5 Generations Overview for B2B Marketers

This is the second post in this series.  Click here for part 1.

Last post we highlighted the 5 Generations at Work.


As we can see in the table above, the formative experiences of each generation shape its values and preferences. For example, maturists or traditionalists grew up in the World War II era and may have experienced wartime rationing. As many of us who market to this generation know, they’re often more cautious and look for security and stability in making decisions.

This is captured in their attitude toward work life, where the goal was all about finding a job you could keep for life or at least until retirement. We can also see it in their quintessential aspiration, which was home ownership. Having a steady job and your own home meant stability, security and success.

When it comes to marketing, members of this generation are indeed traditionalists. They prefer formal letters as a communication medium and prefer face-to-face meetings when communicating and making decisions. Importantly, they are largely disengaged with technology. The signature product for this generation wasn’t the computer or a mobile device. It was the automobile.

In contrast, Baby Boomers are often more experimental and free-spirited. Events such as Woodstock and the Moon landings shaped their sense of possibilities and a rejection of traditionalism. Their key aspiration has been job security, particularly as the workplace evolved and jobs became something that might not be reliable or might be worth giving up to take a better opportunity elsewhere.

While television is the signature technological development for Baby Boomers, they were among the earliest adopters of information technology. Thus, while their communication and decision-making preferences lean more toward telephone communications and face-to-face meetings, they increasingly go online and are open to email as an alternative preference. They live in a much more technological world than maturists or traditionalists, so a hybrid approach of traditional and digital marketing is often effective with this audience.

When we get to Generation X, we arrive at the first generation born and raised in a world of computer and mobile technologies. This is the generation that saw the arrival of the first PC and the first mobile breakthroughs. The fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of Communism signaled a break from the world of their Traditionalist and Baby Boomer parents and grandparents, just as technology was about to completely reinvent the way we communicate and do business.

For Generation X, the personal computer is the signature product, and this generation formed the first wave of “digital immigrants,” moving to new platforms for communications and doing business. E-mails and now text messages are generally their preferred modes of communication. This makes online and digital marketing critical for reaching and engaging this audience, though face-to-face and telephone interactions are also welcomed if time permits.

With Generation Y, we’ve seen a further shift toward technology and digital interactions. This is the first generation in which digital is part of the native cultural landscape. Generation Y values freedom and flexibility, which fits perfectly with the mobility and versatility of newer technologies and modes of communication.

The advent of Google, Twitter, social media and mobile technologies has driven this generation to transcend personal computing in favor of tablets and smartphones as well as social media and texting. Traditional marketing is far too archaic and ineffective for this generation, although researchers found that there is still some preference for face-to-face meetings when it comes to making financial decisions.

Finally, we get to Generation Z, which is a curious combination of traditional concerns with an almost dependent relationship with technology. Generation Z has been shaped by experiences of instability and risk, whether it’s the economic downtown in the early 2000s, the threat of global terrorism, climate and environmental changes, or current waves of populism and challenges to traditional institutions.

This has driven this generation to be more concerned with security and stability, much like maturists or traditionalists, and, interestingly, it embraces its own version of face-to-face communications through video streaming and mobile apps such as Facetime or Skype.

Above all, this generation is inseparable from technology and knows no other options. It is entirely dependent on IT. This has also shaped Generation Z’s attitudes toward careers and purchasing products. Its members have embraced virtual employment and working for pop-up businesses, and they use digital crowd-sourcing to support and fund new products and services. Technologies such as 3D printing, nanocomputing, and driverless cars could become the signature products of this generation, leading to profound breakthroughs that make future generations even more integrated with technology.

Your Thoughts?

What do you see in your marketing mix?  Are these Generational difference showing up in your business?