Marketing To The Generations – Boomers, Gen X, Gen Y, and Gen Z Explained

Confused about the generation roadmap and what all these monikers mean? You are not alone, when most people hear about “Generation [place letter here]” the question “what are they talking about?” naturally arises. We have looked at some high-level differences and proceeded to outline them here.

The quick answer is that the different generations encompass a certain zeitgeist and, though generations have arguably assumed a 20-year separation, the rise of technology and the increasingly fast paced world have compressed that separation considerably, sometimes even to the point of overlap.

And this is what makes for much of the confusion that surrounds the generational question. To help make sense of what appears to be a jumble of odd ideas, we have attempted to break down the subjects into coherent entities.

Why All the Confusion?

Trying to make sense of the cramped milieu that we live in is not an easy thing, but it can be put in straightforward terms. Generational descriptions used to happen, arguably, in 18-year increments. However, now generations are typically measured by familiarity with the latest technology, major world events, and the concomitant changes in behavior that comes with it. And this tends to compress the generational timeline.

Today, the generations seemingly overlap each-other and this can be considered a direct result of technological progress. The faster the progress in technology the faster the social changes in the generations that grow up with that technology.

The Boomers (1945-1964)

The Baby Boomer generation is generally accepted to start with those born in 1946 through 1964. This cadre experienced the trauma of the ongoing cold war between the U.S.S.R and the U.S. And perhaps most traumatic was the highly divisive Vietnam War and the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy.

Boomer Characteristics

Boomers typically get their information from standard sources such as newspapers, radio and television. Of the generations, this is the last one to perform as well or better than their parents financially. Further, the boomers tend to be comfortable with technology but not heavily reliant on it. They are also the last of the “true” hippies.

Generation X (1965-1980)

The members of Generation X were born between 1965 and 1980. Their working parents being unable to tend to them after school gave rise to the term “latch-key kid” because they took care of themselves between returning from school and their parents getting home. Also, this was the generation that grew up with the horrors of the AIDS crisis.

Generation X Characteristics

X’ers are fluent with existing and recent technology. But, more than that, they have a deeper sense of social awareness than the previous generation. Their worldview tends toward a righting of wrongs in the world, totalitarianism, abuse, corruption for instance.


Generation Y (1981-1995)

Generation Y is just one of the monikers for this group, being the first generation to have its members arrive at adulthood in the new millennium, they are also referred to as Millennials and Gen Next. Highly proficient in technology this generation is generally considered to be self-absorbed, even narcissistic.

Generation Y Characteristics

Born as technology was just beginning to change the world, some would consider this cohort to be among the luckiest when it comes to opportunity. While some have indeed exploited the movement, the one thing this generation grapples with more than anything is depression.

Generation Z (1996-Onward)

A bit of controversy about where this generation actually starts but, for the sake of argument, let’s put it at 1995. This generation grew up with modern technology and has never known “old school” devices like phones that dial or single purpose hand-held calculators.

Generation Z Characteristics

This is the generation whose cell phone is their third appendage. They spend an enormous amount of time on their phones. Email and text are the preferred methods of communication and they are very quick to pick up on the ins and outs of the latest app.

Are There Any More Specific Differences?

Of course there is, just like there are differences within any generational cohort and getting into the weeds about such differences would be missing the point. Ultimately each generation has what appears to be a defining characteristic. And this is so because we want to place people into nice and neat categories.

That simply can not be done. Primarily the difference between generations is age, facility, and culture. Age is obvious, this has lead to older generation criticizing the younger for lack of respect and know-how. The fact is, technology changes and these changes tend to make some people feel left behind.

Facility has to do with the use of the latest gadgets and ideas to hit the market. The generations judge them on their merits – good or useless. And Know-how is a direct result of new tech and ideas. The old ideas go by the wayside to be replaced by the new. And so it is with generations and so it is with culture.

Simply stated, to pin people down as the sum of their overgeneralized characteristics not only does a disservice to them, but to us all. With that in mind – please see the table that gives an overview of the complex generational scheme.


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