Optimize My Brand

Strategy, tactics, ideas and tips from Creative Company.

The Generation Gap and your marketing strategy

Who is your target audience?

With four distinct generations to reach, understanding how your audience connects and what they expect is more important than ever.

Defining your audiences is one of the first steps in creating an optimized brand. You can’t plan your program from the point of choice if you don’t understand how different generations choose. Generational characteristics will guide how and where you communicate, the audience personas and the points of choice where you focus your brand.

Each generation has their own set of values, perspectives, expectations and communication styles. Connecting from your own viewpoint when your target audience is from a different generation can be a big mistake. You’ll lose them.

You’ve seen communication technology change rapidly in the last five to ten years — from the internet as a primary source of information to the rapid growth of social media to the now ever-present mobile media on smart phones and devices like the iPad. You’ve heard stories of seniors challenged with technology, or Boomers adopting Facebook to keep in touch with family. And  you know those “youngsters” are technology addicts.

Of course each generation has a different attitude. It’s often called the Generation Gap! Those different outlooks will affect your brand — from design style to chosen media to messaging. Active layouts with lots of entry points for easily-bored Gen Ys, or larger type and more contrast for bifocal-wearing Boomers. So much to consider.

A few insights on the four generations

World events, the economy, technology changes, immigration and the size of the generation all influence attitudes and choices.

The Silent Generation – 1925 to 1945

2005 Census – 63 million
The smallest generation of the century. Lived through the depression and WWII. Conservative, patriotic, reliable, formal, low-tech, prefer traditional print and TV media, good at mentoring, take the time to read and visit in person.

The Boomers – 1946 to 1964

2005 Census – 78 million
Peak birth year, 1957. The “me” generation is driving the market, controls 70% of nation’s wealth. Time-starved lifestyle, must look and feel good while aging, career-focused, in the midst of transitions between aging parents and adult children. Traditional media reaches them, and they are rapidly adopting social media … as social.

Gen X – 1965 to 1984

2005 census – 68 million
First generation of latch-key children, learned to be self-reliant, want to know the results instead of process, savvy and cynical consumers, technology adopters, less career-focused than Boomers. Smaller generation means more job opportunities as Boomers age.

Gen Y – 1985 to 2010

2005 Census – 79 million, expected to be 100 million by 2010.
One third are minorities and most are second generation Latinos. Smart, tech-savvy, idealistic, girls are equals, want to contribute, multi-taskers, want authenticity, family-oriented, often multiple sets of parents and grandparents spoiling them, huge consumer group. Embrace all things green. 70% sleep with their cellphone.

Times change. Fast.

How do you sort through the many different ways to connect and choose the best? First get clear about your target audience — generational perspective, expectations, choices they have and how they want to interact.

  • Newspapers will still reach an older audience, but a twenty-something will never see a newspaper ad.
  • A student researching a college will look first at the website, probably on a smartphone, then check social media to discover the inside story.
  • Boomer professionals are bombarded with email, and will often check it on the weekend on their mobile phone or tablet.
  • Nearly every generation starts their search online when considering a purchase — product or service.
An optimized brand builds from the point of choice of your target audience.

Once you understand the generation you’re reaching, you’ll choose the media they’re most likely to use. You don’t need to cover all the bases, just choose the channels your audience chooses. Dig a litttle deeper into generational perspectives with our free worksheet. Download it here.

Interested in how each generation is influencing marketing, our economy and the future? We recommend “The Age Curve” by Kenneth W. Gronbach. A fascinating read.

About the author

Jennifer Larsen Morrow

Jennifer's four decades of work in the industry, starting as a designer and adding marketing, copywriting and digital marketing, has generated response for clients since 1978.

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