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What Buying Habits Tell Marketers About Each Generation

By Gui Costin


Each generation has unique experiences, lifestyles, and demographics that influence their buying behaviors, financial experts say. And studies show these distinguishing factors often lead to different spending habits between generations.

As a result, many companies are reaching out to consumers and trying to understand — and gain the attention of — these diverse buyers.

This type of multi-generational marketing is the practice of appealing to the unique needs and behaviors of individuals within different generational groups. In terms of finding and retaining buyers, companies cannot underestimate those generational differences.

 The buying habits of different generations are influenced by environmental factors and businesses must focus their marketing efforts accordingly. Here is a look at each generation.

Millennials. Now comprising the highest percentage of the workforce, this generation (born roughly from 1981 to 1995) receives considerable marketing attention. Many millennials grew up immersed in the digital world — a big difference from previous generations — and they think globally. Attract this group early and earn its loyalty by appealing to their belief that they can make the future better. Traditional mass marketing approaches do not work well with younger consumers. Be sure they know that your organization’s mission speaks to a purpose greater than the bottom line — for example, globalization and climate change. Give them systematic feedback because they value positive reinforcement at accelerated rates and want more input. 

Generation X. Following the baby boomers and preceding the millennials, their tastes are different from previous generations. Because they have greater financial restraints, they often shop at value-oriented retailers. On the other hand, they have a reputation of being incredibly disloyal to brands and companies. Generation Xers like initiatives that will make things more useful and practical. They demand trust to the extent that if your organization does not follow through once, then you are likely to lose them.

Baby Boomers. This demographic group, with many now in retirement or nearing it, includes those born from 1946 to 1964. Health is a major concern, and change is not something they embrace. They appreciate options and want quick fixes that require little change and instant improvement. They do not like bureaucracy — but give them a cause to fight for and they will give their all. Focus on building value and they will be less price sensitive. While this group may be aging, they’re focused on breaking the mold of what age 60 and beyond looks like. 

The Silent Generation. Born between 1925 and 1945, this group represents the oldest Americans and typically is labeled with traditional values such as discipline, self-denial, hard work, conformity, and financial conservatism. It’s important to earn their trust, as they believe that a person’s word is his or her bond. Patriotism, team-building, and sacrifice for the common good are appealing to this generation. As a group, they aren’t particularly interested in the information age; however, the younger members of this generation are one of the fastest-growing groups of internet users.

Communicating with customers in different generations can be challenging. However, all generations appreciate honesty and authenticity. As environmental factors change, transparency and genuine interactions remain important to everyone.      

Gui Costin (, author of “Millennials Are Not Aliens,” is an entrepreneur, and founder of Dakota, a company that sells and markets institutional investment strategies.

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