Changing the Way We Market Through Generations

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Baby boomers, Generation X, Millennials, and Generation Z: these are titles we all become branded with the day we are born. And rightfully so, individuals within the same generational cohort are heavily influenced by the culture and new technologies of their time frame, and thus share common traits which define them as consumers.  Accordingly, with new each generation comes a new type of customer. Therefore, the marketing world must keep up with the current generational trends and technologies so products can be marketed in the most effective way possible.

Marketing to the Millennials

     Currently, Millennials (those born between 1994-1977) have been the main target of market research as they have differed significantly from their predecessors, the Baby Boomers, in almost every way possible. This shift can be attributed to Millennials being the first generation to be heavily influenced by new technologies like the Internet and smart phones, which have fundamentally changed the way they shopped. In fact, Millennials commonly use their smartphone while shopping to compare prices, search for product reviews, and look for coupons. Consequently, while print advertisements and promotions in newspapers were utilized to market to Baby Boomers, marketing to Millennials is done primarily through the Internet and social media sites, proving to be much more effective. Thus, those within the marketing industry had to recognize the change in consumer behavior and adapt their strategies accordingly.

Move Over Millennials: Here Comes Generation Z

The oldest individuals in Generation Z (those born between 1995 and 2012) are beginning to reach young adulthood, making the “tweens and teens of today primed to become the dominant youth influencers of tomorrow,” according to the New York Times.

One of the biggest differences between Millennials and Baby Boomers was the use of brands. Baby Boomers were influenced by the quality of a product and businesses saw the best results when they had an expert testify about the quality of a good. Millennials, however, were more influenced by advice from friends, family, and reading online product reviews. Additionally, Millennials were heavily engaged in “brand buying”, in which purchases were dictated by the brand name rather than the product’s quality. Millennials chose which brands they support based on the brand’s image and whether or not they identify and relate to what that brand portrays.

Similarly, Generation Z is also more likely to follow brands rather than actual products, but the types of brands they support are chosen a bit differently. Whereas Millennials follow brands that they feel represents their personality, image, and social status, Generation Z is more interested in following a brand that is authentic and represents an image of not just being a company, but a company that also has an interest in social change and the world around them.

For example, many companies now promote Green Initiatives or produce Eco-friendly products in an effort to garner support from fledgling consumers.  Here are some companies that have recently undergone new Green Initiatives:

  • Wells Fargo: purchases copy paper that is comprised of 30% post-consumer waste and have invested $5 billion into green projects
  • Starbucks: uses recycled paper products, promotes recycling in all of their stores, & has cut back on the amount of packaging in their products
  • Nike: uses environmentally preferred materials such as recycled polyester to create shoes

While Generation Z is still fairly young, copious amounts of market research is currently underway as businesses seek to better understand their buying patterns. As individuals within the marketing community, we must work hard to be consistent with social changes, learn their new behaviors, and adopt new marketing techniques to compliment this new generation of consumers.


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