Cross-Generational Marketing: How to reach Gen X, Y, and Z

Sometimes, finding a marketing language that speaks to all of your potential clients can seem impossible. After all, the oldest members of Gen Z are 21 while the oldest Gen Xers are 54! Chances are that you are somewhere in between, so it’s understandable to feel like you aren’t sure how to speak to either.

It’s true that each generation has its particular likes and dislikes when it comes to interacting online and in person. However, there’s one important factor that you can always count on: we are all human. And, we humans have innate desires, needs, and responses we can always relate to and connect with.

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t know and use the types of communication, language and techniques that work best with X, Y and Z. You want those in your wheelhouse, too. If your ideal client is a Millennial small business owner who grew up on social media and expects a certain online savvy, you want to deliver!

But technology is not the only thing to consider when marketing across generations. Understanding what members of each generation value and are thinking and feeling can help you make better connections through your marketing.

Gen X

The oldest Gen Xer is now 54 and the youngest is around 39. This generation spans the pre-Internet era and our current Internet immersion, so they want a bit of both. You can use some traditional advertising with them. But they’re still computer literate, even though they might not spend hours online.

Gen X believes that nothing comes for free and they’re willing to pay for worthwhile services.  They are more loyal to brands but it is also a skeptical generation on the lookout for being short-changed or scammed. Gen X is cynical, practical, and independent. Generally, they don’t care what you think of them — it’s what they think of you that matters. They will reward good products and services with devotion, patience around normal delays and complications, and a willingness to pay for your time and effort.


Gen Y (AKA Millennials)

Gen Y (or Millennials, as they are commonly known) are between 22 and 38 today, and they are the first generation to grow up in a computerized society. Overall they’re trusting, but they want to feel like their interactions are personal. They see what they buy as saying something about who they are.

Shopping for them is an experience, so they expect to be engaged and entertained. Blogs are an effective way to draw them in and keep them interested. Millennials don’t mind that their information is being collected and used, but they expect you to cater to them as individuals as a result. They aren’t buying a product or service, they are creating a lifestyle. Your job as a marketer is to help them envision and embody that lifestyle.


Gen Z 

Only 21 at the oldest, it goes without saying that Gen Z is by far the most Internet-experienced generation in history. Growing up with a smartphone (or tablet) in their hands, they’ve been bombarded with images and marketing messages from an early age. As such, they are able to filter out content that is irrelevant and doesn’t grab them in seconds. They are also the most ethnically diverse generation.

Gen Z is practical, responsible, globally-minded, and very sincere. In this age of info gathering, they do care about privacy. They still want individual attention, but they don’t feel like they are what they buy – they expect you to be a good steward of your brand and your behavior.


What all generations have in common

Reading through this, you might be thinking that advertising to all generations at once is impossible; Gen X is skeptical and guarded while Gen Y wants personal contact and Gen Z just wants you to be authentic and good at what you do. 

When it comes to communicating and messaging, Gen Z is the key because what Gen Z wants is what everyone responds to: honest, good, and thoughtful products or services.

At any age, you can always reach your audience by leaving behind the sales talk and the hype and presenting your brand and your business the way you see them — through your pride, your accomplishments, how you work with others, and the thought that goes into what you make and do. You don’t always have to speak a generational language when there’s a universal language everyone understands; authenticity, personal service, and genuine engagement.

That, my friends, is your ticket to attracting your ideal clients, from A to Z.  

Christie Osborne is the owner of Mountainside Media, a company that helps event industry professionals brands develop scalable marketing strategies that bring in more inquiries and leads. Christie is a national educator with recent speaking engagements at NACE Experience, WIPA, and the ABC Conference.


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