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David Calbert May 6, 2015 10:56:00 PM 2 min read

Old vs Young: Digital Marketing to Different Ages | SF AppWorks

Those naïve hooligans! Those suborn old farts! These are the rally cries generations use to draw a line between them. But people are pretty much the same, regardless of age, right?

That may not be entirely true. When it comes to digital marketing in 2016, there are some differences you should take notice of. Tactics that have worked for years, and might still work on the older folks, aren’t sufficient anymore. Ignoring the younger generation isn’t an option when you consider that the Millennials have $2.45 trillion of purchasing power[1]. So the demographic of age is an important one, to say the least.



So what are the differences? Well before this post gets tagged as ageist, let it be stated that people are still people, regardless of age, and are ruled by the same human properties.


Emotion, for instance, which is a vital part of a marketing campaign’s success. Every person reacts to information with a varied palette of emotion and feeling, ultimately expressing either approval or disapproval. The basic mechanics of this process is mapped by Plutchick’s Wheel of emotion. The simple ones that marketers pay attention to are: curiosity, amazement, interest, astonishment, and uncertainty. These emotions are the ones that are most likely to prompt further action, which is a marketing success.


Now the big difference between the generations when viewing marketing content is that Millennials express fewer emotions like joy, trust, or surprise than the Baby Boomers. Whether it’s because Millennials are more inundated with digital content than their elders or if they truly subscribe to a darker ideology, they are, in a word, legitimately jaded and pessimistic when it comes to marketing. [2]


The Baby Boomers are characterized by a different, but equally illuminating emotion: self-involvement. Tom Wolfe called the Baby Boomers the “Me generation” due to the pervasive drive for self-fulfillment and self-realization, the opposite of the greater good mentality in a pre-WW2 America. Think LSD and mind expansion.[3]


This means that Baby Boomers are more predisposed to content that purports to widen their world view or offer brief emotional catharsis (a la inspiring videos), anything that they believe will add to their journey of being the most they can be.


So, on one hand you have Millennials who hide behind a desensitized shell and on the other, you’ve got Baby Boomers who are eager to be amazed, astonished, and curious. How are you supposed to hit both targets?


There is no easy answer, but the big picture answer is you can’t, at least not in one fell swoop. Your content should be personal, each piece targeting a specific demographic that is looking for a specific product possibly leveraging different channels. Because at the end of the day, being useful is going to get you many more meaningful interactions than trying to appease a disparate group of people.


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