Millennials are always in the news. Usually, nothing good is ever said about them. In fact, they’re the reason so many industries are dying. Millennials have killed bar soap, Applebee’s, tissues, and they refuse to get married, settle down, or have children. Even the once formidable real estate market is under fire thanks to Millennials.
So, in most instances, core Millennials aren’t the best demographic to target anyway. Many members of this generation are struggling to earn enough money for life's basics, let alone have any money set aside for discretionary spending. But fortunately for most businesses, the older end of the Millennial generation and most of Generation X are prime consumers to target in their marketing strategies.

Say Hello to The Missing Generation
Consider the combined older Millennials and Gen X as the missing generation, but a marketing sweet spot for most brands. These buyers are between the ages of 35 and 50, and are referred to as ‘digital pioneers.’ This demographic’s spending power and position in history sets them apart from older and younger consumers.
With older consumers, it can be difficult to effectively market to them because they didn't grow up with technology. Most didn’t even pioneer its use. Younger consumers, on the other hand, do not have much buying power. So we're left with the in between/missing generation who understands and uses technology, and has a lot more discretionary spending than their younger counterparts.
So, how can a business successfully market to the missing generation?
There are several critical components marketers need to consider when they reach out to the missing generation.

  1. Create messages that appeal to their stage in life. The average age of first-time home buyers has steadily risen since the housing market collapsed. Now, the average age is 32. Most of the missing generation’s members will be homebuyers. Most will also already have children. The older end of the missing generation may have teens at home or no children at home. But, they aren’t quite ready for retirement like older generations. Consider their unique life stage when you market to this demographic.
  2. Don’t coddle or patronize them with tech marketing. Digital pioneers were either super early adopters of technology or were the ones who created it. They know their way around a smartphone. Most probably use Facebook on a daily basis.
  3. Appeal to their nostalgia. While digital pioneers are quite comfortable with technology, they do remember a time before social media and the internet. In fact, many older Millennials and Gen X are nostalgic for their childhoods, when times were simpler. When crafting marketing messages for the lost generation, try to appeal to their sense of nostalgia.
  4. Do not use corporate messaging. Millennials and Gen X are leery of corporate America. The housing crisis shook this generation’s faith in big business and the government. It’s critical that marketers don’t use corporate speak or traditional advertising methods when they try to reach this demographic. Testimonials will appeal more to digital pioneers than corporate messaging.

Marketers have gotten caught up in the heady scramble to catch the attention of younger, tech-savvier consumers. In doing so, they’ve ignored a key demographic that has access to a steady stream of income. So when trying to appeal to members of the missing generation, don’t forget these crucial points.

Meet the First Generation of Digital Natives

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Born after 1980, the first generation of digital natives has hardly known a time before technology disrupted the way people work, play, and form relationships. The internet was first made available to the public in 1991, and within fifteen years, over 97% of Americans were using it. Information became democratized, which completely changed the world; empowering millions, and terrifying their oppressors.

Those who grew up during this time of rapid and unprecedented technological change learned the ‘digital’ language and now speak it as a first language. This digital language has shaped the way the younger generations find and process information. Instead of newspapers, they read blogs. Instead of paperbacks, they read books on tablets. Picking up the phone and placing a call? Who needs that? This generation would rather text, facetime, or in most cases, catch up with their friends and family via social media.

While close to 75% of U.S. adults use social media, primarily Facebook, on a regular basis, the younger cohort of digital natives use multiple social media platforms every day. The younger members are also shaping the way social media conducts itself. While "older" Americans tend to stick to Facebook on the regular, young digital natives are leery of the breaches in privacy Facebook has a reputation for. They are more likely to engage in social media platforms like SnapChat and Instagram Stories, which allow posts to appear for a set timeframe.

Digital natives are also changing the way Americans consume political news and rally around topics they value. Young people are using the power of social media to share their political views and charged ideas, and are using social media to empower grassroots efforts in their communities. They're using social media to invigorate rotary clubs, leading to a resurgence of civic-mindedness in communities around the country.

Digital natives are also fundamentally changing the way the world views work and career. The freelance and gig economy has exploded in recent years, in part due to the digital revolution. Young people are leading this charge, and many cite the flexibility of these working arrangements made possible by technology and telecommuting, such as Slack, Basecamp and Zoom. Also, this generation has coined the term ‘digital nomad;’ a person who travels the world while working online.

While "older" generations may look askance at the way digital natives conduct their working lives and communicate, it indeed is an exciting and super-efficient time to be alive. Digital natives are taking the disruptive, Wild West nature of the digital revolution and taming it. This generation is and will continue, to completely defy and shape societal and economic expectations. Perhaps they’ll be able to use the power of technology to restore the Arctic ice caps before their children inherit the earth.