Identifying your target audience, what devices they use, and where they’re most active is essential to any successful content marketing plan . However, your target audience is a lot more complex than simply saying ‘Millennials use mobiles’ or ‘Gen Z has a shorter attention span.’ Each social generation is intensely different, growing up amongst different political and social environments and various technological advancements. History, pop culture, and evolving tech have all influenced the way each generation forms opinions, develops values, and responds to marketing.
So how do you market to each generation? How do you understand the nuances that dictate how they respond to advertising and develop brand loyalties? We’ve broken down each demographic by generation so that you can understand the best content marketing strategies to engage your target audience(s). We’ve got you covered from Baby Boomers to Generation Alpha and everyone in between!
Baby Boomers (1945-1960)
There’s a tendency among advertisers to associate the digital marketing sphere with Millennials and Gen Z, while the Baby Boomers are thought of as out-of-touch or largely absent from social media. However, as Jon Stein correctly points out, Bill Gates, Steve Wozniak, and Steve Jobs were all part of the Baby Boomer generation, and changed the face of technology and communication as we know it. For Stein, it’s simply insulting to dismiss this generation as tech novices. The Baby Boomers may be aging but they are not absent from the digital sphere. Not only are Boomers financially stable (something that can’t be said for many Millennials still living in their parents’ basements), but a significant portion of this generation are tech savvy. Today it’s not unusual to have your Mom as a friend on Facebook or to wish your Grandma a happy birthday on Skype. Still not convinced? Let’s look at the stats. According to Yahoo! at least least 66% of people over 50 in the United States routinely make purchases from online retailers, and Inc. reports that this demographic spends the most hours per week engaged in online content. Most importantly for brands, Forbes reports that this demographic makes up 70% of the US’s disposable income. So how do you reach this important but often misunerstood demographic? It’s important to understand what social channels and devices Boomers are most likely to use and what content they’re looking for. Focus on Facebook. Baby Boomers are typically found on social media channels like Facebook where they are connecting with old friends, posting pictures of grandchildren, and sharing information within their network. According to ISL Teens (age 13-17) have declined on facebook over the last 3 years by -25.3% while those over 55 have exploded with +80.4% growth in the same period. Stats also suggest that over half of the Boomers active on social media will visit a company’s website after seeing something on a social networking site. Boomers are likely to share information, images, and videos within their network so brand should take note and craft easily sharable content atoms that can be circulated through this channel. Offer Exclusive Deals/Events. Boomers are also very active on email and online shopping sites, and can therefore be reached with clever email advertising. They like to share videos and images via email and, according to Nielsen, a third of them shop online, spending up to $7 billion in ecommerce. Email campaigns containing special coupons, access to advanced sales, and notifications on deals and new products will help you increase audience engagement and cater to a demographic that spends a significant amount of time exchanging emails and making purchases online. Keep Things Intuitive. The Baby Boomers may be sharp when it comes to tech, but the reality is that their bodies are aging. Make sure your content is optimized so that Boomers can read and interact with the content easily. Small or flashy text is difficult to read for people with aging eyes. However, it’s also important not to treat Boomers like they’re old, senile, or out-of-touch. Don’t simplify the message, just ensure your content anticipates their needs by using larger fonts and minimalist designs.
Generation X (1961-1981)
Often considered the “forgotten generation,” this demographic is frequently left behind as marketers focus on the Baby Boomers that came before them or the new wave of tech-driven Millennials that arrived afterwards. However, this demographic represents a fairly large and financially stable segment of the market, accounting for 25% of all adults and earning higher average incomes than their Baby Boomer and Millennial counterparts. Gen X was born in the middle of the Civil RIghts Movement, Vietnam, the Cold War, MTV and John Hughes films. This generation is more health conscious than their parents’ generation, both in terms of their own bodies and the environment. They are a fairly heterogeneous generation, but still value homeownership and prioritize family life and saving for their children’s futures. They were the first generation to use mobile phones, but they continue to watch television on a physical TV. Optimize for Mobile. This generation grew up amidst the advent of the mobile and they’ve been addicted ever since. Sometimes referred to as “The Connected Generation,” this demographic is comfortable using a Blackberry to communicate with colleagues or iPhones to take videos during their children’s graduation. Optimize your websites and marketing for mobile to access this connected generation and increase audience engagement. Get Great Reviews. Like Baby Boomers, Gen X likes to shop online. However, as The Marketing Spot notes, “they lived through their parents’ recessions and saw a lot of people lose money in the stock market.” Gen X is therefore very conscious about saving money and averse to risk. They will shop online but only after reading reviews and doing their research. Appeal to their financial responsibility and make sure your brand is well-represented and reviewed on websites like Yelp, Google Reviews, and Amazon so that Gen X will feel confident enough to make the purchase. Marketing Zen also recommends advertising deals on social media like Facebook with shareable images that include coupons to attract this financially reserved generation.
