Generational Differences and Purchasing Decisions

When you’re marketing products to the public, there are many different demographics you need to consider. Geographic location, education, income, gender, age and race are important considerations. Studies have shown that targeted messages work better than marketing that is created to reach the general population. A lot of attention has been given to generational differences because Baby Boomers, Generation Xers and Millennials take different approaches to making decisions. Effective marketing campaigns include generational preferences.

Each generation spans a range of years. There is some disagreement among experts on the exact years, but most agree that Baby Boomers were born between 1946 through 1964. Generation Xers were born in the years 1965 through 1979 and Millennials were born during 1980 through approximately 1998. Some people are on the cusp of two generations. A person born in 1966 may have more in common with most Baby Boomers than Generation Xers. People in the same generation can be at different life stages. So, when you are planning your approach to a particular demographic, remember that your advertising strategy may need to encompass more than one generation.  

Members of each generation share some general characteristics and certain messages resonate with one age group more than others. Keep in mind, however, that some characteristics have more to do with life stages than whether the group you’re targeting consists of Baby Boomers, Generation Xers or Millennials. Baby Boomers are more concerned with retirement while Millennials are more focused on career building and starting families.

Baby Boomers grew up with newspapers, magazines and television. They wrote and received letters to keep in touch with friends and family. They typically prefer talking on the phone to using electronic communication. They often use these types of information to make decisions about purchases.

How do you market best to this generation? Marketers often find success by sending coupons and special discount offers through the mail or in newspapers and magazines. Face-to-face communication is also a great way to get Baby Boomers interested in products. They’re less likely to shop online for large purchases than other generations. Inviting them to showrooms and offering sample products can be very effective. They like to see and try out products for themselves.

Generation Xers like research. They don’t respond to advertising in the same way that Baby Boomers do. They’re more skeptical than their older counterparts and are often annoyed by phone calls and aren’t as interested in face-to-face meetings. Never use aggressive or pushy sales techniques with them as these tactics will backfire. You can still reach them effectively through ads on television, radio and print media. They also respond to digital marketing strategies, provided these techniques provide them with a lot of information. Since Generation Xers were affected by serious financial crises, they are motivated by financial savings. This generation responds to companies that help them build a sense of security.  

7791852_sMillennials are the first generation to grow up in the digital age. They are comfortable with many different types of technology. You’ve seen the rapid growth of social media in the last decade. This is because Millennials use digital methods to do much of their communicating. When they watch television or read articles, they usually do it through digital devices. They use social media as their main way of communicating and gathering information. Millennials tend to support social causes and often make purchasing decisions based on their understanding of companies and products. They will want information about how the products affect the environment and the causes they support.

Your company needs to engage with Millennials in a different way that with Baby Boomers or Generation Xers. Clearly, the best way to reach them is through digital means but you cannot reach all potential customers in the same way. Do research to find out where your target audience “hangs out.” They may engage with certain websites and types of social media. These areas are where you should focus your messages instead of sending out broad advertisements.

All three generations, Baby Boomers, Generation X and Millennials, share similarities. They want information before they make a purchase. The key is to provide them with information in their preferred method. You’ll find that younger people respond more to social media while older people prefer more traditional types of advertising. Keep in mind that all members of a generation aren’t the same. Some older people engage in technology more than their peers while some younger people aren’t as engaged in social media as others.