The Boomer-Millennial Connection

A lot has been written on the difference between the Boomer and Millennial generations, but take a closer look and you’ll see the two generations have a lot more in common than you may think. There have even been instances when a message targeting one of these generations has also resonated strongly with the other. Could it be possible to tap into the over three trillion in spending power the combined audiences represent with one campaign? What many researchers have missed by focusing on the “young vs. old” hype is that many of the values that Boomers hold dear are emerging among Millennials as they come into adulthood. According to Iconoculture, this suggests that with more than 150 million consumers between the two generations, your brand may be able to appeal to both generations by honing in on some of their shared values.

When comparing Boomers and Millennials, we see the life experiences of both generations have been shaped by similar historic events and technology revolutions. Boomers condemned the Vietnam War, experienced the mainstreaming of TV, and partied at Woodstock, while Millennials faced the Iraq War, experienced the emergence of the Internet, and flock to Coachella and Bonnaroo every year. Pair these similar experiences with the fact that many Millennials are the children of Boomers, and you know the old saying, “the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.”

Here are three of those shared values driving both generations:

Functional Fun

What do the Ford Fiesta, Kia Soul, and Fiat 500 all have in common? According to, almost half of the purchasers of these cars are Boomers, despite the fact that all three models were initially designed to appeal to Millennials. It turns out both Boomers and Millennnials want versatile cars that support their personal lifestyle, according to Iconoculture’s Values and Lifestyle Survey (December 2012). In terms of marketing, all of these brands have been able to achieve cross-generational appeal by promoting a fun driving experience, maneuverability, and eco-friendly benefits, which support the active personal lifestyles both generations aspire to.


This value is fundamental to both generations because of the social influences they faced. Boomers wanted to prove they were different than their parents and the status quo, so they blazed new trails in every phase of their lives. Millennials grew up hearing they could be whatever they wanted to be, and the Internet continues to allow them to evolve their identities with a click or tap. This desire to express themselves and put their unique stamp on the world presents a rich opportunity for brands to connect with both groups. Pepsi Refresh, which encouraged users to submit their ideas for making a positive impact on the world for a chance to win funding to bring the idea to life, saw terrific initiative penetration among both groups by focusing on the “power of one” to make a difference.

Experiences Over Possessions

The recession shifted the mindsets of both Boomers and Millennials from a desire for luxury to a desire for personal richness, which resulted in the prioritization of “memories first” when it comes to discretionary spending. Both generations have decreased their big-ticket consumption and are prioritizing experiences. The culinary, entertainment, and travel categories have all benefited from this attitudinal shift. Checking out of the real world, making progress on their bucket lists, and being together as a group are motivating both groups and even inspiring more cross-generational traveling. Norwegian Cruise Lines has embraced this and brought Boomers and Millennials together by adding features like “the Haven,” a high-end escape on the ship, no set schedules, and even “pub crawls” for the young at heart.

There can be potential pitfalls in trying to create marketing that resonates with disparate generations, such as oversimplifying who they are, stereotyping, or employing a mocking tone.  If you’re not careful, this can lead to a message that pushes away one or both groups. That is why we typically advise our clients to focus-in on one generation when crafting messaging. However, we feel it’s time that marketers start looking at these two mega-generations a little differently, calling out their commonalities versus differences.  We know that there are fundamental core values that pertain to both groups. By honing in on those values, brand marketers may be able to utilize value-based messaging that creates that magical halo effect, appealing to both Boomers and Millennials. 


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Posted Thu, Nov 21, 2013 by Danielle Johnson - Management Supervisor, Nicole Granese, Insights in News