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Posted on 08.13.2015

Multigenerational Communication

“Talkin’ ‘bout my generation…”

If you just sang the phrase above in your head while reading it, you are most likely a Baby Boomer. Then again, if you know this song from looking up the band that’s on your vintage tee, I suppose you’d be a Millennial. Or maybe you’re a Gen Xer who grew up watching MTV back when it was about the music? Who knows - maybe you just heard it on the radio!

This song may not be the best representation of a generational divide, but that begs the question “what is?” What makes up a generation and who defines it? And what does any of this have to do with communication strategies? 

The idea of creating an identifier for a generation actually started with the Baby Boomers. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the country’s population experienced a spike in birth rates from 1946 to 1964. This was the first and the last time a generation was named by a government agency.  The previous and future generation’s parameters are generally defined by media channels as a targeting tool.  To effectively use this tool, we need to understand the basic characteristics of each generation. There are generally considered to be six living generations, and they break down as follows:  

GIs (1901-1926)

  • Shaped by the Great Depression and WWII
  • Grew up without modern conveniences
  • Team oriented
  • High standards of morality

Silents/Matures (1927-1945)

  • Shaped by post WWII prosperity
  • Avid readers, especially newspapers
  • Loyal workers
  • Most affluent elderly population in U.S. history

Baby Boomers (1946-1964)

  • Shaped by a rise in civil activism
  • One of the largest generations in history
  • Rock and Roll music generation
  • Divorce became more prevalent during this era

Gen X (1965-1980)

  • Shaped by war on drugs and AIDS epidemic
  • Sometimes referred to as the “slacker” generation
  • Latch key kids
  • More independent-minded

Millennials (1981-2000)

  • Shaped by 9/11 and the war on terror
  • Global centric
  • Most educated of workers today
  • Desire instantaneousness and a 24/7 world

Gen Z? (2001-?)

Little is known about the up and coming generation because they have not experienced enough significant events as a collective. The generation’s cut-off year is also not decided yet. We do know they are age 14 and under.

Each group shares common experiences of specific economic, political, and social milestones, resulting in similar focuses and ideals. Considering those shared experiences and how they shaped each generation can be very useful from a communications and marketing standpoint, suggesting the best delivery method for your product, service or message.

One way to categorize the generations in terms of communication delivery is in terms of their technology use habits. GIs and Matures respond best to traditional communication and marketing efforts utilizing newspapers and direct mail. Baby Boomers and Gen X respond to a mix of traditional and emerging communications platforms, such as online publications and even live newsfeeds like Twitter. These generations are somewhat hip to new technologies but may not be as comfortable with or as savvy as Millennial and Gen Z users, who prefer the latest and greatest digital communications platforms.

Understanding generational divides is vital to understanding demographic relevancy for each communication method. Taking the time to pinpoint the most appropriate vehicle will help ensure optimal engagement for your service, product or message. 

 

Lory Cantrell is an administrative assistant at Lovell Communications. Connect with Lory at lovcom@lovell.com

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