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19 January, 2016 - 17:13

At this point in your life, you are probably more likely to buy a car than a funeral plot. Marketing professionals know this. That’s why they try to segment consumers by their ages. You’re probably familiar with some of the age groups most commonly segmented in the United States. They are shown in Table 5.2 U.S. Generations and Characteristics. Into which category do you fall?

Table 5.2 U.S. Generations and Characteristics


Also Known As

Birth Years



“The Silent Generation,” “Matures,” “Veterans,” and “Traditionalists”

1945 and prior

Experienced very limited credit growing up

Tend to live within their means

Spend more on health care than any other age group

Internet usage rates increasing faster than any other group

Baby Boomers



Second-largest generation in the United States

Grew up in prosperous times before the widespread use of credit

Account for 50 percent of U.S. consumer spending

Willing to use new technologies as they see fit

Generation X



Comfortable but cautious about borrowing

Buying habits characterized by their life stages

Embrace technology and multitasking

Generation Y

“Millennials,” “Echo Boomers,” includes “Tweens” (preteens)


Largest U.S. generation

Grew up with credit cards

Adept at multitasking; technology use is innate

Ignore irrelevant media

Note: Not all demographers agree on the cutoff dates between the generations.


Today’s college-age students (Generation Y) compose the largest generation. The baby boomer generation is the second largest, and over the course of the last thirty years or so, has been a very attractive market for sellers. Retro brands—old brands or products that companies “bring back” for a period of time—were aimed at baby boomers during the recent economic downturn. Pepsi Throwback and Mountain Dew Throwback, which are made with cane sugar—like they were “back in the good old days”—instead of corn syrup, are examples. 1Marketing professionals believe they appealed to baby boomers because they reminded them of better times—times when they didn’t have to worry about being laid off, about losing their homes, or about their retirement funds and pensions drying up.

But baby boomers are aging, and the size of the group will eventually decline. By contrast, the members of Generation Y have a lifetime of buying still ahead of them, which translates to a lot of potential customer lifetime value (CLV) for marketers if they can capture this group of buyers. However, a recent survey found that the latest recession had forced teens to change their spending habits and college plans and that roughly half of older Generation Yers reported they had no savings. 2

So which group or groups should your firm target? Although it’s hard to be all things to all people, many companies try to broaden their customer bases by appealing to multiple generations so they don’t lose market share when demographics change. Several companies have introduced lower-cost brands targeting Generation Xers, who have less spending power than boomers. For example, kitchenware and home-furnishings company Williams-Sonoma opened the Elm Street chain, a less-pricey version of the Pottery Barn franchise. The Starwood hotel chain’s W hotels, which feature contemporary designs and hip bars, are aimed at Generation Xers. 3

The video game market is very proud of the fact that along with Generation X and Generation Y, so many older Americans still play video games. (You probably know some baby boomers who own a Nintendo Wii.) The spa market is another example. Products and services in this market used to be aimed squarely at adults. Not anymore. Parents are now paying for their tweens to get facials, pedicures, and other pampering in numbers no one in years past could have imagined.

Staying abreast of changing demographics can be a matter of life or death for many companies. As early as the 1970s, U.S. automakers found themselves in trouble because of demographic reasons. Many of the companies’ buyers were older Americans inclined to “buy American.” These people hadn’t forgotten that Japan bombed Pearl Harbor during World War II and weren’t about buy Japanese vehicles. But younger Americans were. Plus, Japanese cars had developed a better reputation. Despite the challenges U.S. automakers face today, they have taken great pains to cater to the “younger” generation—today’s baby boomers who don’t think of themselves as being old. If you are a car buff, you perhaps have noticed that the once-stodgy Cadillac now has a sportier look and stiffer suspension. Likewise, the Chrysler 300 looks more like a muscle car than the old Chrysler Fifth Avenue your great-grandpa might have driven.

And what about Generations X and Y? Automakers have begun reaching out to them, too. General Motors (GM) has sought to revamp the century-old company by hiring a new younger group of managers—managers who understand how Generation X and Y consumers are wired and what they want. “If you’re going to appeal to my daughter, you’re going to have to be in the digital world,” explained one GM vice president. 4

Companies have to not only develop new products designed to appeal to Generations X and Y but also find new ways to reach them. People in these generations not only tend ignore traditional advertising but also are downright annoyed by it. To market to Scion drivers, who are generally younger, Toyota created Scion Speak, a social networking site where they can communicate, socialize, and view cool new models of the car. Online events such as the fashion shows broadcast over the Web are also getting the attention of younger consumers, as are text, e-mail, and Twitter messages they can sign up to receive so as to get coupons, cash, and free merchandise. Advergames are likewise being used to appeal to the two demographic groups. Advergames are electronic games sellers create to promote a product or service. Would you like to play one now? Click on the following link to see a fun one created by Burger King to advertise its Tender Crisp Chicken.

Burger King Advergame

You can boss the “subservient chicken” around in this advergame. He will do anything you want—well, almost anything.