Generational Marketing: How to Age-Perfect Your Social Strategy

by Brittany McSorley

Digital marketing on Cape Cod can be tricky when it comes to generation gaps. Many older people call the Cape home, but there is a vibrant younger crowd to account for as well. To make sure you’re getting the most out of your marketing efforts, it’s important to make generational considerations: Who are you trying to reach? How old are they? And what does that mean about them?


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Generational marketing is the practice of targeting your content to appeal to a specific age demographic. The technique relies on key information about each generation’s values, habits, and needs.


According to Brafton, the consumer landscape in the U.S. currently looks like this:

  • There are more than 70 million baby boomers (born between 1946 and 1964).
  • There are more than 60 million members of Gen X (born between 1965 and 1980).
  • There are more than 80 million milliennials (born between 1981 and 1996).
  • There are more than 60 million members of Generation Z (born in 1997 or later).


Depending on your specific business, you may need to market to just one of these generations, all of them, or a combination. Becoming familiar with the specifics of each generation can help you more effectively market to your target age group(s).


As a first and general rule, the younger someone is, the more they tend to use social media. Marketing to Gen Z is almost always going to require more digital know-how than selling to a baby boomer. However, it’s important not to run away with this broad stroke. There are more subtle marketing methods that can really energize your efforts.


Marketing by Spending Power

Weirdly enough, older people have more money. If your product or service is pricey, you may want to focus your marketing toward older generations. Baby boomers are no longer the most populous generation in the U.S., but they do still have the most spending power, and will likely remain the wealthiest generation for at least another decade. If your product appeals to baby boomers, hurl some serious marketing strategy their way.


Generation X has money to spend as well, and they may be more willing to spend it because many are raising families right now, so they deserve your attention too.


Millennials, on the other hand, are poor. What can I say? We got screwed. The 2008 economic collapse, student loan debt, and the fact that people seem to be violently allergic to keeping wage growth on pace with inflation have dealt us a nasty hand. Millennials have to be careful with the money they do have, making them a difficult marketing target. Consider your strategy carefully if you want millennial conversion.


Finally, Generation Z is still on deck, but their potential to become big spenders in the near future makes them an important influence in the marketing world. Unless you sell specifically to the younger crowd, don’t obsess over them quite yet. Just keep an eye on what they value.


Marketing by Platform 

Facebook still reigns supreme as the most-used social media platform by all age groups. The younger you are, the more likely you are to use it, but even the older generations are scrolling the News Feed in healthy numbers. 36 percent of people over 65 years old use Facebook, and the younger the users, the higher that percentage goes. Do not skimp on Facebook marketing.


There is a trend toward other social platforms, however, in Generation Z. Members of this generation tend to prefer Snapchat and Instagram, so if you need younger eyes on your content, you should be using more than just Facebook to win them over.


Both Gen Z and millennials really love YouTube, so consider video content as a method for reaching them.


Despite all this, the digital marketing technique with highest return on investment is still email. Email! Everyone has an email address, so don’t forget to take advantage of that in your marketing strategy.


Marketing by Content

Even if you have the right platform and income bracket in mind, you still need strong marketing content. The specific quirks of each generation come in handy here.


Baby boomers love Facebook, so sponsored ads on that platform are a good idea. They have the time and patience to read longer pieces, so high-quality blog posts, reviews, and articles are strong methods for reaching them. They’re avid emailers and coupon users, so a timely email campaign with a discount offer can work wonders.


Generation X is also all over Facebook, so they’re likely to engage with ads on the platform too. They watch and download a lot of video, send a lot of emails, and use Twitter. They’ll also reward clear and straightforward blog content.


Millennials came of age with technology, so they are extremely tech-savvy and incredibly active on social media. They’re on Facebook like everyone else, but they’re also on nearly every other platform in impressive numbers, so try to spread your marketing effort around. Take advantage of the every-millennial-has-a-smartphone thing with mobile and video marketing. And don’t be afraid of user-generated content. Millennials trust nobody but themselves, so sharing reviews, tweets, or blogs from their peers is a smart way to win them over.


Gen Z is still young, but don’t dismiss them. They can influence the way their parents spend money, and they’ll soon be spending their own. Social media is key for Gen Z, as are memes, gifs, and shorter videos. Visually pleasing content will do well with this generation, as they’ve grown up around impressive visual technology. They’re used to things being pretty, so try to meet that expectation.


Marketing by Values

It’s vital to consider the values of each generation when you’re crafting marketing content.


Baby boomers value personal relationships, work ethic, and the traditional idea of the American dream. They’re largely focused, career-driven hard workers, so productivity and practical value very much appeal to them.


Generation X is less intense, valuing a work-life balance and a sense of independence. Anything promising flexibility or autonomy is very appealing to Gen X.


Millennials love innovation. They see technology as a solution, not just a means to an end. They value access, ease, and sustainability, and they care about social justice. They’ll use their money to support causes they believe in, and withhold money from those doing harm, so make sure you know where you stand.


Generation Z is definitely tech-obsessed too. They value individualism and potential. They’re very worried about the future (can’t imagine why), so showing them a path to something better is a good marketing start.


Whether you need to target a very specific demographic, or you’re looking to customize your marketing efforts across the board, thinking in terms of generation can really change the game.



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