It is true to say that in marketing, you can’t reach all of the people, all of the time – some are going to like what you do and others dislike it or simply be ambiguous.  That’s why we put people into categories to help us understand what might work best for them.  One of the biggest categories that marketing has adopted is the use of generations and their types – two of the big ones now are Gen X and Millennials, sometimes known as Gen Y.  But what’s the difference and how do you market to them?

Who’s who?

Do you know where you fall in this unofficial system of named generations?  As the media come to use the terms more often, many of us have realised what label we fall under, even if most (or all) of the description doesn’t apply to use.  Currently, the general definitions are:

  • Baby boomers – born 1946-1964
  • Generation X – born 1965-1980
  • Millennials (Gen Y) – born 1981-2000

No generation sees everyone within it exactly match the stereotypes applied to them but there are a lot of useful facts that can help you target your marketing to reach the particular generation you are focusing on.

Marketing by generation

There’s a bit of a gap in terms of concentrated efforts to market to this group at the moment but this can be a mistake.  While they only make up 25% of the average population, they have big spending power and are statistically earning more money than any other generation at the moment.  While they can be quite traditional in terms of the type of marketing they respond to, they have also wholeheartedly embraced ideas such as online shopping and social media.

Focus on:

  • Video – this is huge, especially on social media and over three-quarters of Gen X download or stream online video at least once a month
  • Cover pain points in blogs – this generation use blog posts to research questions and therefore content marketing needs to focus on doing this
  • Email – they use their smartphone a lot but are still big fans of email and will pay attention to informative, educational and interesting email content

Millennials are the first generation to have the internet and technology from the start and many of them will never have known a time without the online world.  They are hugely tech savvy, with 91% of them being regular internet users, spending an average of 25 hours a week online, according to market research.  They are also very influenced by peers and social proof is a big factor in their decision-making process – 68% of them will use influenced by a friend’s social media post about a purchase.

Focus on:

  • Mobile, mobile, mobile – this generation uses their smartphone for everything so marketing needs to be flawless on these devices
  • Influencer marketing – that peer influence means they are more likely to follow recommendations from a social media influencer than a classic advertising strategy
  • Video – they love video content and this is a great way to get their attention and keep it

Social media

One of the big areas of difference between Gen X and Gen Y is where they spend their time on social media.  Over 65% of Gen X say that Facebook is their favourite social media network yet for the millennials, the figure is much lower, around 33%.  Nearly a quarter of them favour Instagram over other networks while 16% of them like Snapchat best.  Millennials are also more likely to use Twitter than Gen X as a favourite network while all show a preference for YouTube for video content.

However, there are some areas that Gen X and Millennials are very similar.  For example, figures from the US show that 48.8% of Gen X follow brands on social media and 48.6% of Millennials do the same.  This is compared to just 24.5% of the Baby Boomers.

Marketing to all?

Marketing has changed a huge amount with the development of the online world and has forced marketers to reassess how they try to get leads and customers.  By focusing on the general likes and dislikes of the generations, marketers can have some ideas about what to try first and what might work best but should always be aware that stereotypes don’t cover everyone.