How to Market to Gen X and Gen Y

At no time in American history have demographics changed so dramatically. We hear much about the “aging of America” and the impact of mass immigration.

We don’t hear quite so much about the rise of thee post “Baby Boom” generations, and their significance to marketers. Known as generations X and Y, they follow the baby boomers that were born between 1946 and 1964. Gen X refers to those born between 1965 and 1976, and Gen Y to those born between 1977 and 1994.

But these younger generations — having now mostly reached adulthood — are earning money, spending it, and are of growing importance to marketers. And that applies to home-based businesses as much as to any other.

Generation X: 1965-1976

Rapidly supplanting the Baby Boomers, this group is already established in the business world, and is mostly married with homes and children. Deep in the throes of personal responsibility, Gen X has earning and spending power that is likely to grow. As a group, their needs are as diverse and typical of anyone at this stage of life.

Compared to previous generations, they are also more:

  • Pessimistic about their financial futures.
  • Accustomed to cheap imports and less averse to buying them.
  • Suspicious of “slick” conventional marketing approaches. They want straightforward talk and evidence to support claims.

Generation Y: 1977-1994

This generation is currently spread out between early high school teens, and married, home-owning adults. Those at the upper tier will have good spending power, while those at the bottom have limited spending and decision-making power.

Approaching Gen Y with a one size-fits-all approach will be difficult. Unless you provide a product or service that caters to the younger group, you might be wise to concentrate on the upper half of the Gen Y scale, such as those born prior to 1985.

Also worth noting is that Gen Y is the most tech savvy generation yet, having grown up with the Internet, and other high-tech gadgets. They are also more optimistic and idealistic than X.

Comparing the Groups

Both Gen X and Gen Y are generally:

1. More flexible than their predecessors, and expect more flexibility in return. They are more likely to have flexible schedules at work, family leave options, and more. They grew up in a flexible world, being the first generation to have (in most cases) two working parents. To suit them, you must also be flexible, offer them a range of options, and be ready to cater to their particular demands.

2. More knowledgeable about technology than previous generations, and more likely to use it.

3. Less nostalgic than their forebears, but more in tune with what’s going on now, and more concerned about things to come. Many of the experiences you remember, or terminology you grew up using, will be lost on them.

4. More racially, ethnically, and culturally diverse than previous generations. A large percentage comes from diverse backgrounds, and many speak foreign languages. Another example of their diversity is that while they are, on average, better educated than previous generations, they also include a higher percentage of single parents than their predecessors.

5. More accustomed to dramatic change. Many in these generations are children of divorce, and they are likely to have moved once or more during their youth. They also expect to change jobs several times during their careers. Their lives are structured around expectations of change, and they plan accordingly.

Where to Find Them?

Once you identify a target audience, you must know where to find them. That tells you what media to use. For example, many X’s and Y’s will be apartment dwellers. Direct mail or flyers may be a good way to reach them.

A good share of Gen Y is in college or will soon enter. If you’re looking for them, you might start with the campuses in your area. If you sell products that can be shipped, don’t rule out other colleges around the country.

If you don’t already know about the colleges in your area, you can find them in phone directories or online under “Colleges and Universities.” Check their web sites for contact information and other details. You might be able to post ads on their websites, or in their campus publications.

Even if this is a problem, you should find print media that serve each college community by visiting the campus and stores in the area. There might be small, specialty publications that target student populations and provide space for advertisers. Most colleges also permit on-campus postings, even for commercial ventures.

Where Do They “Hang Out?”

Are there certain places where many of these folks tend to congregate? Popular night spots might be one possibility. Nearby resorts (such as shore points or parks) could be others. Look for places where you might post your services. Local newspapers are also useful.

Where do they work? Certain businesses tend to employ disproportionate numbers of younger people, such as malls, department stores, or trendy chain stores. Look for nearby places where you can post ads, or leave materials.


For these groups, the Web stands at the top. So if you wish to reach Gen X and Gen Y, you’ll need an Internet strategy. You should at least have a web site. It needn’t be elaborate; even a one-page site that provides name, location, offerings, background, and contact information (including e-mail address, phone numbers and cell phone) might suffice.

You will also need a cell phone, and you should include that number on your business cards, literature, and web site. These customers expect to be able to contact you at all times, including evenings and weekends, because they’re accustomed to it. Advanced communications has condensed the world, and home-based entrepreneurs, especially, are expected to be accessible most of the time.


For reaching the Gen X and Y market segments, radio is a good bet. Each station maintains demographic profiles of its listening audience, which should be verified by the Audit Bureau of Circulations (ABC).

But if you turn to radio, these tips should help:

  • One ad will probably do nothing. To get attention, you need to run several.
  • Be aware of time differences. Your target audience might be listening at certain times of the day or night. That’s when you should run your ads.
  • Since younger people tend to tune out ads, you’ll need to grab their attention, hold their interest, and make the sale. Sometimes the radio station will help you put them together. The better you know your audience, the more likely you’ll be to craft effective, attention-getting ads.


For the most part, you’ll want to use local publications since they are less expensive than national publications, and reach a local audience. If you ship products, however, you won’t rule out national publications. In either case, you need to hit your specific groups. For people in the X and Y generations, some good picks might include:

  • Entertainment publications — which are available in most local areas, often free of charge — are good bets for reaching these young and active people. They’re at an age when they like to go out and do things; few are likely to be couch potatoes. Even those who are married and have homes still go out often, or they’re looking for places to take their children.
  • Real estate publications for renters or first-time homebuyers
  • Sports publications, especially for sporting or outdoors enthusiasts
  • Fashion publications

For more information about local media in your area, check the Internet for local publications in your area, or check under news publications in your online Yellow Pages. You might also check your local library for local media directories in their reference sections. Also watch for different publications in your area, and review them when you can.

Direct Mail

Finally, don’t forget direct mail. It remains one of the most cost effective mediums, and allows very specific targeting. You might target apartment complexes or communities in which large numbers of these people reside. You can also purchase specific mailing lists from list brokers. Direct mailing, by the way, need not be elaborate or costly. Even simple postcards might be a good way to reach this target group. They’re not only cheap and easy to do, but they should be acceptable to a generation that is known for its flexibility and distrust of slick advertising.

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