While there are five, yes five, generations in the workplace today, the three primary groups are Baby Boomers, Generation Xers and Millennials. The traditionalists, born before 1946, have all but retired, and Generation Z is just starting out. The birth years for each generation vary depending on the source used. That said, regardless of the variations in birth dates, there’s no question that each group has its own personality, preferences and styles. These characteristics impact how they make decisions about the companies they work for and want to do business with, the products and services they buy and the way in which they want to receive and process information. Here’s a brief breakdown by generation.
Marketing by Generations
Baby Boomers (1946-1964)
Baby Boomers are known as individualists. They tend to be more altruistic than their younger colleagues. Often they prefer traditional presentation formats like PowerPoint or print documents to receive information. They like to see research and credible materials that back up sales claims. Many of their buying decisions are based on affordability and value of the product or service being considered. Baby Boomers hold a high regard for education and knowledge, personal and professional contributions. In spite of their senior status, they have a long-term perspective and orientation. First impressions are critical and they don’t make rash decisions. So when marketing to Baby Boomers, take a more traditional approach. Give them the content they crave, and focus on their desire to save money or gain something that is important to them.
Generation X (1965-1981)
Generation Xers are considered a sophisticated group with more than 60% of them having attended institutions of higher learning. They are pragmatic, yet often skeptical when it comes to their purchasing decisions. Unlike Baby Boomers, they are comfortable with the fast pace of change in the business world. In some ways, they are the “sandwich” generation between the more traditional Baby Boomers and the noisy Millennials. As a result, they don’t have as strong an identity as other generations. That said, they value security and protection. Marketing to this group can be a challenge. It requires a focused and concentrated combination approach that includes digital and a traditional outreach.
The number of individuals in this group exceeds Baby Boomers and Gen Xers combined. Millennials are 86 million strong, and they have a significant amount of buying power. Unlike Baby Boomers, they are not loyal to a particular brand or company. If they find something better, they will switch. In many ways, they regard themselves as special. Some observers describe them as “entitled” and note their predisposition and neediness for positive feedback and attention. Whether deserved or undeserved, they are more confident than other generations.
Millennials are less about self and more about teamwork and collaboration than previous generations. They believe in achievement in their work and personal lives. Because of their structured childhoods (day care, after-school sports and activities, mandated time for homework), they might have difficulty handling free time or meeting deadlines set by others. In a 2014 Huffington Post blog, Ryan Donegan offers five tips for marketing to Millennials:
1. Don’t insult their intelligence.
2. Don’t disguise your ad
3. Make it easy to purchase online.
4. Be socially conversational, rather than “viral”.
5. Quality and service matter.
Similar to their Generation X counterparts, Millennials are concerned with safety, but they also value comfort and convenience. While they might make emotional buying decisions, Millennials expect and demand attention to detail when it comes to post-purchase service.
Engaging Multiple Generations
With more people of all ages making purchasing decisions, marketers need to develop strategies and tactics that resonate with multiple generations. Successful marketers recognize that each generation has individual motivators, expectations, desires and experiences that have a dramatic impact on purchasing behaviors. When these unique characteristics are aligned with a comprehensive marketing strategy, it is possible to connect with and engage multiple generations simultaneously.