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Between the Generations: Marketing Differences Between Millennials v. Baby Boomers


By Christian Amato, Chief Business Development Officer

In today’s age of marketing, finding out how exactly to reach an audience can be quite difficult due to the differences between generations.

In an age like never before, intergenerational communication is at an all-time high for division in how we receive information. Today, we have an arsenal of data to help us communicate with different age groups in the most effective way possible.

Millennials – There are currently 80 million millennials in the United States—making up almost ¼ of the population. Millennial characteristics may vary by region, depending on social and economic conditions. However, the generation is generally marked by an increased use and familiarity with communications, media and digital technologies.  According to the Harvard Business Review, they spend on average 25 hours per week online—reading blogs, scouring websites and scrolling through social media, engaged with the content that they are reading.  They’re liking, pinning, sharing, snapping, forwarding and commenting to their friends and their community.   A 2014 survey shows that 84-percent of Millennials don’t trust traditional advertising—they crave content and 3rd party endorsements that they can engage with. Rather than focus on listings and ads, think YouTube channels where personalities use products, whitepapers and blog posts. Millennials want an experience rather than a product.

What millennials want in a brand is one that allows them to maintain their personal style, feeling particularly drawn to products that stand for a lifestyle or show they belong to a particular niche.

Baby Boomers – The Baby Boomer generation makes up 75 million people in the United States and is generally more affluent at this stage in their life than in generations past.  Their generation went against everything that their parents’ morals and lifestyle represented and in the 1970s were a known generation for thinking and acting as they wish.  Do not throw away the thought of using social media to hit this generation—while they are on, they are just using it in a different way, using Facebook as a “brag book” to show off new grandchildren or their latest vacation, and to stay in touch with old friends.  This generation has thrown out the traditional notion of aging through the system and like to be thought of not by their age, but by experiences they can take part in.  Ways to reach this audience include a user-friendly website, good offline and online customer service and design and copy that are easily digestible.  This audience also likes to share and read reviews of places they visit and products they use.

What boomers want in a brand isn’t necessarily about fashion, trends or the latest “vibe.” Of course they want to try new things and stay up-to-date with the latest technology, but they do so to make their life easier, find a good experience, and stay connected with a myriad of communities.

While these two generations may have very different styles of media consumption and communication, there are commonalities.  Here are some ways to appeal to both generations in your marketing:

  • Engage your audience – Make your audience know that you care about their opinion and feedback about your products and brand. Listen to their thoughts on making the experience better and respond to them when they talk to you.
  • Make them want to know more – Tease new products. Allow customer feedback to affect the choices you make in your business.  Update all of your sales and social platforms with what is going on at your company.  Many business owners live in the day-to-day of their company and forget that not everyone knows the latest and greatest thing that they are working on.  Don’t be afraid to repeat messages more than once.
  • Be authentic – Skip what you think you should be saying and stop keeping customers an arm’s length away. Instead, think about what you’d want to know about if you were in their shoes. Be as open as you can, as in these times people crave transparency.
  • Be accessible – When a potential customer reaches out make sure that you are fully able to respond back to them in a timely matter. Whether it is by email, Facebook message, tweet or private message; people today expect a quick response.

While generations may engage in the world differently, we all still have the same common desire to be an informed and valued consumer. As a business, it is important for us to make sure that our customers feel important and get enough information about what we do and who we are.

When you know who your audience is, where they are absorbing information and engage in conversation with them, your business will only get better. Listen to feedback you receive online, make the necessary adjustments and continue to work hard to grow your business.  And today, if you know how to use all of the valuable marketing tools to your advantage, you can only go up.

What do you think the biggest difference is in marketing to different generations? Post about it on our Facebook wall or tag our handle on Twitter.

Christian Amato is the chief business development officer at CMA, where he leads client strategy and development and spearheads client and prospect satisfaction.  He loves to play hockey and surf and during his off-time he likes to hang out with his son, Sebastian.