective with all ages, understanding and empathizing with your audience helps your marketing team develop more relatable campaigns that have a better chance of influencing their decisions. 

However, generational marketing may not be appropriate or relevant to all businesses and marketing campaigns. In some instances, those who make assumptions or promote stereotypes about consumers based on age might create an unsuccessful campaign. Rather than using generational marketing as the primary strategy, brands should use it as a starting point to get a feel for consumers’ values, behaviors, and motivations. It is important not to depend exclusively on generational marketing to develop branding and campaign strategies. Of course, other factors impact marketing strategies other than age. For example, the pandemic has affected how target audiences interact with lifestyle and leisure brands. Brands should also establish buyer personas considering first-party and demographic-based data.

Need help establishing your positioning and marketing strategy? Delicious Digital Marketing can help you identify your brand, what makes it unique, and communicate it consistently. Contact us to schedule a free consultation, and check out more blogs and other resources to help grow your business!