Best Ways to Message Generations, From Baby Boomers to Gen Z
Thanksgiving. What better opportunity to observe the marketing and communicating across generations? Let’s look around the table. Traditional, it is not — at least not in a Norman Rockwell kind of way. Boomer grandparents are on their smartphones or iPads, catching up on Facebook and posting pictures of the family gathered around the table. Their Gen X children are snapping digital photos of the braised Brussels sprouts with bacon and tart cranberries to impress their friends on Facebook, while perusing pre-Black Friday sales online. Their Millennial children are Instagramming the same Brussels sprouts, but with an artsy twist and the hashtag #foodporn. Their Generation Z teenage siblings are sending Snapchat photos, streaming YouTube videos, checking WhatsApp to see when their latest crush was last online, and basically moving between social sites faster than the crescent rolls are disappearing. Any one of those people could be taking selfies (with relatives or Brussels sprouts).
Is the gap between generations as wide as it used to be? It would seem not — at least not on the digital front. The effective use of digital media now spans from “leading-edge” Baby Boomers to the technology-driven lifestyles of Gen Z. However, the difference between generations lies in the extent to which digital – or any other media for that matter – is used and its intent, or the purpose for which it is used.
Let’s talk extent first. Leading-edge Baby Boomers and Gen Xers are transition generations. They both have one foot in the analog world and one in the digital, with Gen Xers definitely leaning more into the digital. These two generations are accustomed to responding to direct mail and TV, as well as digital. An integrated media mix that covers all the bases is needed to satisfy their multimedia needs.
Millennials are up to their chests in digital and Gen Zers are up to their eyeballs in it. Digital budgets go up and other media budgets down for these two cohorts. In the case of Millennials, traditional media like direct mail and TV can work, and TV has been particularly successful. Millennials will multi-task between traditional media and the Internet. However, for Gen Zers, digital is really the only way to reach them.