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With more data on consumers, advertisers target generations differently

Hey, baby boomer, did you see that Facebook ad for the Craftsman Tools you’d been browsing? That was specifically for you. How about that “happy birthday” coupon you got for a free cupcake, Generation Xer? Yeah, they knew that would get you in the door. And millennials, that yoga class you took at Canalside? That was an advertisement for BlueCross BlueShield.

Marketing has come a long way since the days of the one-size-fits-all radio jingle.

Advertisers have more consumer data at their fingertips than ever before and they’re using it to expertly target different demographics. Marketing companies know what boomers like, what Gen Xers don’t like, how millennials consume advertising and what makes them all spend.

Here’s a look at what advertisers have learned about each generation and the tactics they use to go after their wallets.

The baby boomers

Mark Neumann is a bargain hunter. To get the best bang for his buck, the 59-year-old paper mill coordinator buys groceries in three different places. Before he makes any big purchase, he does his homework using product information from the manufacturer.

“I try to line up specifications that are identical, or as identical as possible, and then I’ll make a judgement,” said Neumann, of North Tonawanda.

Neumann is like a lot of his fellow baby boomers born between 1946 to 1964. They’re 75 percent more likely to buy something if they have a coupon or loyalty discount, or if an item is on sale. They stick to their shopping lists and aren’t likely to make impulse purchases, according to personal finance site NerdWallet.

Neumann mostly buys generic goods but is faithful to some quality brand names, such as with the Bose Wave radio he recently bought. He got to know Bose as a stereo enthusiast in the 1970s and believes their sound is top of the line.

Mark Neumann is a bargain hunter. (Robert Kirkham/Buffalo News)

Boomers also use information from retail websites, advertising and salespeople to inform their purchasing decisions, according to financial services company Synchrony Financial.

The largest generation, boomers have 70 percent of the nation’s disposable income and account for almost half of all retail sales, according to analytics firm DataMentor.

How they’re targeted: Baby boomers are aging, but don’t want to be reminded of it, according to marketing firm Generational Targeted Marketing. Smart marketers stay away from words like “senior” and “elderly,” and have more success focusing on boomers’ vitality: selling them a fun, active, luxurious post-retirement lifestyle. Still, some boomer marketing tactics take age into consideration: fonts on ads and labels make words bigger and easier to read, video advertising features overlaid text that stays on the screen longer.

Boomers are online more than they’re given credit for. They’re comfortable with Facebook, which draws boomer-targeting companies to advertise on the site. In person, salesmen allot more time to close a sale with a boomer, which can take twice as long as with a millennial.

Generation X

Kyle Chunco, 43, couldn’t care less about fashion trends. “I’ve been wearing the same clothes since 1991,” said Chunco, a gold brokerage manager living in Amherst. “And I’ve had the same haircut.”

When he does buy clothes, much of it comes down to price, such as the $8 pair of jeans he bought at Fashion Outlets of Niagara Falls. But there are other things he’s willing to pay more for. He has a nice set of knives, high-end audio equipment and a $1,200 set of All-Clad cookware.

Generation Xers, born from 1965 to 1984, are a “small but mighty” generation making up 25 percent of all adults and 31 percent of total income dollars, according to software company Centro. Like Chunco, most Gen Xers aren’t swayed by the winds of changing fashion trends. Instead, they want well-made, unique products that last – and they are willing to pay for them.

Chunco is skeptical of salesmen and tunes advertising out completely.

“They’re telling me they’ve got this amazing thing. If something was so great I would have heard about it already,” he said. “They’re telling me about a product because they need to unload it.”

Gen Xers are also in charge of a lot of spending power.

Like Chunco, 82 percent of Gen Xers own homes. One in seven Gen Xers is in the position of caring for both an aging parent and their own children at the same time.

They’re also at the height of their careers, about to take over powerful positions vacated by boomers and have more spending power than any generation, according to research by American Express.

How they’re targeted: Shuttling kids to sports activities, Generation X sees and responds to billboard advertising. But the most effective way to reach them is by email, according to research from commerce platform Tapbuy. Often, those emails have coupons, which Gen Xers love. Latching onto their affinity for brand loyalty, savvy companies send hyper-targeted marketing that acknowledges things like birthdays, anniversaries and children’s milestones, according to advertising software company WordStream.

Marketers advertise to people of different generations, Generation X'er Kyle Chunco shops online at his home. (John Hickey/Buffalo News)

Gen Xers research products and companies because they’re sensitive to being taken advantage of. They’re also skeptical of marketing and prize sincerity, authenticity and independence. The smartest advertisers target Gen X with straightforward, transparent marketing that provides lots of information.

The millennials

Who says millennials don’t shop in brick-and-mortar stores? Even though 28-year-old Brittany Brown does 70 percent of her shopping online, she still shops in person for things like craft supplies. The last thing she bought was tattoo ink on Amazon. After narrowing her options to two or three high-quality brand name inks, she bought the least expensive one.

Like most millennials, traditional advertising doesn’t faze Brown. But what does speak to millennials are price and coupons. Born from 1982 to 2004, millennials will outnumber baby boomers by 2030. They prefer to spend money on authentic experiences and locally made, artisanal, high-quality products from ethical, socially responsible, transparent companies.

Brown, a baker, tattoo artist and former pizzeria owner, is careful with her money, but still falls prey to impulse buys, such as the $2 roll of glittery blue duct tape she picked up a few weeks ago.

Brown realizes that data is being collected about her every time she’s online, but she doesn’t mind as long as it’s used to tailor her online experience. That’s how a recent Facebook ad pinpointed Brown as a pit bull lover. It showed a necklace with a heart-shaped pit bull pendant which she promptly snapped up.

“It had a big percentage off, too,” said Brown, who lives in East Amherst.

How they’re targeted: More than 50 percent of millennials would be willing to share personal information in exchange for a discount, according to the Center for the Digital Future at the University of Southern California. Since millennials ignore advertising, companies get their attention with coupons and reward their brand loyalty with loyalty reward programs.

Companies have also begun catering to millennials’ desire for authentic experiences, such as sponsoring concerts or conducting free group workouts. They provide authentic, informative blog posts and how-to YouTube videos, that make millennials aware of their brand without overtly advertising to them.

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