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The Pew Research Center’s latest study, “Millennials: Confident. Connected. Open to Change” provides insights for marketing to Gen X, Baby Boomers and Silent Generation as well as the nation’s 18-29 year olds.  This week we’ll post short takes related to social networking, economic outlooks and other topics.  We recommend reading the full study and spending some time with the terrific interactive graphs that compare the generations todayand when they were at the same age as Millennials are now.

Do Generational Distinctions Matter to Marketing?

How we see ourselves does matter to marketing, so it’s interesting to note that each of the four generations told researchers that there are reasons they are unique. 

First, here’s how Pew defines the generations:

  • Millennial: Born after 1980, currently 18-29 years old
  • Generation X:  Born between 1965-1980, now 30-45 years old
  • Baby Boom: Born 1946-1964, currently ages 46-64 (includes both leading edge/older Boomers and the trailing edge/younger Boomers often broken out as “Generation Jones”)
  • Silent (aka “Ikes”): Born between 1928-1945, now 65 years old or better

Now, here’s how each generation defines what makes them different than the rest.


All of the generations except the Millennials said work ethic was a distinguishing trait.  This is especially ironic because Pew’s study also shows that 15% of Millennials reported being successful in a high-paying career was one of the most important things in their lives (vs. only 7% of respondents over 30 years old who felt that way).

The report cites Millennials (61%) and Silents (66%) as saying theirs is a unique generation.  The Silent Generation respondents were most likely to say that theirs is not just a different generation, but it is better/stronger than the others (4%).

Silents also were most likely to say that the historic times in which they lived were defining of their generation.  (Check out this case study of branding/market research done for a museum focused on WWI and WWI experiences to see one way we’ve applied this type of insight.)  Perhaps this will get lazy marketers to stop tossing peace symbols and Woodstock references into every Boomer-oriented ad?

About The Author

Erin Read

Erin Read spearheads integrated and digital marketing programs for organizations targeting mature consumers. She writes, researches and speaks about marketing to baby boomers and seniors. Erin has addressed local, regional, international conferences on generational marketing. She is the co-author of three national studies/eBooks (Photo Finish; Social, Silver Surfers 2010 & 2013) and the principal blogger for Mature Marketing Matters.

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  • Barbara

    I have heard and look forward to validating this theory but from what I undestood the Silents and Millenials are very similiar in their ways. Each are shakers and movers for their own day and age. Each have a deeper sense of responsibility and that of right and wrong (according to their own values) and each have a strong sense of community and connectedness. The events that happened during wartime was the impetus for the Silents to step forward and do,create,make what needed to be done. I believe the Millenials are about to do the same with the events,technology and environment that we have today.

  • james

    Funny that millennials have high need for ‘high paying careers’ but the lowest score for ‘hard work’, whereas the inverse is true for the other generations.

    We’ve raised our children to be entitled, useless people without character.

    I think they are a well-meaning bunch, but they’ve been coddled too much – and have no idea what it means to face adversity and move the world forward.

    With the millennial begins the long, slow decline into safe, bland, suburban ‘no culture’.