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Generational Marketing: communicating to the right target audience


We are in an era in which marketers must primarily address four generations with different biases, desires and, above all, technological skills. 

The approach to marketing that takes these differences into account is called Generational Marketing

A generation is a segment of the population that was born and raised in the same historical period and has absorbed rules, customs, values and ideologies, which have endowed it with certain characteristics common to each of the individuals in it. 

The generations that marketers have to relate to today are:

  • Baby Boomer: born between 1946 and 1964. The name is derived from ‘baby boom’, an expression referring to the high birth rate that occurred after World War II. The Baby Boomers, or just ‘Boomers’, experienced various socio-political tensions and saw movements such as social activism and environmentalism gain ground. Theirs was the era of television and advertising. Thanks to post-war progress, they have been able to make their way into society and become a major economic force. They are often reluctant to adopt new technologies and cutting-edge business approaches because ‘it has always been done this way’;
  • Generation X: born between 1965 and 1980. They experienced the problematic 1970s and the slow recovery of the 1980s. Gen X experienced technological changes first-hand, which made them more adaptable. Their entry into the world of work occurred in parallel with the emergence of the internet and its use in businesses. It is one of the most influential generations in today’s working world. Despite this, it has often been overlooked by marketers. 
  • Generation Y: born between 1981 and 1996. They are known as ‘Millennials’ for coming of age in the new millennium. Children of the Baby Boomers, they are better educated and have a different culture than their parents. Millennials have been using new technologies since childhood. They are idealistic and tend to question everything that is out of step with the times. Those born in the 1980s are inclined to draw a clear line between private and working life. Those born in the 1990s, on the other hand, seek personal fulfilment in work, which, therefore, must satisfy them. The buying behaviour of Gen Y is influenced by what their friends and the people they trust and respect buy. They do a lot of research before buying anything. They prefer to accumulate experiences more than objects. Although surrounded by technology, they prioritise human relationships.
  • Generation Z: born between 1997 and 2009. Having witnessed the conflicts between older siblings and parents, they have grown up with a greater awareness of the differences between the two generations and the socio-cultural, political and economic context in which they live. They tend to choose working careers that can best guarantee them economic stability over time. Technology is a fundamental part of their lives but they do not use it in a superficial way: they need it to speed up and make the activities they perform more effective. While Millennials aim for an image of themselves that is positive if not perfect in the eyes of the beholder, Gen Z aims for authenticity. Therefore, they dislike brands that do not demonstrate consistency, truthfulness and concern for social and environmental issues. By 2025, they will represent the bulk of the workforce and thus the main target audience for brands. 


Millennials and Gen Z: what marketers need to know

If the goal of marketers is to meet the needs of Millennials then they need to know that: 

  • they are always very informed about the products they decide to buy
  • they buy easily in online shops, but prefer physical ones if an experiential purchase is guaranteed in addition to the product assortment 
  • are interested in testing new products, especially if recommended by the peer group
  • prefer shopping from their mobile phone between activities

If, on the other hand, the target group is Gen Z, it is important for marketing and communication experts to understand that:

  • they are always connected
  • they have a low average attention span
  • they like to recognise their own values in companies
  • turn their attention to brands that produce original and creative content
  • seek speed, both in technologies and services 

Already with Gen Y brands were presented with the need to positively care about social and environmental impact, but since Gen Z entered the workforce this need has become compelling. Generation Z is interested in improving the quality of human life and the planet. So the watchwords for marketers must be: transparency, naturalness and respect