Marketing For Dummies
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Times, technologies, channels, and needs have changed and so, too, has the way you connect, market, engage, and sell to your customers. With all this change, the gap or differences in the various generations is getting wider as people’s attitudes, perspectives, and the way they live, shop, and engage with brands is redefined by technology, media channels, and social trends.

Keep reading for some insights about some of the different values and attitudes that drive behavior among the generations most businesses target today, in both a B2B and B2C setting.

The primary “shopping” generations are roughly broken down as follows:

  • Millennials: 18 to 34 years old
  • Generation X: 35 to 54 years old
  • Baby boomers: 55 to 70 years old
Although a ton of information about each generation is available— from books to white papers to videos and more — the main thing marketers need to understand is what each generation thinks of brands, what they expect about brands, and what they respond to in terms of values and stimuli.

The following tables list some of the characteristics of the various generations that impact their “marketing ability” and what you can do to address and engage them in meaningful ways. These attributes, mindsets, and potential actions should be front and center when you create your customer profiles and emotional selling propositions (ESPs).

Here are some things to keep in mind when marketing to Millennials.

Marketing to Millennials
Value Suggested Response
Want self‐expression. Involve in user‐generated content.
Respect is earned, not given. Use statistics, industry knowledge, and experiences to position your marketing leadership and authority.
Trust equity is low because many don’t trust brands to be truthful or operate in others’ best interests. Be transparent. If you don’t have the best product, don’t say you do. If your customer service is poor, fix it before making promises. Listen and admit to wrongdoing when you’ve made mistakes.
Crave change. Keep your brand energetic and change things up to add interest and novelty.
Respond to bold colors, ideas, humor, and interaction. Use digital channels that provide interaction, such as games and bright colors that fit their energy level, and engage them in disruptive events, like guerilla marketing tactics.
Seek relevance. Your products, not just your marketing, need to fit their lifestyle and add value. Marketing should demonstrate how.
Open‐minded, intelligent, responsible. Always communicate with transparency, and never talk down or misrepresent the value of an offer or product. When trust is broken, you won’t get a second chance.
Expectations for brands. Involve them in user‐generated content and product design and respond to them promptly.
If you are adjusting your marketing plan for Generation Xers, you might want to account for the following.
Marketing to Generation Xers
Value Suggested Response
Want to feel they are contributing to something worthwhile. Involve in volunteerism and corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives.
Like recognition for what they do. Send thank‐you emails, invite to VIP clubs, and reward with experiences, content, discounts, or products.
Thrive on autonomy, freedom. Give them options for pricing, packages, service agreements, and product inventory. Enable communications options as well.
Seek a balanced life. Align your brand’s values with their values and personal life.
Accept authority but are skeptical. Position your leadership and authority in an objective manner.
Skeptical about economy, fearful of job loss and financial setbacks, and skeptical of big business. Communicate the security, comfort, and peace of mind that your product and brand deliver. Be transparent about pricing and product claims. Design brand offerings around their need to feel in control and have peace of mind.
Entrepreneurial. Appeal to their desire to initiate new programs, ideas, and movements.
Baby Boomers also have their own set of values.
Marketing to Baby Boomers
Value Suggested Response
Want to feel they are in control of their choices and lives. Provide information that informs, provides guidance, and assists in decision processes.
Like recognition for what they do. Thank them for their business, invite to VIP loyalty programs, and reward frequently.
Thrive on prosperity. Because they have worked hard for years and want to enjoy the perks of successful careers and financial planning, promote perks, pampering, and themes around “you deserve this.”
Seek self‐actualization. Align your messaging and experiences with what matters most, such as leaving legacies, making an impact, achieving personal goals, and recognition.
Collaborative. Invite to your causes centered on your common goals associated with charity, environment, and so on.
Optimistic. They see good in communities and people and like to believe people can be trusted to be who they say they are.
Goal oriented. Like to set goals and have a plan and a purpose.

Millennials don’t trust brands or authority in the same way their parents did and do, and they have high standards for how brands should behave toward consumers, employees, and the greater good, which is a strong trend in consumerism.

Each generation has a unique way of looking at the same brands and assigns different expectations for how it wants to be served.

About This Article

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Jeanette McMurtry, MBA, is a global authority, columnist, and keynote speaker on consumer behavior and psychology-based marketing strategies. Her clients have included consumer and B2B enterprises ranging from small start-ups to Fortune 100 brands. A marketing thought leader, she has contributed to Forbes, CNBC, Data & Marketing Association, DM News, and Target Marketing magazine.

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