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Each generation of the US population has unique wants and needs that marketers and retailers should address differently, according to The Nielsen Company.

Todd Hale, SVP, consumer and shopping insights, Nielsen, has compiled a list of tips on devising marketing strategies specific to each major generation of the US population. Hale defines the US population as currently consisting of four significant generational categories representing residents age 15 and older:

  • Greatest Generation: born prior to 1946 (65-plus).
  • Boomers: 1946-1964 (45-63).
  • Generation X: 1965-1976 (33-44).
  • Millennials: 1977-1994 (15-32).

Following is a summary of Hale’s advice on how to best market to each age group.

Greatest Generation: Freebies and senior discounts to appeal to their value orientation. This means special products addressing aging issues and special packs for smaller households. Stores should offer better signage, more forgiving package design, on-shelf or on-cart magnifying glasses. These savvy shoppers spend most of their online time using email and message boards, providing two ready avenues for delivering targeted offers and initiating value-add discussions about health issues and special wellness programs.

Boomers: Keep these big spenders happy with monthly or quarterly cash-back savings programs that reflect spending levels. Pursue the upsell into prescription medications, insurance, gifts for grandkids and kids, entertainment, travel, even discount wines by the case. Comprising more than one-third of the internet population, Boomers are big online shoppers, comfortable using email and messaging to stay in touch. Twitter is a huge untapped outlet for reaching Boomers, who increased utilization 469% during 2009. Reach one and you can reach their entire follower base with product info and special offers.

Generation X: Time is a precious commodity for these busy young families, so reduce deadline pressure by offering meal planning and deals, school supplies and little indulgences like lattes to make shopping less onerous. Child care activity centers or computer kiosks keep kids engaged while parents shop. In-store cooking or craft classes offer family fun and a reason to increase the trip count. More than 80% of X-ers are online checking out Facebook, MySpace and Twitter, shopping and price-checking online and texting or emailing friends. Deliver quick hit info and offers using new media for fast results.

Millennials: Consider upgrading piped-in music in stores to current hits to attract contemporary shoppers. Coffee stations with battery chargers and in-store WiFi let them kick back and review internet or mobile coupons and shopping lists. Convert their need for immediate gratification into impulse buy sales with enticing end caps and front-of-store bins. These visually-oriented shoppers will tweet and text about special deals real-time from the store aisles about what looks good today, where to meet up, and anything cool that catches their eye on site. If you’re lucky, you’ll hit a quirky Millennial sweet spot, and they’ll YouTube or Hulu a video of a helpful employee or unusual in-store promotion.

Everyone Loves Budget Meals and the Media
Consistently across the board and across the generations, people are turning to cookbooks, the internet and television for recipe ideas and less expensive in-home entertainment as budget-conserving options. Millennials are the most wired into the internet, while Generation X favors cooking programs and the Greatest Generation reads cookbooks.

On average, the typical American consumes more than 35 hours of media per week across the three screens of TV, internet and mobile. As smartphones redefine customer media interaction, they present enormous potential for generating buzz around products, delivering timely product info and coupon codes, and building community through brand advocacy.

Boomers Present Marketing Challenges, Opportunities
Marketers seeking to promote products and services to the “Baby Boom” generation would do well to remember that Boomers are still vital and evolving even as they approach retirement age, according to Dr. Bob Deutsch of marketing firm Brain Sells.

Deutsch suggests that marketers recognize the three basic life structures of Boomers: identity, territoriality, and time. Boomers’ identity is essentially optimistic, meaning they have a vitality which makes them survivors, if not thrivers.

Furthermore, as Boomers age, home range will become more important, and getting settled in new spaces, such as a smaller, closer-to-town abode or a move to a warmer climate, will require adaptation to new interpersonal and larger social arrangements. And as people age their nostalgic yearnings grow, making them more receptive to advertisers’ and marketers’ use of what researchers call a “longing for positive memories of the past.”

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