Marketing to Generations

Last week I saw a post on LinkedIn that made me smile. It was from a marketing leader I follow and respect and discussed a topic that I find is foundational to marketing — understanding your audience and what motivates them. What temporarily broke my smile was the assertion by the poster that too much emphasis was being put into grouping audiences by “generations” because it detracts from the real work.

Oh I disagree, but also agree. Here’s why:

  1. I believe it is the fundamental requirement of the marketer to understand the motivations of the audience to better guide them on the purchase/conversion journey.
  2. It is wholly impossible to do that unless you generalize in understanding.
  3. I get it, generalizations are, well, generalizations and there will always be outliers.

Here’s where I agree: broad swath generalizations, as noted above, do not accurately reflect the nuanced motivations for decision making and when not supplemented with other information, is not only limiting, but also often misleading.


A word about generalizations. Can we collectively agree that when we make generalizations, and they are clearly generalizations that we understand they are generalizations and we don’t need to add a #NOTALL caveat to avoid hurting the feelings of individuals who might feel slighted? Can we also collectively agree that generalizations are NEVER EVER EVER to be considered stereotypes and applied blindly across all audiences, channels and tactics, and that they are merely one in many methods of helping us to understand what motivates our audiences to allow us to serve them and our company better?

We also can’t define a generation by their 25-year-olds because 25-year-olds aren’t well known for making the best life choices, after all. Yes, I know, #ExceptYou dear reader, yes, you are a remarkable exception to that generalization that I realize you needed to have called out and validated. Another thing, Millennials aren’t 25 anymore … maybe some are, but the vast majority are older now.

The Right Message at the Right Time to the Right Person

As we’ve heard over and over and over again, marketing is about the right message to the right audience, at the right time on the right platform. We need to identify who and what those are before we can solve for them. So we need to bucket our audiences. Generational identifiers are just one of those ways we do that. (Others need to be overlayed on that as well).

Generational Marketing

There’s No One Size Fits All in Marketing

Are you marketing to generations? Using audience generation buckets to begin to understand the context in which those individuals have lived and experienced allows us to gain insights into how to connect and communicate with them.

A simple example is the early boomers, late greatest generation population who were raised during the depression tend to be less open to what some may refer to as impulse or frivolous spending, and therefore offering a more detailed journey explaining value and cost effectiveness in an investment would be appropriate. Similarly, it’s been reported that GenZ puts a higher value on experiences than material items would direct marketers to include that offering or value proposition in their journey. Obviously, these are merely starting points, and additional demographic and ethnographic information is added to identify, target, and communicate with the audiences.

Marketing Content: Art and Education

After a couple days, while I percolated on the ideas I read in that one post, I went back to see comments from others to get more insights and perspectives on this discussion. I found the original post to be gone, and that was both validating but also very disappointing. I really wanted to learn more about what others said and how they viewed the idea.

It then reminded me that content is also art. I heard once that an artist creates art for themselves, as an expression from inside, and once it’s done it’s offered to the world for interpretation and to enjoy, and is never just what the artist put out from inside… I felt a little cheated when I saw the post was gone, because it offered us all a chance to experience discussion and to connect to different perspectives. For me, in that sense, the original post had been incredibly valuable. It made me think. It made me question my own perspectives and ideas. It got me to percolate my thoughts, and then drew me back in for more discussion.

To me, that’s what motivates me. Learning and being able to process different perspectives. Now, I don’t know if that motivates me because I’m a marketer or a GenXer, or perhaps because I’ve been conditioned in a politically charged decade plus to react to posts I disagree with. I leave that to marketers who target me for their products and services to decide.