Positioning B2B Content to Appeal to Different Generations: Part 2: Gen X, Boomers, and Traditionalists

Part 2: Gen X, Boomers, and Traditionalists

LIsa Vitale marketing Guru

Generation gap: n. a lack of communication between one generation and another. . .brought about by differences in tastes, values, outlooks, etc.

Our last post focused on Millennials, looking at their primary defining characteristics and considering how marketers can leverage these for more effective content marketing.  This post looks at audiences B2B marketers are more familiar with and considers what we know of each of these generations, and how we can more effectively craft content which appeals to each segment.

Gen X (1965 – 1980; 34-49 yrs in 2014) The“savvy, entrepreneurial loners,”[i]

Gen Xers tend to be self-reliant, individualistic, and skeptical.  This group prefers to be given a job to be done, but with the freedom to do it as they see fit. They want to research their problems and set their priorities.  That said, they do their best work with regular, honest feedback and informal recognition of a job well done.  Gen Xers aren’t afraid to ask the tough questions, but are more likely to want to fix the problems in their backyard than fix global problems.  They work hard, but seek a healthy, structured balance in life.

Implications for marketers:

    • Design content for structured, clear flow around messages that address well-defined issues.
    • Provide a breadth of content that supports the full scope of research Gen Xers want to engage in.
    • Create insight selling approaches grounded in their immediate and tangible real-world problems.  Also appeal to their desire for balance in work and life.
    • Provide content by subject-matter experts. Gen Xers will value this for credibility purposes, as well as for the ability to assess and validate their thinking.
    • Given the Gen X tendency towards individualistic behavior, communication preferences trend towards email, phone, and online meetings, rather than face-to-face.

Baby Boomers (1946 – 1964; 50-68 yrs)

Idealistic, rebellious Boomers helped reshape the world when authenticity and experimentation where sought over tradition and conformity.  Often workaholics, Boomers are competitive, enjoying challenge and change.  Boomers are loyal team players, value interpersonal relationships, and tend to focus on process and output.

Implications for marketers:

    • Cater to communication preferences by reaching Boomers via face-to-face meetings, phone calls, and email
    • Take time to cultivate and nurture personal relationships as a trusted advisor to your Boomer customers and prospects.
    • Position insight selling approaches to appeal to their love of challenge and change, but also framed to leverage their sense of loyalty to their team and organization.
    • Focus content on process and output.
    • Don’t underestimate their computer proficiency – many Boomers are just as tech savvy as their Millennial counterparts.  However, Boomers have a greater appreciation of personalized service in a digital world.

Traditionalists/Silent Generation (1928 – 1945; 69-86 yrs)

Disciplined, self-sacrificing, and cautious, Traditionalists have a strong sense of order and loyalty to family and institutions, as well as deeply-held beliefs and values. They are comfortable with the notion of delayed gratification and tend towards frugality, differentiating easily between wants and needs.  They value privacy and aren’t apt to readily share personal thoughts.  Traditionalists are avid readers and still enjoy reading newspapers.

Implications for marketers:

    • Where today’s communications tend towards informality, Traditionalists will appreciate a more formal approach, which they perceive as a sign of respect.
    • Face-to-face, snail mail, email, and phone are the preferred communication modes.
    • In crafting content for this group, write in a more eloquent, longer style than customarily called for in the digital context – content that’s too concise risks being perceived as curt and rude.  Also provide printed documents, white papers, case studies, newsletters, and the like (avoid busy font styles and smaller fonts sizes).
    • Position insight selling approaches to appeal to the Traditionalist’s expertise, as well as their appreciation of the long game and lifecycle ROI.

Positioning content to resonate with any one audience is certainly easier than trying to reach multiple segments at once.  However, a recent Boston Consulting Group study[ii] published a great diagram that illustrates at what points messaging can have mass appeal across multiple generations, and conversely, which traits are more unique to each of these generations:

Millenial Characteristics

To gain more insight into developing stronger relationships and gain insights as to how to cross generational barriers, consider deploying a carefully crafted SimplyDIRECT prospect lead generation survey.


[i] http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2010/02/24/millennials-confident-connected-open-to-change/

[ii] BCG Perspectives, “How Millennials Are Changing the Face of Marketing Forever