It’s Your Business: Putting generations into a marketing perspective

Joe Smith

Special to The Record

Whatever your business, it is essential to understand today’s generational differences in order to effectively communicate with younger or older audiences.

Never before in the history of marketing has there been such a wide range of consumer demographics and a variety of tactics needed in order to entice people to pay attention to what you are selling.

For example: as a marketer, do you know whether your customers fall within the Baby Boomer crowd, the newer generations of X, Y and Z, or those labeled as the Silent Generation?

While difficult to go into detailed analysis of each group (and their sub-groups) in one column, there are some key characteristics that can be identified to point you in the right direction.

Demographically, the Silent Generation represents people born between 1927 and 1945. These folks represent about 10 per cent of residents in the Comox Valley. Generally conservative, it is essential to earn their trust and prove you have something they really value. They likely rely on traditional mass media for information.

Baby Boomers (those born between 1946 and 1964) make up the next generational group. Boomers are the largest consumer sector and control about 70 per cent of all disposable income. They are more tech-savvy than expected, aren’t quite ready to think of themselves as ‘aging’ and generally want to lead an active lifestyle. Marketing to them requires a broader multi-channel strategy.

Following the Boomers is Generation X, which includes those born between 1965 and 1976. The stereotype of a typical “X-er” can be classified as financially responsible, family oriented, somewhat self-reliant and looking for transparency. If you can reflect these values in your message, you’ll make a connection.

While they started off life classified as Generation Y, people born between 1977 and 1995 are now commonly referred to as Millennials. Building relationships plays an important role in their daily lives and social media platforms are likely the best way to reach them.

People born from 1996 onwards have been labeled iGen and Centennials but are now often referred to as Generation Z. By 2020 they will account for nearly 40 per cent of all consumers. They know the power of technology and don’t care what you are selling, but instead, what you can do to help them. You’ll need to capture their attention in eight seconds or less — likely through their mobile devices.

Our challenge as marketers is to clearly distinguish which generation(s) our products appeal to. Do we create communication strategies that reach out to just one group, or do we need plans that can build bridges to help us connect with multiple generations?

One encouraging research report indicates that people of all age demographics are becoming increasingly multi-platform, so reaching everyone should become easier as time goes by.

Joe Smith is a communications consultant and an accomplished fine artist. He can be reached via email at joesmith@shaw.ca

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