Marketing Tool: Generational Profiling

One size fits all marketing is a myth of epic proportions. Demographic profiling is one of the most important tools you can use when building a marketing campaign, and while demographics include language, location, age, and interests, generational profiling is another way to look at a broad overview of an age range. While not all members of a generational divide exhibit all of the traits that are common within the broader summary, embracing generational marketing is helpful for understanding prior influence and for predicting consumer behaviors. There are 5 major generations within our society right now, and each brings new experiences to the table. These profiles will help marketers understand these generational differences.

The Silent Generation (Traditionalists): Born 1945 and before

Members of this generation were children during World War II and were named the “Silent Generation” by TIME Magazine, because of the nature of the political and social world they had been born into. Because of the anti-communist beliefs, speaking freely was dangerous, and attempts to keep up a “clean” public image became much more measured. This generation was more financially cautious than their parents, especially after seeing the long-lasting effects of both the war and the Great Depression as young children. Statistically, this has always been a smaller generation, and as they age, numbers continue to dwindle.

Baby Boomers: Born 1946-1964

The Baby Boomers were free-thinking and spirited, generally moving away from traditional values held by their parents. Defining events for this generation included the civil rights movement, the moon landing, the rise of television and rock ‘n’ roll, as well as the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and President John F. Kennedy. This was the first generation of children and teenagers to have an influential amount of spending power, and the generally low saving, high consumption lifestyle introduced a booming “youth-focused” culture, in fashion, music, and vehicles.

Generation X: Born 1965 to 1979

The anti-establishment Gen X-ers were rebellious, thinking in anti-consumerist ways and many were just beginning to gain traction in their careers when the great recession struck. Important events for Gen X were the introduction of personal computers, the AIDS epidemic, and the Watergate scandal. Gen X is called “America’s neglected middle child” by Pew, stuck between the loud, overspending Boomer, and the student-loan burdened Millennial.

Millennials (Gen Y): Born 1980 to 1995

Perhaps the most talked about generation right now, for better or worse,  Gen Y, or Millennials have been discussed extensively. Millennials are often called entitled and narcissistic and are known for being tech-savvy, environmentally and socially conscious, and creative. Millennials lived through 9/11, internet and social media growth, the fall of the Berlin Wall, and a revitalized pop culture. The weight of student-loans weighs heavily on this generation, with the entire generation carrying about $1 trillion in student debt, and 48% of employed college graduates working jobs they are overqualified for, according to Inc.

Gen Z: Born 1996 and beyond

The youngest generation currently, Gen Z or the iGeneration comes across a lot like millennials, but more intense. This generation has never been without the internet, and the understanding of technology is further along than before. Gen Z is the most diverse generation, and is also one of the largest generations, with a population of over 23 million. Gen Z is critical of big government, values privacy, and has a lower amount of optimism about the future than their millennial counterparts. The war on terror, the advent of social media and the great recession will all be defining factors for these young people.

Demographics are a key part of building a target market for any new marketing strategy, and part of that has become understanding generational differences to better understand influence and consumer trust. The relationship between marketing and generational profiles is not a new one, but it is something that changes rapidly, and thus needs to be continually analyzed.


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