The Blog

by Tim O'Mara

Boomers to Millennials: The C+F Generational Series

The Silent Generation. Baby Boomers. Gen X. Gen Y. Giant cohorts of tens of millions of Americans. These terms are often hidden among marketers in favor of narrower audience definitions like “adults 25-34, “women 55+” or even “wine drinkers living in Seattle.” History has taught us that broad audience definitions tend to lead to broad generalizations; and in a time where the consumer is more savvy than ever and has more choices than ever, broad generalizations are dangerous—they can lead to failed campaigns. So why would we choose to pay attention to generational differences? One word: Context.

As Nielsen explains it:

“Generations matter because they redefine how we communicate and age.”

In other words, generational analysis observes significant changes in how people view the world and themselves in comparison to other generations, often impacted by disruptive changes as they come of age. Understanding these disruptions can unveil the unique and defining attributes, motivations and expectations of a generation. With these distinct frames of reference, marketers can make quicker, more educated audience decisions – whether it’s continuing with an existing customer with a refined focus, or expanding to an entirely different target.

Over the next several weeks, C+F’s Engagement Strategy group will be rolling out an educational series on Baby Boomers, Gen Xers and Millennials (together, they make up the sought-after 18-64 target). Each will cover unique characteristics, address a few misconceptions and make strategic cases for pursuing the group all in hopes of demystifying the “broad unknown.”

Before the official roll-out, though, here is a taste about who* we’re going to be talking about (keep in mind that birth years are really just numbers; rather, it’s the coming-of-age experiences that truly define a generation’s telling attitudes and motivations):

Baby Boomers Born 1946-1964, Boomers came of age during the emergence of electronic media and consumerism. They are the first TV generation and the pioneers of American Youth Culture.
Generation X Born 1965-1976, Gen Xers came of age with disconcerting headlines: Vietnam, Soviet invasions, political scandals, AIDS, climbing divorce rate and social inequality. They are the first generation to grow up with computers, video games and (relatively) portable music.
Millennials Born 1977-1994, Millennials (aka Gen Y) came of age during Y2K, 9/11 and the rise of Facebook. They’ve never known a world without the internet and have grown accustomed to being constantly connected via a vast digital environment.

Combined, these three generations make up close to 70% of the U.S. population; 50% alone come from the largest two cohorts: Baby Boomers and Millennials.


*generational definitions per MRI