A Guide to Content Marketing by Generation
For your marketing messages to be successful, it’s essential that you tailor them to your different audiences and markets. “Generational” marketing is the term coined for segmenting and targeting your markets by age rather than other demographics such as gender, location, or income. If you want to make sure your content marketing is effective for each generation you’re targeting, you must understand the motivations, challenges, and habits of each generation, and how you should tailor your content accordingly.
Obviously, it should go without saying that generalizing thousands of people as a single homogeneous group just because they fit into the same age range is not a great strategy either. Further segmentation of your market is almost always necessary. But beginning your planning by keeping generational marketing in mind can ensure you’re not excluding a huge chunk of your target market from the start.
- Baby Boomers, Generation X, and Millennials are the current three main generations you should focus on. Each generation has its own unique marketing opportunities and challenges.
- Different generations consume different types of content online and spend their time on different platforms.
- You must go where your audience is and adapt your brand voice and tone accordingly.
Baby Boomers (born mid 1940s to mid 1950s)
The Baby Boomer generation grew up and probably spent a good chunk of their working lives without the internet and technology as we know it today. However, most people in this age group are now embracing the new opportunities that modern technology provides, often after an initial introduction by their children and younger peers at work. 64% of people aged 50-64 use at least one social media site.
This group, born in the aftermath of WWII, grew up in a time of great change in the world. In 1960s America, the country was experiencing a period of economic growth. Combined with the societal changes at the time, this generation was living out their youth and forming their ideals in a time of great optimism and when there was a feeling that anything was achievable.
Baby boomers have the largest spending power of any generation. Many are empty nesters, who are more likely to spend their money on hobbies and luxury items, and may have more discretionary income as they have paid off mortgages and no longer have to worry about the costs of education and other expenses that come with raising a family.
Despite this, many have been forced to become more frugal as they enter retirement and in the face of the recent economic downturn. As a result, baby boomers tend to be careful with their cash and seek out the best deals to ensure they get value for money. They tend to be very loyal to their favorite brands.
Traditional marketing is the norm for this group and they tend to watch more television than younger generations. Most people over 50 use social media less than younger generations (it’s always worth investigating your market further to see which channels your audience actually uses – you may be surprised) but networks like Facebook are still an important tool for communication in this age group.
Generation X (born mid 1960s to early 1980s)
This was the last generation who lived their childhood without computers, cellphones and the internet being an integral part of everyday life.
These kids grew up in a time of economic recession and may have had to work much harder than their parents to achieve the same level of financial success. For this reason, they tend to have less disposable income than older generations and are often focused on saving money.
Generation X is a tech-savvy group but they are often more comfortable using the technologies they’ve been accustomed to using since a young age. They may be suspicious or intimidated by newer social networks aimed at a younger audience, but this is not a hard and fast rule – again, it’s worth doing your research to discover the online habits of your particular audience.
People in this age group use the internet as a research tool and tend to be skeptical of marketing messages in general.
Millennials (born mid 1980s to mid 1990s)
This is the first generation that grew up around technology and they are completely comfortable using it. In fact, most Millennials can’t quite get their heads around a world without the internet and are lost without their smartphones. As they’ve lived their whole childhood and youth in an “always on” world, they expect instant information and gratification.
Millennials are more distrustful of marketing messages than any previous generation and value authenticity and honesty over flashy advertising. They tend to prefer ethical and community-focused brands and are more likely to spend their money with a company when their brand values align with their personal ideals.
This group is highly active on social media and is not loyal to any particular channel – if something new and better comes along, they’ll be the first to switch to these new technology trends.
The Millennial generation includes prolific online shoppers and they will frequently share their purchases and experiences with brands on social media. They value life satisfaction over financial security and so may be less careful with their money than older generations. They use recommendations from friends and family as well as online reviews and testimonials to aid their buying decisions.
The younger generation prefers to consume content on the go from their mobile devices, rather than on desktop or laptop computers. It’s therefore vital to ensure your content is optimized for mobile if you’re marketing to Millennials.
How to Adapt Your Content to Each Generation
Once you have a clearer idea of how each generation thinks and the type of marketing messages they’re most responsive to, you can tailor your content to appeal to one particular generational group.
As Millennials value authenticity above all else, it’s vital to be consistent in your marketing messages and create content that is honest and transparent. Millennials hate being sold to, so adverts that are masquerading as useful content will be quickly dismissed. Personalization and customization are also important for creating an authentic message.
However, Millennials will quickly warm to and show support for brands that demonstrate socially and environmentally responsible values. If you can work this into your content marketing, perhaps as case studies of how your brand is working with charities or reducing your environmental impact, you’re onto a winner.
This age group also loves user-generated content and values online reviews and recommendations, so consider encouraging incentives for your customers to create their own content and work it into your strategy.
Gen-Xers are often forgotten in marketing as there’s so much information about how to appeal to Millennials, and Baby Boomers hold so much buying power. But Generation X has around 50 million members and there’s estimated to be a transfer of wealth from their Baby Boomer parents worth around $30 trillion over the next 15 years.
This generation is known to be more skeptical than those younger and older than them, so it’s also vital to be consistent and authentic in your marketing communications.
They tend to have more traditional values than Millennials so appealing to their need for financial security, family mindedness, and personal wellbeing can be a sensible strategy. Work-life balance is a high priority for this age group.
While Millennials have a reputation for having a short attention span and only consuming short-form content, Baby Boomers value in-depth news pieces and analysis.
Language is important when you’re writing for this age group too – you want to be slightly more formal than when writing for a younger audience and avoid overusing slang, abbreviations, and pop-culture references.
Baby Boomers aren’t impressed by clickbait headlines either. Instead appeal to their desire for information and self-improvement by using informative, relevant headlines.
One huge mistake that marketers make when targeting Baby Boomers is being condescending or writing for an age group that’s much older than they actually are. Most Baby Boomers are highly competent users of technology and while some may be preparing for retirement, more people over the age of 50 are now starting businesses and becoming entrepreneurs.
Video is a popular content format for Millennials and younger generations. The results of research carried out by Hubspot shows that people under the age of 35 prefer their content in the form of video and social media posts. Those in older age groups prefer news articles, research reports, and email content.
Generational Content Promotion
As well as tailoring your actual content, it’s important to consider the age groups you’re targeting when it comes to your content promotion strategy.
For example, Generation X and Baby Boomers are avid email users, so an email marketing campaign can be a highly effective way to distribute your content to these age groups. Email is not so popular with younger age groups – only 22% of 18-24-year-olds and 39% of 25-34-year-olds say they want to consume brand content via email.
Facebook is still the most popular social network for all generations. But Millennials frequently use other social platforms too. 40% of 18-29-year-olds and 27% of 30-49-year-olds use Twitter, compared to only 19% of 50-64-year-olds. Instagram again is most popular with younger generations, with 64% of 18-29-year-olds using it compared to only 21% of 50-64-year-olds. In conclusion, if you’re promoting your content to Millennials and the younger “generation Z”, consider using other channels such as Instagram and Twitter as well as Facebook for your social media promotion.
Remember, these guidelines are based on statistics that represent the average market for each generation. Your audience may or may not adhere to this ‘norm’. It’s best not to assume anything about a particular age group until you’ve carried out your own research and tests. If your audience consists of Baby Boomers who spend most of their time on Twitter and you’re concentrating your marketing on Facebook, you could be wasting your time. Use these guidelines as a starting point for segmenting your market by generation, but be sure to use insights into your own unique audience to build an accurate picture of how they consume content and spend their time online.
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