Identifying your Target Market: Who are you talking to?

Every businessperson knows one must identify their potential market. That is what demographics is all about, right? In today’s ever-changing world, more than ever we need to incorporate the generation factor. The lines blur between generations.  Two people 5 years apart may identify themselves with the older or younger generation. A person born at the end of Generation X might identify with Y and a person born at the beginning of Generation X might identify with the Baby Boomers.  Everything plays a factor now including where they grew up, if their parents were divorced or not, how much they and their parents make. Let’s take a look at the description of each generation, not their actual age, although I do reference what years each is most likely born.

The Greatest Generation

Born between 1901 and 1925, this generation also has been called the Depression Generation. For most marketing, this generation today is all but irrelevant.  What is relevant, however, is that the next generation that was born after them have similar core
values hence the people born from 1926 – 1945 are usually classified with them.  Both of these generations fought and/or lived through at least one World War, and both generations were affected by the great depression, whether it was actual or by rote. Both of these generations have seen it all when it comes to advertising, resulting in a
particularly savvy consumer segment. They are big on value and in general don’t “shop for fun” as other generations tend to do. They have pensions they can rely on that some of the later generations won’t have so communicating value is key.  They also tend to be very loyal customers, so winning them is hard, but keeping them is not as difficult.

Boomers I or The Baby Boomers

Born: 1946-1954. For a long time the Baby Boomers were defined as those born between 1945 and 1964. That would make the generation huge (71 million) and encompass people who were 20 years apart in age. It didn’t compute to have those born in 1964 compared with those born in 1946. Life experiences were completely different. Attitudes, behaviors and society were vastly different. In effect, all the elements that help to define a cohort were violated by the broad span of years originally included in the concept of the Baby Boomers. The first Boomer segment is bounded by the Kennedy and Martin Luther King assassinations, the Civil Rights movements and the Vietnam War. Boomers I were in or protested the War. Boomers 2 or the Jones Generation missed the whole thing.

Boomers I had good economic opportunities and were largely optimistic about the potential for America and their own lives, the Vietnam War notwithstanding.

Boomers II or Generation Jones

Born: 1955-1965. This first post-Watergate generation lost much of its trust in government and optimistic views the Boomers I maintained. Economic struggles including the oil embargo of 1979 reinforced a sense of “I’m out for me” and narcissism and a focus on self-help and skepticism over media and institutions is representative of attitudes of this cohort. While Boomers I had Vietnam, Boomers II had disco, cocaine and a general irreverence that was not known to their predecessors.

The youngest members of the Boomer II generation in fact did not have the benefits of the Boomer I class as many of the best jobs, opportunities, housing etc. were taken by the larger and earlier group. Both Gen X and Boomer II s suffer from this long shadow cast by Boomers I.

Generation X

This is an often overlooked generation. The born dates vary here depending on what the person identifies with. 1961-1965 can go either way. But those born from 1966 through 1978 are solidly in this group with 1978-1980 falling into either X or Y.  The estimated 44 million in Generation X are just entering their peak earning and buying years. They’re tech-savvy and love to shop. They have a high value for education and knowledge. Unlike Generation Y, brand prestige alone won’t cut it and this generation wants to know why your product is a good value. They are independent and like to save like their parents, who were the early Baby Boomers.

Generation Y

These are the people born to the late Baby Boomers and early Gen Xers.  Typically they are born 1980-1990. Never really knowing a time without home computers, cell phones or ATM’s, this generation is the first generation to be entirely in the technology information age.  They went to school with computers, and had either pagers or a cellphone when they first started driving. They often had bank accounts, credit cards and sometimes even new car payments before they ever hit 20.  A large number of these stayed at home longer when compared to Generation X due to the higher cost of living.  Like the Boomers, this is a huge population being around 75 million. They also have more disposable income due to their parental support system. Growing up with computers means this generation is especially responsive to internet campaigns and are typically brand loyal. They like humor that outside the box in their advertising and even reverse marketing (with the right product) works sometimes.


At first they were called Generation Z coming after X and Y, but now are referred to as Millennials.  Wikipedia and many people group the Millenials in with the Y’s, but I really believe there is a difference.  Born in the 90′s through 2001, this generation is very young. Most of their adult life they have known a depressed economy and a very polarized political landscape, whereas Gen Y knows great prosperity and entrepreneurship.  The market for Millenials is still developing.  This is the market most likely to be impacted by Social Media and less likely to respond to traditional print or radio marketing. They are the first generation to be born entirely in the internet era and their parents are usually tech savvy (Generation X and even Y) and more likely to be more accepting and knowledgeable of technology, fashions and even humor than previous generations, which sometimes dealt with tensions stemming from their parents’ lack of technological savvy or acceptance.

So with all that, do you know which customers you want to target?


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