The 5 Active Generations and How to Market to Them

Updated on February 12, 2020.


As a marketer, chances are you know ways to segment your target audience according to age, gender, education, household income, and home ownership demographics. These demographics can tell you the “who” about your target audience, but they fall short in giving insight to “what, how, and why” audiences react the way they do. Exploring the world of marketing psychographics will open you up to a deeper level of market analysis.


To keep up with a constantly changing society full of competitive marketers, the field of psychographics offers more valuable insights about interests, opinions, and activities of defined segments of people. Let’s get started with one of the easiest ways to gain these insights: generational profiling. Right now, the majority of your target audience will fall into one of the five active generations: Silent, Baby Boomers, Generation X, Millennials or Generation Z. We have mapped out a fast reference on how to market to each generation:


Silent Generation

This generation was born from 1925 to 1946. Their psychographics indicate that they are cautious, conservative, and highly aware of others. They were children during America’s worst economic conditions: the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl. This upbringing taught them the value of hard work and diligent saving. The silent generation is not known to change the system, but to work within the system.


This generation had children younger than any other generation in American history. By the time the people of this generation finished their education, a booming economy was ready and waiting. The silent generation is small due to low birthrates during the war period. It is not recognized as a powerful, dominant generation, but one to go with the flow and follow the rules.


This generation is the only American generation to not occupy the White House. Some say the silent generation had it easy from the start: wars ended at a convenient time, bringing forth a high economy, making it easy to find a job and a good time to retire.


This generation is the healthiest, most educated and wealthiest generation of elders yet. The silents have become economic stabilizers for new generations, often having money saved in trust funds for their grandchildren or will typically fund family vacations.


What does this mean for marketers?

When marketing to the silent generation, you should work to earn their trust and to prove your value, which could take time. If you want to reach this generation, one way is through email and informative websites with more text than images. This generation may have social media, but that is a risky assumption. Most use a computer rather than a smartphone, according to PEW.


The silent generation is the most likely to consume print media. They also appreciate customer loyalty plans and coupons. They grew up on newspapers and are still likely to read them each week. When targeting to the silent generation through print media, it is important to be trustworthy, straightforward and use large, easy to read type.


The third option when targeting the silent generation is television. Statistics show that seniors are the most active TV watchers. This generation is most likely to see the commercials that younger generations skip over. There is a possibility that you can effectively reach this generation through the use of television ads.


Baby Boomers

Baby boomers, born between 1946-1960’s, make up a big portion of the North American population. As the largest generation that has an enormous impact on the economy, baby boomers are often highly targeted through ads and marketing campaigns.


The boomer era led families from large cities to the suburbs, purchasing more affordable homes in quieter areas. Psychographics tell us that the boomer generation is associated with the rejection or redefinition of traditional family values. Not only did this generation redefine city living, but also began to use new forms of currency to make transactions.


In Europe and North America boomers are widely associated with privilege, as many grew up in a time of widespread government subsidies in post-war housing. This generation is among the wealthiest, most active, and most physically fit. They are also the generation to receive high levels of income, allowing them to make use of the benefits of abundant levels of food, apparel and leisure activities. This generation was viewed excessive by previous generations.


Marketing to a Baby Boomer

Baby boomers have caught on quickly to new technology. They consume large amounts of television and are active internet users. If you want to successfully target the baby boomer generation, focus on optimizing television ads, social media, and email marketing. In fact, ¾ of boomers use social media, six out of 10 read articles and blog posts, and 7 out of 10 watch online videos, according to DMN3.  


When marketing to baby boomers, you want your content to be interesting, relevant and timely. Being such a large generation of various age groups, segmentation is key. Everyone has different ways to gather information so be sure to cater to your audience as specifically as possible.


Generation X

This generation includes individuals born between the 1960’s-1980’s. There are around 50 million Gen Xers who are referred to as “baby busters” as they follow baby boomers. Generation X was born during the single lowest birthrate period in American history. In the early 1960s, the birth control pill became widely available and in 1973 abortion was legalized. These factors have contributed to the generation’s low numbers.


Most Gen Xers are currently within the ages 50-30 and are referred to as the “sandwich generation,” as they are simultaneously caring for their aging parents and raising adolescents. In regards to X’s generational characteristics, they are known to be the most cynical and easily swayed generation, as they have adapted to the introduction of video games and social media.


This generation is less likely to put their trust in a large corporation or institution, due to events that took place during their up-bringing including the Watergate scandal and the layoffs of the 80’s. During Gen X’s time of college graduation, many struggled to find jobs.


Despite these hardships, Generation Xers are known to be the most hardworking generation. As referred to the “middle generation,” they bring to the table leadership, and an understanding of the multi-generational society. Generation X members have founded major corporations, including Google and Amazon. Generation X is typically educated, ethnically diverse, and unique. 


