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One of the most common ways to break down consumer demographics is by categorizing them based on the generation they were born in. While it’s not always a great idea to generalize a population of people whose ages vary 15+ years, categorization by generation makes sense; many people grew up in a similar era and saw similar significant world events and inventions.

But there is more to understanding a segment of the population than simply analyzing their life experiences. People are unique and each generation certainly has its own variances. With this in mind, let’s take a deeper dive into each generation to get a better understanding of them.

Google searches for the cutoff years of each generation yields a wide range of results. Some websites list different years, others list subcategories within each generation. For clarity and simplification, let’s use the generations set by the Pew Research Center. [1]


  • The Silent Generation: Before 1946
  • Baby Boomers 1946 – 1964
  • Generation X: 1965 – 1980
  • Millennial: 1981 – 1996
  • Generation Z: 1997 – 2012
  • Generation Alpha: 2013 – present
The Silent Generation: Before 1946

A generation born during the great depression and into World War II, the Silent Generation is hard-working and patriotic—they grew up when the U.S. was head and shoulders above other world economies, experienced major wars, as well as multiple political scandals. The generation enjoys togetherness and conformity, as they grew up in a unified America and only experienced extreme polarization during the Civil Rights era and the current climate starting in the 2010s. [2]

The most dominant mediums used to get information during their lives have been radio, print, and eventually TV. A more traditional generation, they tend to not overindulge their finances but understand quality is better than quantity. Despite the generation’s age, they are a hardy group that values ethics, morals, hard work, and discipline; they reject the depiction of being dependent. In fact, most members of this retired generation are in good health and remain very active.

Traditional marketing, such as TV, radio, and print, is a great way to target this generation. They’ve enjoyed their fair share of marketing trends and gimmicks and respond well to honest and straight-forward marketing that puts them in the driver’s seat.

70 percent of Baby Boomers use the internet on a regular basis Click to Tweet

Baby Boomers: 1946 – 1964

This generation was born during the wave of births following World War II and during the United States’ booming industrial era. Baby Boomers were impactful during the Vietnam War and Civil Rights era and were the first generation to grow up with TV in their homes.

Despite their current age, they should not be stereotyped as the non-tech savvy generation. Many were at the height of their careers during the internet and computer revolutions and have adapted well to the technology—70 percent use the internet on a regular basis [4] and have adapted well to mobile phone use.

When it comes to values, the Baby Boomer generation is the most uniform. As a whole, the generation values trust, honesty, dependability, safety, ease of use, and enjoy traditional messages. Due to their experience during the Vietnam War and Civil Rights era, this generation researches their products before purchasing and prefers marketing with facts that allow them to make their own decisions. The more information, the better. Companies with user-friendly websites and open, informative content are greatly favored by the Baby Boomer generation.

Generation Z: 1997 – 2012

Generation Z is often lumped together with the Millennial generation, but they have distinct characteristics that distinctly set them apart from the generation before. By 2020, Generation Z will account for 40 percent of all consumers. [5]

Out of all the generations, the previous generations might have finally raised a generation right, as they seem to hold all of the positive characteristics as their predecessors—value family, very self-controlled, more disciplined than their Millennial predecessors. The generation tends to be goal-driven, confident, and optimistic.

During their young life, desktop computers have turned into laptops, tablets, and smartphones, and they have never lived without the internet. They grew up in the aftermath of 9/11 and their parents were affected by the Great Recession. In addition, Generation Z tends to be more guarded on social media, as many of them were young enough to avoid its initial speed bumps.

Targeting this generation will be a bit more difficult, partially because we simply do not have much consumer data. What we do know is 71 percent have Netflix subscriptions, which is probably higher due to password sharing, and less than half watch cable television. [6] In addition, they tend to multitask when using media, such as scrolling through social media between advertisements or during slow parts of their streamed episodes. They prefer user-generated content above all, including branding, and respond well to testimonials. In fact, 63 percents of Gen Z consumers prefer real people to celebrities when it comes to advertisements [7], which helps small businesses tremendously. Advertisements should be quick and mimic the fast-paced world they were born into. Make sure your website is fast and up-to-date, as Gen Z-ers will respond poorly to slow or difficult-to-navigate websites.

You may have noticed we skipped a couple of very big generations here. Don’t worry, we didn’t forget you Millennials. I’m sure the Gen X-ers didn’t even notice. We’ll address those two groups along with the newest, Generation Alpha, in part 2 of this blog, coming soon!

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