Marketing to Generation Y and Generation X

Marketing is the activity and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers and clients. (Definition of Marketing).

Traditional marketing has broadly relied upon these channels:

• Word-of-mouth
• Fliers, brochures and other printed support materials
• Print ads in newspapers, magazines and trade publications
• Radio and Television commercials
• Billboards
• And much more

However, undercutting all the traditional marketing channels that might potentially carry a message, would be the words of the actual message itself.

• What concepts would inspire a recipient of such a message to seek out more information?

• More specifically, what message would move a person to make a purchase?

By virtue of the myriad experiences that each and every individual already possesses, it could appear to be a complex process to understand the needs and desires of so many unique persons.

As an example, would an individual fresh out of college respond to the same message about purchasing a health book as a middle-aged parent who is seeking to improve their physical fitness?

Heck, do the terms “health” and “physical fitness” even mean the same thing to disparate age groups?

Marketing Messages

Although crafting messages that generate purposeful response can be complex, the art and science of marketing is founded upon a rudimentary concept of seeking to understand similar characteristics of smaller groups, which can then be analyzed to ascertain similar buying behaviors and characteristics. Such segmentation can be by age, gender, geography, interests, and by many other criteria.

Understanding what messages are the most effective at generating interest in any product or service are gained through market research, including surveys and market testing. A common form of market testing is the process of comparing different marketing messages and advertisements, side-by-side, to analyze which generates the best response. Such results are then used to further refine a message to maximize the response of the presentation.

As an example, let’s suppose you happened to be interested in increasing your personal fitness level and you observed two separate advertisements in your local newspaper, which said:

• “Get healthier and feel better now, call 123-456-7890”

• “Increase your personal health and fitness by calling 123-456-0987”

Which might pique your interest the most?

The answer won’t be the same for every person, but one of those messages may be more effective for a majority of individuals at driving responses.

“Health” products and services are potentially appealing to a large swath of individuals in modern societies. Since that’s a pretty broad category of buyers to understand, more useful insights can be gained by looking at similarities associated with a marketing subgroup, characterized by age.

Advertising to different age groups is more sophisticated than simply having young actors in a TV commercial drinking a certain brand’s health drink to promote that product to that group, and/or depicting a mature couple on a beach sipping the same health drink to appeal to older consumers. (Even though effective use of imagery to demonstrate different age groups would be a minimal requisite).

Generational Categories

Marketing as an art and science to generate more potential customers is akin to the way you and I and everyone else in our world relates to each other: we find it easier to understand and trust others that already have similar ideas and views. Understanding the ideas and views of different age groups simply makes it easier to present products and services to subsegments of society in a way that is more likely to be appealing.

Joe Marconi, in his book, Future Marketing, details characteristic pertaining to several age groups, including those briefly summated as follows:

A) Baby Boomers (born between 1946 and 1964): Image-conscious, yet sensitive and nostalgic

B) Generation X (born between 1965 and 1980): Cynical, yet ideological

C) Generation Y (born between 1981 and 2000): Independent, enigmatic

Additional characteristics identified with these age groups have been detailed this way:

A) Baby Boomers are noted as achievement-oriented, confident, career-focused and responsible. They are said to welcome exciting and challenging projects and further desire to make a difference with their lives.

B) Generation X values freedom and responsibility. This generation is typified as being technologically adept and representing a casual resistance to authority and structured work hours, and particularly, a dislike of being micro-managed. Generation Xers are said to work to live rather than live to work.

C) Generation Y represents the youngest age group of talent in the work force. Generation Yers are said to desire attention in the forms of feedback and guidance and wish to be kept in the broader communication loop. More so than any other age group, Generation Y has grown up being plugged-in 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and is the most technologically savvy of these age groups.

More to the point, how does one use such information to communicate to potential new customers?

Although the best answer to that question would be resolved through surveys and market testing, there is available research that can be readily leveraged for greater promotional effectiveness.

Simplifying The “Ages” for Marketers

Much of the point of this article is simplified by Lisa Johnson in her 2010 book Mind Your X’s and Y’s: Satisfying the 10 Cravings of a New Generation of Consumers. Johnson categorizes the combined Generation X and Generation Y as the “Connected Generation.” She examines the buying behaviors of 18- to 40-year-olds and depicts these “multitasking, constantly upgrading customers who grew up in the Internet era” to base their decisions upon ten “consumer cravings.”

Johnson identifies such cravings by using terms such as:

1) “Extreme personalization”
2) “Adventure”
3) “Loose connections” by way of social networks
4) “Intuitive design”
5) Helping to “sift through the clutter” by way of interpersonal editors and filters
6) “The rejection of push advertising and the rising influence of peer-to-peer networks”
7) “Connected citizens explore their creative power and influence change”
8) Delivering “a dramatic sense of theater”
9) Finding common ground through “Spiritual hunger and modern media”
10) And finally, by giving back through “volunteerism and the meaning of contribution”

Although a separate series of articles could be devoted to the myriad ways all ten of these “cravings” can be extrapolated to better market health products – or any products and services – what is immediately pertinent is the channel that most engages the “Connected Generation”: the Internet, and especially social media.

In other words, although market surveys and testing would yield more responsive messages to engender more clients, customers and patrons, by simply leveraging social media services such as blogs, YouTube, Facebook and many other related platforms, businesses that are seeking to sell to Generation X and Generation Y would be engaging them via media that is already more intuitive to them in terms of making purchases.


The takeaway for this article is that the marketing messages that have been effective at bringing in new business for your company, may or may not be working as effectively as they used to, simply because a large chunk of the buying public has moved their buying research and decision-making to the Internet and to social media.

Although the potential for increasing new sales for your business could be increased via more specific messaging, facilitated by surveys and market testing, easier marketing gains (more sales) may be achieved by conveying your existing messages more effectively via media that is more engaging to both Generation X and particularly Y: The Internet. And more specifically, by way of channels that facilitate user engagement, such as blogs, Facebook, YouTube, and many other types of Social Media.