Generational Differences Should Change Your Marketing

Understanding the influences our audiences have in their lives and psyche are crucial to user experience. While you needn’t know every detail, you must have an understanding of generational differences, beyond the cursory understanding provided by the media. Choose your words based on your audience, and your connections will be more real.

B-Gen-header-1tradb Know Your Audience

KNOWN AS: Veterans, Silent, Moral Authority, Radio Babies, The Forgotten Generation

CHARACTERISTICS: Raised by parents that just survived the great depression. Experienced hard times while growing up which were followed by times of prosperity. They’re influenced by… WWII, Korean War, Great Depression, New Deal, Rise on Corporations, and The Space Age.

VALUES: honor, compliance, sacrifice, dedication, hard work, good attitude, attendance, practical knowledge, loyalty

Looking for recognition and respect for their experience, value placed on history/ traditions, job security and stability, reputation, defined rules and policies, with adherence to the same, integrity and a willingness to act.


  • Be discrete
  • Show respect for their age/experience (address formally)
  • Use good grammar andmanners, absolutely noprofanity, dramatically limit slang
  • Deliver your message basedon history and traditionswhenever possible
  • Present your story in a formal, logical manner
  • Don’t waste their time
  • Use inclusive language (we, us)
  • Focus-words not body language
  • Be slow to “warm up”
  • Whenever possible, use hand written notes, less email, and more personal interaction
B-Gen-header-2bb2 Know Your Audience

KNOWN AS: “Me” Generation, Moral Authority

CHARACTERISTICS: They question everything and are slow to trust. They handle crisis well. Ambitious, anti-establishment, competent, idealistic, and live to work. They dislike conflict. Often challenging the authority of Traditionalists, and are judgmental if others disagree. Highest divorce rate and 2nd marriages in history. They’re influenced by… Civil Rights, Vietnam War, Sexual Revolution, Cold War, Space Travel.

VALUES: family loyalty, involvement, personal gratification, personal growth.

Post War Babies who grew up to be radicals of the 70’s and yuppies of the 80’s, “The American Dream” was promised to them as children and they actively pursue it. As a result they are sometimes viewed as materialistic or ambitious.


  • Be diplomatic
  • Communicate in person whenever possible
  • Speak openly and directly
  • Use body language to communicate
  • Present options (this group responds to flexibility)
  • Use electronic communications as well as face to face (direct)
  • Learn what is important to them such as values, priorities, or opinions
  • Answer questions thoroughly and expect to be pressed for details
  • Avoid manipulative/controlling language
  • This group will respond to your “personal touch”
  • Get consensus. This group wants to be included, without you may cause offense
  • Establish a friendly rapport
  • OK to use first names
B-Gen-header-3genx Know Your Audience

KNOWN AS: Gen X, Xers, The Doer, Post Boomers, 13th Generation

CHARACTERISTICS: This is a group of dynamic young leaders with an appreciation for cutting edge systems/technology. They are forward thinking in company environments, and flexible in scheduling. They value input on merit, not age or seniority. They’re influenced by… Watergate, Energy Crisis, Single Parents, First Generation of Latchkey Kids, Y2K, Activism, Corporate Downsizing, End of Cold War, and Increasing Divorce Rates.

VALUES: balance, diversity, entrepreneurial spirit, fun.

They are educated and have high job expectations. Independent, informal, and lack organizational loyalty. They are pragmatists that seek life balance and self-reliance. This group is unimpressed with authority and skeptical of “institutions.”


  • Be direct
  • Be immediate
  • Use straight talk, and present facts
  • Use email as the # 1 tool
  • Learn their language and speak it
  • Use informal communication style
  • Speak in short sound-bytes
  • Share information immediately and often
  • This generation has the potential to bridge the generation gap between the youngest and oldest workers
  • Don’t micro manage them, but rather manage details on their behalf
  • Avoid buzz words and jargon
  • Tie your message to “results”
B-Gen-header-4m2-1 Know Your Audience

KNOWN AS: Generation Y, Gen Y, Generation Next, Echo Boomers, Chief Friendship Officers, 24/7s

CHARACTERISTICS: They value achievement and civic duty, and are confident, avid consumers. They are extremely competitive, and are the most educated generation. They are optimistic and value instant gratification. Eager to spend, ambitious, but not focused. Have been indulged, “me first” attitude, and politically savvy. They have a strong sense of entitlement. They’re influenced by… Their coming of age during a period of economic expansion, who were kept extremely busy as children.


  • Goal Oriented.
  • Prefer diversity, technology, informality and fun.
  • Expect to influence the terms and conditions of their workplace.
  • Have a work ethic that does not mandate 10 hour days.
  • Have high expectations of bosses and managers to be mentors.
  • Want long term work relationships, but on their own terms.

This group believes that because of technology, they can work flexibly anytime, anyplace and that they should be evaluated on work product, not how, when or where it was done.


  • Be polite
  • Use positive, respectful, motivational, electronic communication style (cell phones, email, IM, text)
  • Communicate in person if the message is very important
  • Use email and voice mail as #1 tools
  • Don’t talk down-they will resent it, and you
  • Show respect through language and they will respect you
  • Use action verbs
  • Use language to portray visual pictures
  • Be humorous – show you are human
  • Be careful about the words you use and the way you say it (they are not good at personal communication because of technical ways of communicating)
  • Be positive
  • This group prefers to learn in networks, teams using multimedia while being entertained and excited