The Breakdown

There are two types of Generation Xers. There are the people who were born earlier and hold true to characteristics of the baby boomer generation, and there are the others who were born on the later end of the Gen X spectrum. The latter group tends to side more closely to the millennial generation.


This split in the marketing psychographics of Gen X means that marketers need to be fairly neutral in tone if they want to grab the interest of this entire generation. To market this generation, you need to be authentic. These people look for safety and security, so be honest and upfront.


Many Generation Xers still have a knack for traditional mail. It is likely that these people still send handwritten notes, and receive direct mail. A paper or digital mailing list is a great tactic to reach the Xers.


This generation is thought as the first to take full advantage of available technology. Gen Xers appreciate a quality video marketing tactic or video company overview. Whether they have social media to monitor their children or for their own personal use, most gen Xers are media active by now. If you want a sure shot, Facebook is the number one social media platform among Gen X. Getting your true, authentic content out there is the most important when it comes to Generation X. Do not be bossy, but be informative and true.


Oh Millennials…

Millennials have become a catch-all for all young professionals and students. If you were born in the 80’s to 90’s, you are indeed a millennial! This generation believes in self expression and uniqueness more than any previous generation. This brings many new ideas and various types of personalities to the workforce. Social media is a big part of that self expression, with millennials around the world trying to stand out or prove themselves.


Millennials make up the most diverse generation yet, making them accepting of others. According to their psychographics, they are impatient and will usually take the easier alternative. This generation is full of creatives and multi-taskers. Getting to know millennials and how to make your brand millennial-friendly is very important. They account for a large majority of purchases made, and when they have families of their own, they will have the control over what their young children want and get.



Marketing to a Millennial

This generation is constantly coming up with new ideas and making them happen. Millennials are used to taking in large amounts of information at a time, so make sure your content is important enough to stand out and be remembered!


If your website or brand is not up to sync with the latest social media trends and platforms, you are less likely to interest a millennial. Millennials tend to be the least patient generation. They want their information quick.


As a peer-oriented generation, Millennials constantly seek advice from those they admire. If their peers have something cool, they will probably end up wanting it as well. A lot of the time, those in their 30’s and 20’s will get other’s advice and opinions before making a purchase. This generation is full of go-getters that are not easily swayed. 


Constantly bombarded with information, millennials are in a world with limitless options. They like a good sale, and will most likely compare prices in order to get the most bang for their buck. Millennials appreciate when someone is passionate or feels strongly about a topic. Whatever you are pushing, be confident, and be bold. 


Generation Z

Generation Z is our most recent generation accounting for the people born from 1996 to the present day. Most Gen Zers are still children or adolescents, therefore their characteristics and habits are still forming. Some predict that they will be self-reliant, innovative and goal-oriented.


The main difference between Millennials and Generation Z is that Gen Z did not exist before smart phones and the mobile world existed. Generation Z is and will be highly educated due to abundant resources. As the world continues to change, each generation will bring a greater pool of diversity than the next. That makes Generation Z the most unique and diverse yet.


Marketing to Generation Z

Generation Z will be just as social media driven as most Millennials. However, the best way to reach Gen Z isn’t through Facebook. Studies show that middle aged Gen Zers are leaving Facebook because it is too “old school.” To reach Gen Z, try using Snapchat or Instagram instead.


Being so young, the best tactic is to target their older family members since parents still make financial decisions for Gen Z children and teens. Members of Gen Z are surrounded by social media and the digital world from birth, yet they seek the authenticity of trusted, personal interactions. They have little patience for things that do not grab their attention immediately. The best way to reach Generation Z is not only through the brand, but through a great product.


Market yourself in unique ways through multiple platforms. Generation Z is huge on multi-tasking, and seeing your information multiple times in various ways can’t hurt. “Behind the scenes” video clips or articles are a great, fun way to involve Generation Z as they enjoy forming relationships. If you have a website and it is not linked to a social media account, it is very likely Gen Z will never see your content.


Psychographic studies show that Gen Z is more likely than any previous generation to jump from brand to brand. This keeps marketers on their toes knowing they can have someone hooked, but can just as easily lose them to another brand in a short amount of time. The most important thing to know for marketing to Generation Z is to stay current on social media platforms and trends. You can never be too “social media” for generation Z!


Why All of This Matters


Generational marketing psychographics are very important in today’s world. We live in a world that is constantly innovating, growing and changing. People are slammed with countless ads and choices throughout the day.  Knowing your brand or product is the most important thing when it comes to marketing to any generation. However, it is vital to be familiar with each generation and how they are changing not only the workforce, but the world. When you build this understanding, you can better market your brand to each generation through their preferred method of gathering information. 


Madison Edwards, Marketing and Communication at Green Buzz Agency.


Emily Herman contributed to this post.