The Generation Game: What Does it All Mean?

29th August 2022

If you work in marketing or have been tasked with a marketing plan, then it’s likely you’ll hear some interesting phrases that help marketeers (and everyone else) to lump together people of a certain age, to make all that targeting and stuff a bit easier.

But it isn’t immediately clear who fits into each of these generation categories.

So we’ve made it easier for you. In order. With some recognisable faces.

The Silent Generation
Aged late 70s to late 90s

This generation are our grandmas and grandpas, our parents, they’ve been retired a long time, and may have had what you’d call a ‘hard life’. Think coal in your stocking at Christmas, no TV as a youngster, the spectre and effects of war, and lots of brown clothing growing up.

Why the silent generation? Because they’ve had nothing really to shout about, growing up post-war where everyone was just trying their best to get life back on track.

The ‘poor little old man or lady’ image (and damaging stereotype) is a fallacy too, in lots of cases. The silent generation has benefited from triple-lock pension, generous wages, a gigantic growth in property prices and a lifetime of free healthcare and a relatively stable existence from an economic point of view.

They’re also a critically important market segment, with their own brands and products aimed specifically at their age group, and often disposable income (known as SKI – spending the kids’ inheritance). They’re also, maybe surprisingly, technology adopters and sometimes fiercely loyal to brands that have gained their trust over time.

The Baby Boomers 

Aged mid 50s to 70s

Yes, we make jokes about Boomers and Karens, but this generation is, well, frankly, the most likely to prop up the economy right now. 

Mortgages are close to being paid off, a ‘job for life’ and potentially a senior position at work, an imminent pension payout, and the kids all grown up and off earning their own money all make for a generation with serious spending power – if you can develop trust and tap into defences built up from years of advertising exposure.

Why baby boomers? They were all born when the silent generation started burning their bras and enjoying a new, more liberal life fuelled by economic growth and recovery following World War II, which resulted in a lot of births.

Generation X
Aged 40s to late 50s

Here’s where we start with the silly names that are easy to forget. But the easy way to remember Gen X’ers is to associate them with a time where things got interesting.

From the oil crises of the 1970s to the looming cloud of nuclear war, Gen X was formed by it all – and shaped by the emergence of microcomputers, better access to consumer goods and a cultural shift across almost every inch of society.

Gen X are cautious consumers and enjoy similar benefits to baby boomers when it comes to houses, job security etc., but they’re also more likely to have dependents (both kids and parents), plenty left on the mortgage and a few years until retirement. Marketing to this generation is all about the marketing mix, with bigger purchasing decisions informed by data and cost, more than heart and soul.

Generation Y, or ‘The Millennials’ 
Aged mid 20s – late 30s / early 40s

There’s a word you’ve heard a lot, and one that’s sometimes used as a slur rather than an identifier. Millennials are the complainers, the change demanders, and those who are about to inherit the task of guiding our economy as they develop into the senior roles in society. And they’re absolutely gagging to be let loose at it all.

The internet from birth, 9/11, Friends and eventually a financial crisis shaped this lot and they’re typically excellent consumers who are well informed about the brands that surround them. They are however harder to reach and engage, often saturated by the world in general and less likely to devote attention for too long.

Generation Z, or ‘The Social Media Generation’ 
Aged early teens to mid 20s

This generation is currently experiencing their formative years, either still in education or figuring out their first steps in the world of work. Many exceptions aside, most aren’t really old enough to have made a huge impact on the world, but my word they will.

The first generation not to be entirely motivated by money and ready to dive headfirst into capitalism, factors like sustainability, ethics and a strong brand story will influence their decisions the most. 

They’ve been exposed to a serious amount of media in their short lives and are natives to a digital world, more likely to use voice notes and Siri than a keyboard, and therefore more open to disruptive or innovative marketing. They also buy into people, rather than logos or numbers, and they’ll pay extra to have their product brought to them.

Generation Alpha
Aged 1 – 10

Along with Gen Z’ers, this is the emerging generation that will open up the new and exciting door for marketers as they interact with a brave new world around them. They’re too young to remember a stable and boring government, they’re surrounded by amazing and equally distressing role models.

They’ll be the elite of the technology adopters and will be completely native in digital technologies that don’t even exist yet. The way they react to marketing will no doubt follow the Gen Zs, with the way companies and brands behave being more important than ever.