Bridging the Age Gap: Tailoring Online Content Marketing to Multiple Generations

We are living in a very interesting time. The chasm that has always existed between different generations is made even greater by the rapid advancement of technology over the past 50 years. Each generation living in America today has an entirely different experience with the way in which humans interact with technology, retailers, and one another. Just 10 years ago, people were buying CDs and visiting the nearest Borders to get their books—now you can simply stream any music you want or purchase an eBook version of the latest bestseller from the comfort of your own home (or anywhere you have a wifi connection). However, it’s important to remember that not everyone has the same buying preferences and comfort level with technology. Empirical studies have shown that older individuals still prefer to travel to the store and tend to have stronger brand loyalty, while younger individuals have no problem whipping out their credit cards for an online shopping spree (can you say “Cyber Monday?”) and float between brands without a second thought.

So how do marketers resolve these differences in their strategies in order to reach multiple generations? Enter: audience targeting and content marketing.

Free Download: Want to learn more ways to better engage with your audience? Check out our free download and learn how to target your audience at every level.Intro to 1:1 Marketing.

In short, audience targeting is a marketing tactic where marketers research their audiences to generate clearly-defined target audience profiles, then tailor their marketing efforts to those profiles. Content marketing is a method focused on consistently generating and distributing valuable and timely content with the goal of attracting and retaining clearly-defined audiences. When it comes to reaching people across generations, this marketing mix is key.

Because age is such major influencer in buyer behavior, recognizing and understanding the behavioral differences within the different age demographics in your target audience is essential for maximizing the ROI on your marketing efforts.

According to a 2013 report from the National Retail Federation (NRF) entitled “Across the Ages: Generational Impact on Spending,” there are four distinct American customer age demographics marketers need to know. Read more to learn about these groups, their different preferences for consuming content and making purchasing decisions, and how to shape your marketing to suit each one:

Millennials (Born 1981-1995)

According to the NRF ‘Across the Ages’ report, Millennials are generally largely more educated, less religious, and more optimistic about the future than the other adult generations. Folks in this generation have grown up with technology as a basic part of life and are very comfortable interfacing with new technology. As consumers, Millennials tend to be less brand loyal than older generations, and can be very unpredictable and impulsive in their buying patterns. Successful marketing to this group would include:

  • A strong and sophisticated online presence, including website, blog, and social content… all of which has to be mobile friendly
  • Video- and photo-based content, as well as infographics
  • Remaining current with technology, software, and digital design trends
  • Special offers, teasers, and freemium options to gain interest

Generation X (Born 1965-1980)

As a whole, this group is generally established career-wise and family-wise, which means they are currently at the peak of their earning and spending years. Despite the fact that they were born prior to the Internet boom, most Generation Xers regularly use social media, web-based retailers, and own smart phones. As consumers, they tend to be skeptical and not easily persuaded. Successful marketing to this group would include:

  • Research and data, testimonials, and networking
  • Soft sales tactics that are subtle, yet persuasive and low-pressure
  • Flexibility—give suggestions, not rules for how to interact with your content
  • Honesty and transparency

Baby Boomers (Born 1946-1964)

This demographic focused on hard work and social activism in their formative years. They value trust, loyalty, community, and value. This group is straddling retirement age, putting them near the end of their primary spending years, but that doesn’t mean they can’t and shouldn’t be marketed to. Successful marketing to this group would include:

  • Research and testimonials about your product/service
  • In-person interfacing and calls
  • A strong declaration of your company’s purpose, mission, and ideals
  • Deals, discounts, and sales, to get them intrigued

The Silent Generation (Born mid-1920s-1945)

Thanks to Tom Brokow, this generation is often known as the ‘Greatest Generation’ because they survived and grew to prosper after the Great Depression and World War II. As consumers, they seek value, ease, comfort, and a sense of community. Successful marketing to this group would include:

  • Traditional marketing tools like print marketing, in-person interaction, and cold calls
  • A lack of modern colloquial terms and a more traditional, clean design in all marketing materials
  • Easy to navigate online content. Many seniors are active online, but have trouble navigating busy websites
  • Content that appeals to emotions

Bonus! Check out our free download and learn more ways to better engage with your audience.Intro to 1:1 Marketing.

Quin Woodward-Pu

VP-Marketing Audienti. Former Director of PR Brightline Interactive. Former Editor Vocus. Social media guru.

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