Nearly everyone alive in the United States today can be categorized along one of four distinct generational lines: Boomers, Gen Xers, Millennials, and the coming-of-age-soon Gen We.
For the last decade or so, Millennials have been in the spotlight with the media and marketers trying to understand this sometimes needy, often progressive generation of Americans, but the other three generations account for over $5 trillion in spending power. As marketers, that’s a number that should speak to us when developing new strategies and campaigns for our clients.
Getting to know the unique values, interests, and needs of these generations in 2017 will aid in identifying new opportunities to broaden or focus your marketing approach. We’re here to (re)introduce these four cohorts to you and hopefully provide you with some fresh, age-appropriate inspiration.
This is a paradoxical group of optimistic, idealistic 53- to 71-year-olds, who account for $2.6 trillion in spending power. Boomers are the OGs of counterculture and the generation to elect Ronald Reagan. Their key pop culture moments range from Leave It to Beaver to Woodstock to Saturday Night Fever—this is the generation that witnessed the advent of color television, the moon landing, and the first personal computer.
Boomers are often fixated on youth and independence, and their needs are rapidly evolving as they age toward healthcare and retirement needs.
This demographic is defined by a tireless pragmaticism. Born between 1965 and 1977 (40–52 years old) and possessing a total spending power of $2.44 trillion, Gen X is now squarely in the throes of middle age, valuing products and services that offer convenience and clarity. Having lived through their share of economic boom and bust cycles from the dot-com bubble to the Great Recession, they’ve developed a healthy skepticism of trends and flashy spending.
Brands resonating with this generation are “innovative and trendy” like Uber (Gen Xers appreciate its streamlined ease of use) or TJ Maxx, which offers an authentic yet practical shopping experience.
Ah, the media’s favorite generation to dissect. By now these 22- to 39-year-olds are officially #adulting and catapulting their way toward becoming old news. Their coming-of-age years were shaped by harrowing events like 9/11, Katrina, Virginia Tech, and the Great Recession, which has commonly manifested as a nagging uncertainty in their decision making process.
Brands can win over Millennials—wielding a spending power of roughly $2.26 trillion—with practical solutions and advice tailored to their current life stages. For this generation, access is the new ownership (think: Zipcar) while traditional labels (religious, political, or otherwise) and typecasting are out.
Consider this generation your ragtag bunch of younger, smartphone-navigating siblings, cousins, nieces, and nephews who are throwing “traditional” gender norms and archaic preconceptions about identity out the window, instead celebrating diversity and individuality. This generation comprises the unborn through 21-year-olds, so it’s no surprise that their spending power is only $43.6 billion.
This group loves brands like Barbie, which has chosen to embrace more diverse body types and skin tones in their line of toys, and the app Musical.ly, which taps into their entrepreneurial spirit and ubiquitous use of social media. Looking forward, keep an eye out for this generation as they rewrite the rules. In spite of the amount of information and technology, this generation has developed discerning decision making skills and they expect to be taken seriously by brands and authority figures.
What It Means for You
In digital marketing a campaign is only as good as its targeting, so a smart marketer is going to want to keep these generational nuances in mind. Whether it’s tapping into the Boomers’ sense of youth and freedom or Gen We’s fierce individuality, understanding what makes these groups tick will keep your brand relevant as generational needs grow and evolve.