Quick tip: Millennials HATE being called teens. That’s probably because they aren’t teens. Although the media and many marketers seems to believe that the millennial generation includes anyone younger than Gen X, they are, in fact, a specific generation — and they are adults. All of them. If you’re targeting millennials and assuming that covers everyone, you’re probably missing some opportunities.
Xennials, Millennials, Gen-Z, Gen Alpha, Oh My!
Most marketers focus on just two generations, but there are eight living generations in the U.S., including THREE generations that follow Gen X, as well as a sub-group of one generation. The dividing years are a bit squishy, but the members of each clearly understand which group they belong to.
Millennials: ~1980 to ~1998
There are now more millennials than boomers, so this is every marketer’s favorite group. The end year is extremely variable. Some say it extends into the early 2000s, but most people born after the late 1990s consider themselves Gen Z.
Xennials: 1977 to 1983
A subset of people born in the dividing line between Gen X and millennials. They don’t feel that either generation fits them and their experiences.
Generation Z: ~1998 to ~2012
Media and marketers often lump older Gen-Z members in with millennials, but they identify themselves as being distinct from the previous generation.
Generation Alpha: ~2012 to Today
These are babies, toddlers and kindergartners. They don’t know they are part of a generation. Their primary defining characteristics are a deep aversion to broken cookies and a love of YouTube toy videos.
Who Should You Be Targeting?
Many marketers focus on millennials and assume that the message that works for them will work for anyone younger, but that approach’s likely to irritate not only the younger generations, but also the older ones that might also be interested in your product or service.
As I said above, millennials are adults. The majority of them have completed their educations, have established careers, and may own a home or have children. Despite inventing the term “adulting,” they are in fact living adult lives and have adult concerns like money management, parenting and career planning. Although technology is an aspect of every part of their lives, and their embrace of it has disrupted multiple industries, they do remember a pre-smartphone world.
Millennials rely heavily on social media and personal recommendations when making purchase decisions. They read user reviews, but know which ones are fake. Focus first on making a product that will generate great reviews, and then make it easy for customers to leave them. Millennials like loyalty or rewards programs, especially if they are in app form. Radio and podcast ads are also effective.
Generation Z has an entirely different set of concerns. For the most part, they are still in school. The oldest of them are just about to graduate college or are entering the workforce. They are aware of their buying power and have a wide range of interests and concerns. The older members are concerned about student debt and being able to find a job after college. This generation has always lived in a digital world and have woven technology into their lives.
Generation Z splits their time across multiple social media platforms, so you need to be where they are. Focus on mobile marketing, because that’s what they’re using. Most prefer video to text, but they like to see individualized messages rather than mass marketing. They want to know what companies stand for, but you only have a few seconds to convey that before they bounce to the next post. They are particularly drawn to real people sharing real stories, and they value diversity.
Generation Alpha is not yet aware of their buying power, but they are aware of their power to beg their parents for toys. Most of their parents are millennials or part of Generation X, who know exactly how marketers are targeting their kids. They want their kids to be happy, though, so they will buy the baffling Shopkins and LOL Surprise dolls that this group loves so much. (You may have detected that this writer is a parent of an Alpha.)
The Alphas have always lived in a digital world, but one that responds to their touch and even their voice. To them, technology has a personality. Targeting this group is challenging, because they are using their parents’ accounts to access content. They have also learned how to push the “skip ad” button on YouTube already, but will watch long ads if they’re particularly entertaining.
Don’t Forget the Older Generations
Despite marketers’ collective amnesia about Generation X, this group does have money and is willing to spend it. This group is in their 40s and 50s, which means most are at the peak of their careers and earning power and may have some extra money to throw around on nicer cars, fancy vacations and pricey toys for themselves (assuming they’re not spending it all on college expenses for their Gen Z children.) Show them some love! Trust me, they’re not all bitter slackers who hate everyone and everything. They are a bit jaded, however, after years of being ignored. If you’re a millennial, your boss may very well be a member of this group.
Given that Gen X is a sandwich generation that is juggling care for aging parents and young children, they love a discount. Email marketing is still effective, if they have time to check their Promotions folders. But don’t email every day! Once a week is plenty. They also like to feel that they’re supporting others with their choices, so companies that support social causes are aces in their book.
Boomers cannot be ignored (and won’t let you ignore them even if you want to), but their buying power is declining. Most are retired or nearing retirement age, and are focused on preparing for that, as well as the challenges of keeping their aging bodies healthy. The most successful of this group still buy cars and vacations, but they also like to buy things for their grandkids and relive the glory days of their youth with music festivals starring other boomers. Traditional advertising methods such as television, print and radio still work on them. They tend to be brand-loyal and interested in the value they will receive from products.
When planning your marketing campaigns, don’t immediately go for the millennials. Instead, figure out who your target market actually is and what they actually need, then target your message appropriately. Don’t start with the message that will best suit the most popular group and then hope it will work for everyone else.