For the past decade, Millennials have been the favorite topic of conversation for marketers. They’ve tried to figure out how millennials think, what they want and how they buy. Some have attempted to show they understand them by using emojis and saying “LOL!”

While this attempt to seem “hip” may not be all that successful, they have the right idea. It’s important to understand how the different generations think in order to effectively market to each them. The four biggest generations are the Baby Boomers, Generation X, Millennials and Generation Z. While their characteristics may vary, there is one form of marketing that is effective for all four generations: experiential.

Baby Boomers – The “Me” Generation

Baby Boomers were born from around the mid 1940s to the early 1960s. The post WW2 population boom resulted in a huge demographic – there are over 75 million Boomers in the US today. The generation is starting to age and retire and have more time and money to spend on things like leisure. But, don’t ever let them hear you say the word “old!”

Many of the members of this generation focused on their wants, which earned them the nickname the “Me” Generation. However, Boomers also believe in working hard to earn money. They consider a purchase a commitment, so they don’t make a lot of rash decisions; they ask the question, “what’s in it for me?” Boomers are very loyal to brands, so a brand must build trust by keeping promises, having good customer service and creating personal relationships.

Despite entering retirement age, Baby Boomers are becoming more tech-savvy. A study by Google and Ipsos found the internet and social media are a top source for Boomers to gather information on topics of interest. Facebook is their #1 choice for scrolling through social media in general. 82% prefer YouTube over other sites to view videos. Although they’re more likely to comment on content than create it, the Boomers are certainly in the loop.

Experiential marketing is an effective way to reach the Boomer generation. Participating in an experience gives a consumer more time to get to know the brand and the product or service. It creates a more trusting, personal relationship with the brand. Plus, Boomers who are at home watching videos on Facebook can still see the action, even if they don’t take part.

A great example of experiential marketing toward the Baby Boomers is from AARP. The group has hosted block parties at different events around the country, with celebrities, giveaways, food, games and information sessions on AARP services. People who are approaching retirement may dread aging and needing AARP – so the brand used a fun experience to get people excited about what they offer! Check out their block party at the Philadelphia Flower Show!

Generation X – The “Middle Child” Generation

Gen X often feels stuck in the middle of Boomers and Millennials, born from approximately the early 1960s to around 1980. They have faced a lot of change in their lifetimes, especially the change of technology from analog to digital. They were spearheading much of those technological developments and are very entrepreneurial in spirit. MTV, video games, space exploration, Apple computers, Olympic boycotts, the Cold War – all things that have left a mark on Gen X. They have lived through foreign wars, the civil rights movement and other impactful events that have shaped the world.

Gen X is a much smaller generation than those before and after them. They sometimes can feel neglected by marketers who focus so heavily on millennials. Targeting them specifically can make them feel appreciated. Gen Xers like financial freedom and independence, but are very family-oriented – they want the best quality products for their families. They also share some characteristics with the other generations, such as using the internet and Facebook to share content and watch videos.

Because they grew up and lived through so much change, Gen Xers tend to question conventionality. That’s why going with an experiential campaign can go above and beyond traditional advertising with this generation. Plus, if an experience makes consumers feel like the center of attention (instead of those Millennials all the time!) or focuses on their families, they’ll feel valued by a brand and will view it more positively. Like Baby Boomers, they’ll also be likely to share and watch videos of experiences on Facebook.

LEGO knows that Gen Xers are in full-time family mode. They brought a family roadshow to malls in an experiential marketing campaign. The roadshow was filled with giant LEGO scenery, storytelling, kid-friendly movies, life-size characters, games and of course, LEGOs! Consumers appreciated the fun day out for their family, and their kids had a blast with the classic toy.

Millennials – The Social Generation

The star of the marketing world has been the Millennial Generation, born from the early 1980s to the late 1990s. During their lifetimes, there have been huge strides in technology – the popularization of the internet, the rise of social media and the invention of the smartphone.

Millennials value experiences more than physical goods – 78% of millennials reported that they’d rather spend money on an experience instead of buying a material item. Then, they’ll likely share their experience on social media. Although Millennials started Facebook, they are more likely to use platforms such as Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter. They’ve shifted away from Facebook thanks to the generations before them who started using that platform more often!

With nearly constant internet access, millennials are used to instant gratification. And expect it. They have shorter attention spans and less patience. Marketers need to grab their attention and hold it with something really meaningful, such as an engaging experiential campaign. Needless to say, having a digital component is also a must.

Millennials are often desensitized to traditional advertising. Brands need to go above and beyond TV and magazine ads with experiential campaigns that interest them and catch their attention. They would also rather be treated as a human being rather than a consumer, so the brand should engage them to show that they value them with a more personal relationship.

This generation is also motivated by the greater good and will choose brands who give back to the community in some way. Brand experiences that tie to a charitable, do-good effort will be widely received by this audience.

Mattress brand Casper used an experiential marketing campaign to appeal to Millennials, who are now adults and are buying household essentials such as mattresses. They combined two things Millennials love: napping and festivals. Casper offered 8 minute naps in private pods at SXSW to tired festivalgoers. The experience was complete with coffee and slippers. They solved a need for their consumers instantly and did it in a fun and memorable way.

Generation Z – The Next Big Thing

Move over, Millennials! Born around the late 1990s to the present, the next generation is taking over. Known as Generation Z, Centennials, iGen and Founders, the youngest generation is going to be huge in size – and will soon have buying power to match. The oldest Gen Zs are graduating college and entering the marketplace. This makes them valuable targets to marketers, who are moving focus to this generation to see how they differ from Millennials.

While the generations before them saw the dawn of current technology, Gen Zers have never known life without the internet, social media or smartphones – they’re digital natives. They have grown up in post 9/11, during the war on terror and the Great Recession, so they are hardworking and realistic about the future. Now, they’re in high school and college, and those getting ready to graduate will be entering the workforce, with more money to spend.

Connecting with them on a digital platform is critical. However, their attention is even more split than that of their older counterparts – they pay even less attention to ads. They, like Millennials are more active on Snapchat, Twitter and Instagram than on Facebook, YouTube and Tumblr. For now, at least. Social media platforms are ever-shifting in popularity, and lesser-known sites, such as Periscope and, are turning the focus away from the bigger names. There are so many more sites, it is becoming increasingly difficult to reach Gen Z through just social media.

A brand has to show its personality and entertain them to hold their attention. Gen Z has to be clear on what they’re getting. If they don’t know what you’re offering, they’ll turn to the next thing. They are passionate and want to feel strongly about a brand to support it.

Experiential marketing works for Gen Z because it is something immersive that can pull them away from their screens. It gives them shareable content that helps them build their personal brand on social media, and helps them create FOMO for those who are at home. It puts what the brand is all about right in front of them, which is exactly what they want.

Taco Bell and Sony did this when they teamed up to create a VR Arcade in New York City. Like Gen Z is the next big generation on the market, VR is the next big thing in technology. The arcade gave consumers a chance to try new VR technology in an at-home PlayStation console. Plus, there were chances to win a contest for PlayStation gear. There were social sharing spaces with fun and colorful taco art, and of course, free tacos!

Experiential for the Ages

Experiential marketing can engage members of any generation. An attention-grabbing campaign should engage consumers, make them feel valued and get them excited about a brand! After a great experience, people of any age see that brand in a positive light. It creates the personal relationships that the older generations value, and the shareable content that the younger generations crave.

Want to create an experience that will appeal to your audience? We’ve got you covered!