As one of the planet’s largest generations, there is a ton of information online dedicated to marketing to Millennials. Though they often get lumped together with the digital natives of Generation Z, there are many peculiarities that marketers should consider when targeting this powerful demographic. As Forbes notes, many Millennials are misunderstood “in large part, because they aren’t approaching adulthood the same way that previous generations have.” This generation has more technology at their fingertips, are highly educated, and in a world with almost too much choice, carry intense brand loyalties. They’re also the most difficult to reach, and are quick to ignore banner ads, skip commercials, or switch to a different screen during adverts. Be Authentic . Advertisers that come across as disingenuous will get nowhere with Millennials. According to Forbes 43% of Millennials rank authenticity over content when consuming news. They need to trust a brand or website before making a purchase and are inherently suspicious of anyone trying too hard to push products on them. Instead of telling Millennials why your brand is great, develop a mission and focus on providing quality content that caters to their interests and needs. Engage on Social. By talking with Millennials instead of at them, you can develop and dialogue and build a relationship that over time will lead to brand loyalty. It’s no secret that Millennials are incredibly active on social channels like Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, and Vine. Use these channels to talk directly to this generation. This may seem labour-intensive, but will result in long-term gain and increased audience engagement. Leverage User Generated Content. Millennials are immune to traditional advertising techniques. They’re likely to switch to another screen when a commercial comes on or download Adblock to avoid ads entirely. Instead of broadcasting at Millennials, reach them through engaging experiences that ask for their participation. They want to be included, and participation is the key to connecting with this generation. According to Forbes, 42% of Millennials polled said they were interested in helping companies develop future products and services. Marketing campaigns that publish user generated content or ask for input from their target audience will be received favourably by Millennials.
Generation Z (2005-2009)
According to Business2Community Generation Z, in many ways, is both an extreme version and the opposite of Millennials.These digital natives do not know a world before computers, WiFi, and the Internet of Things. They inherited a world where technology has become completely integrated into every facet of daily life. Unlike the Millennials, Generation Z was born in a post-9/11 world amid global recession, war, and the ever-looming fear of “terrorism.�� They are therefore more reserved and cautious when making important decisions and spending money. This generation is also much more individualistic. According to Business2Community social media makes it clear that everything has already been done by someone else and FOMO is rampant. Generation Z therefore seeks out uniqueness when deciding which brands to do business with, where to work, and who to follow. Return to Face-to-Face Communication. According to Business2Community 53% of Generation Z prefer in-person communications over instant messages or email. As Business2Community notes, Gen Z uses tech tools like Skype, Google+ Hangouts, FaceTime, and Snapchat to communicate with one another using full sight, sound, and motion. It’s important for marketers to use these channels to target a generation that is eschewing the Millennial stereotypes and returning to greater face-to-face communication. Start a YouTube channel. In a study published on AdWeek, researchers found that Gen Z’s favourite website was YouTube. This makes sense in a world where YouTube celebrities receive the same treatment as Hollywood stars. Many television programs now supplement their broadcasted material with YouTube content (like Conan O’Brien’s Team Coco), and channels like Cartoon Hangover are skipping the cable networks entirely and heading straight to YouTube. To increase audience engagement amongst Gen Z, brands should take note and find ways to produce video content for this platform. Cater to DIY Culture. Unlike Millennials, Generation Z is much more conscious about how they spend their money and are also extremely entrepreneurial. As the first generation to grow up with access to information 24/7, this group is all about DIY culture. Provide tutorials or content that will help them take action, start a project, or build a business. Content that caters to their self-starting nature will resonate well with this demographic. Keep It Short. As Mashable points out, this generation is “constantly blowing through their newsfeeds on mobile devices while simultaneously juggling emoji-filled conversations and writing tomorrow’s book report.” To get noticed amidst all this multi-screen multi-tasking marketers have to keep content atoms short, sweet, and easily digestible (be careful not to confuse this with simple - keep content sharp and clever in this shortened format).
Generation Alpha (2010-?)
We’re not sure what the future holds for tech so it’s impossible to say how we’ll market to what is now being referred to as ‘Generation Alpha.’ This will be the most globally connected generation, and will witness one of the largest demographic shifts since the Baby Boomers.
According to f uturist and demographer Mark McCrindle, Generation Alpha will no longer think of technology as a tool, but as something they integrate singularly into their lives. In this globalized world where tech renders the borders between nations even less important, and where the boundaries between humans and technology is becoming even more blurred, marketers will have to prepare for a new digital marketing sphere. Take ‘Interactive Content’ To The Next Level. This will be a generation of what McCrindle calls “Screenagers” where “not only do they multi-screen and multi-task, but where glass has become the new medium for content dissemination and unlike the medium of paper, it is a kinesthetic, visual, interactive, and connective portable format.” Marketing to this Generation will require content that is interactive in a way we haven’t seen yet. What Generation do you fall into?