Cross Generational Marketing

Cross Generational Marketing

Written by: Stephanie Bariatti, SMB Media Marketing Consultant 


            In today’s world people are living longer than ever.  And at the other end of the spectrum, younger folks have more spending power at an earlier age.  For marketers, this creates somewhat of a double-edged sword.  On one hand, there are more potential customers out there.  On the other hand, there are more generations present in the population, each with their own preferences and spending habits.  Is there a way to truly get your message across to all generations at the same time?  Or does your marketing strategy really require different approaches to each generation?  Let’s take a look at where the similarities lie and how they could be applied to a cross-generational approach to marketing.


            Earlier this year, Epsilon released a report called Age Matters: A Guide to Cross-Generational Marketing.  They studied spending behaviors and preferences in various areas, including retail, technology, loyalty, media, influences and social.  The findings from the study provide great insight into the unique characteristics of each generation.  The report defined the generations by the following parameters:

·      Gen Z minors: Born after 2000

·      Gen Z adults: Born 1994–2000

·      Millennials: Born 1983–1993

·      Gen X: Born 1964–1982

·      Boomers: Born 1943–1963

·      Silent: Born before 1943


Baby Boomers spend the most per year, shelling out $548.1 billion.  They have a huge population and have the highest incomes.  Gen Z, with their limited dollars, spend the least, coming in at $8.2 billion.  However, they actually rack up the most transactions and are likely to influence the spending decisions of their parents and grandparents (more on that later). 


Gen X spends the second most after the Boomers and they will continue to spend more as they age and are in their earning prime.  Marketers tend to pay less attention to them, but they should not be ignored as Gen X is among the top spenders in many categories.  Millennials are also spending a lot, but their spend per transaction tends to be less.  They are starting to earn more, but held back by budgetary restraints due to many paying off student loans, getting married and starting families.  Finally, the Silent Generation doesn’t spend much.  Most are retired and are very selective and pragmatic with what they choose to spend their money on.   


Clearly, every generation is spending, yet how they spend and how much they spend does vary.  Therefore, it does make sense to target each generation separately.  In fact, that is one of the key takeaways from the Epsilon study – talk to each generation differently. 


Elaine Fogel, marketing expert, also offers some tips on the best way to reach each age group through digital marketing. 

·      Gen Z – Social media, short video, quizzes, memes, imagery.

·      Millennials – Social media, mobile and SMS marketing, video marketing, user-generated content.

·      Gen X – Facebook, digital video, email, Twitter, blogs

·      Boomers – Facebook, content, slow videos, email, discount coupons

·      Silents – This group is not the most tech-saavy, so it is best to reach them through their kids and grandkids.


She also notes that Boomers are most active during the hours of 5 am and noon, while Gen X, Millennials and Gen Z spend more time online during the evening hours.


            Another thing to keep in mind is how the generations can influence each other.  As mentioned earlier, Gen Z tends to have a great impact on the purchasing decisions of the older generations in their household.  Although some Gen Z’ers have money of their own, many are still relying on their parents or grandparents to shell out the cash to do the actual buying for them.  Also, Boomers and Gen X’ers with young people in the house will often adopt new technologies faster than others their age.  Even though it can be effective to specifically tailor your message for each generation, you shouldn’t shy away from targeting older groups in the same way you would target the younger ones. 


The Epsilon study also found that Gen Z spends a lot.  There may not be many with their own money, but the ones that do have it often spend it all.  Most still live at home with their parents and have little to no “real world” expenses.  And let’s also not forget the money they are spending may not even be their own.  Remember, the window to reach these young’uns is small, so you have to try to grab them across multiple channels.  This will be the generation to push you towards experimenting with new tactics and strategies, as they are majorly influenced by social media, celebrities/influencers and bloggers.  In addition, Gen Z likes speed and immediacy, so they will primarily shop in stores rather than online. 


It is important to take all this information into account when engaging with your customers.  As always, you want to stay as relevant as possible when conveying what you want to say.  Whether you are trying to reach across the generations with one message or you are able to customize to each generation, the more you know about their differences the better you will be able to serve them.



Stephanie Bariatti works as a Consultant and Project Manager for SMB Media Consulting.  She has had extensive experience with many facets of advertising and media, having worked for and with creative agencies, production companies and research departments.  She lives in New York with her wonderful husband, two lovable little boys, a new baby on the way and two snuggly Golden Retrievers.