How to advertise to Baby Boomers, Generation X, Millennials and Generation Z

Each generation has its own unique characteristics so it’s no secret that different age groups have very different patterns of media consumption. If you think about it, each generation has a different language, perception, habits and preferences. A 65-year-old might have no idea what “on fleek” means, or even how to use TikTok. And if they do, bonus points for them.

A couple of months ago, my cousin who was born in 1999 said that she loves buying vintage stuff so I asked her what kind of vintage stuff she buys online. Her answer was iPod. And, we’ve only 6 years between each other. So as a business, if you’re selling secondhand technology products like iPod then your target audience can be Gen Z and when you’re creating ad copies you can include “Vintage” as a keyword. However, this message or keywords might not work for Millennials or Gen X.

That’s why understanding each generation’s preferences, values and habits is essential while creating a communication and marketing strategy. In this blog, we’ll explain the preferences of the four largest generations (baby boomers, gen x, millennials and gen z), and how you can communicate with them online.

Baby Boomers

People Born between 1946 and 1964

Baby boomers form 21.3% of the UK population, making up one of the largest consumer groups. Today they’re the directors and CEOs of companies so even though they’re not the largest generation, they have greater spending power than younger generations. Yet, this generation is the less tech savvy one. Until Covid-19 hit the world and forced us to shop online, they were mostly shopping in-stores. Now Boomers are spending 49% more online compared to the previous year, and their purchase frequency also jumped by 40%. More good news, they’re willing to keep this habit.

So even though they are not digital natives, today 80% of boomers prefer to spend their time online.

Baby Boomers: audience profile

Targeting Baby Boomers Online: the golden rules

  1. Follow a clear and simple tone of voice
  2. Use Facebook as your main communication channel
  3. Instead of running online ads, engage with them through authentic content on social media and website
  4. Use video content to increase the number of shares and impression rate

Generation X

People born between 1965 and 1980

After Boomers and Millennials, Gen X is the third-largest generation in the UK. However, they can be the hardest generation to describe. The main reason is that Gen X has both Boomer and Millennial characteristics. Those born earlier in the generation have some of the characteristics of Boomers such as having trouble with technology and still using traditional communication channels. However, younger members of Gen X have some Millennial-type buying habits and social media usage.

Generation X: audience profile

Targeting Generation X Online: the golden rules

  • Be personal and authentic
  • Implement a loyalty program and offer incentives
  • Ensure you use “Discount” or “Promo code” within the copy of your paid ads
  • Keep engaging with them through emails between purchases
  • Use video content to boost engagement
  • Share testimonials and case studies to prove your message

How to overcome the ad-blockers examples

Millennials (or Generation Y)

People born between 1981 and 1996

Ah, millennials – the generation each brand wants to attract. As they’re the largest living generation in the world and technology-obsessed, they have massive buying power online. Yet, compared to previous generations, Millennials have unique values and buying habits. For instance, Millennials are the first generation that taught about environmentalism in schools. That’s why they’re more environmentally conscious than previous generations and 71% of them seek from brands to share the same values with them.

“Millennials are just like any other group of consumers. The only difference is that millennials respond to marketing in different ways than previous generations. This is because of the rise of online shopping, social media, and an overall sense of immediacy.” – Neron Meile, CEO at Screen Media Group.

Millennials: audience profile

  • Interact with brands on social media (82%)
  • Try to discover brands on Instagram (38%)
  • Prefer to shop online (53%) than brick-and-mortar
  • Are looking for a personalised experience and communication
  • Are not interested in ads (1%) but they are willing to share authentic content (44%)

Targeting Millennials Online: the golden rules

  • Make sure your product or service is Instagram-worthy
  • Appeal to their values (and keep in mind that Millennials are highly aware of greenwashing)
  • Be authentic and personal
  • Reward their loyalty
  • Be transparent and honest

Recent research found out that Millennials are the most brand-loyal generation. This means that by implementing an effective strategy you can easily increase your customer lifetime value and retention rates.

How to overcome the ad-blockers examples

Generation Z (or Zoomers)

People born between 1997 and 2012

Having taken over from Millennials in 2020, Generation Z is the new target market for numerous brands. There’s a tiny problem though. As they’re the latest generation, we’re still trying to understand them. Do you remember how you used to criticise your parents’ generation? Well, Zoomers are the ones who started the “Ok, boomer.” memes but now they’re even criticising Millennials about their actions and attitudes. According to Gen Z, millennials only care about Harry Potter, Buzzfeed quizzes, and avocado on toast. So let’s try to understand what Zoomers are looking for more clearly.

First, we need to understand that Zoomers are digital natives. In other words, they have little or no memory of the world as it existed before smartphones. This digital native generation, of course knows all the tricks to block online ads, use all of their apps in private mode and physically distract themselves for 30-to-60 seconds until the ad finishes.

So you might think it’s harder for marketers to reach Zoomers but of course it’s not. Here’s what they’re looking for.

Generation Z: audience profile

  • Are less loyal to the brands compared to other generations (16%)
  • Choose to social commerce to shop (66%)
  • Are interested in subscription business (71%)
  • Use Instagram as their favourite social media platform, then YouTube, Snapchat and TikTok
  • Expects the brand to take a stand on social justice and environmental issues – so brand neutrality is not a choice anymore
  • Leave the site immediately if it’s slow (60%)

Targeting Generation Z Online: the golden rules

  • Create interactive content
  • Use visual effects and music in your content – try to be effortless
  • Follow a fun tone of voice with a bit of sense of humour
  • Communicate in a personal and relatable way
  • Showcase your beliefs and values
  • Increase user-generated-content and share their content as much as possible
  • Optimise your mobile experience
  • Forget Facebook, focus on Snapchat
  • Highlight your dedication to privacy

And, boom you’re ready!

How to overcome the ad-blockers examples

What about the future? Well, we’re all changing with age and new generations will arise.

These characteristics of course change as we continue to get older, and the world around us keeps evolving. For now, Gen Z loves collages and effortlessly zoomed shots on Instagram, whilst Millennials still use a VSCO filter for each post. Yet, it’s important to understand the key values of each generation, what kind of language you should use, which platforms that they are active on and how you can communicate with them. By understanding their preferences you can build a more relevant visual identity and communication strategy for your brand.

How to advertise for each generation card

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