Leading marketers are spending a lot of their time these days thinking about the differences between the generations. For the first time in history, there are really four generations influencing the marketplace: the Matures, the Baby Boomers, Generation X and Generation Y (also called the Millennials).

The Matures are the last of the generation that won World War II and then came home and started the Baby Boom, which lasted from 1946 to 1964, putting the Boomers in the in the 50 to 68 age range right now. The X’s came along over the next 14 years, making them 35 to 49 right now, and the Millennials range from their teens to their middle 30’s. The Millennials are becoming a huge economic force, and they are, well, really different — certainly more different from the other three groups than any of those are to the other two.

So how do you market effectively to each group? The simple answer is to understand their values. The Matures like teamwork, appreciate stability, and respect a thorough job. The Boomers are very similar, but more open to change — especially if an established supplier lets them down! The X’s have been called the most cynical, pessimistic, unhappy and unfriendly generation ever. It has also been said that they don’t buy, they stalk—and while a big deal is usually made about the technical savvy of the Millennials who grew up with the Internet, from marketing perspective, it’s probably more important that the X’s embraced the Internet because it lets them shop on their own schedule, with access to huge amounts of information. The Millennials have taken that to the extreme, and seem comfortable buying just about anything with no direct human contact or assistance.

There a lot more to be said about the ”generation thing” but here’s the thought we want to leave you with today. The biggest mistake many marketers make is marketing to themselves. That doesn’t work when the people you’re marketing too have different core values!