The Traditionalist Generation: Using Generational Marketing to understand who they are, and how to market to them.

What is Generational Marketing?

When considering the Traditionalist Generation in your marketing strategies, it is import to first have a basic understanding of the concept of generational marketing.  Generational marketing is a common-sense approach to refining marketing strategies to target the unique values and priorities of the five generations living and working side-by-side in today’s society. The catalyst for this nuance in marketing strategies came about when marketing experts realized that they were marketing to five very distinct generations. Each of these generations had distinctive characteristics and often different goals, values, and motivations. Once marketing experts were aware of these generational differences, they realized that they could, and should, adjust their strategies to match the values and motivations of each generation.

Understanding Generations

A generation is defined as a cohort of individuals born around the same time. Because of when they were born and the influence of the culture of their times, each generation has unique experiences that shape their values and their paradigm for how they view the world and their place in that world. Most experts agree that there are a total of five generations currently in the workforce. They are:

  • The Traditionalists – born before 1945.
  • Baby Boomers – born 1946 to 1964.
  • Generation X – born 1965 to 1980.
  • Generation Y or Millennials – born 1981 to 1995.
  • Generation Z – born 1996 to 2012.

Perhaps you have heard some of these terms before, terms such as Baby Boomers, Generation X, and Millennials. These phrases have entered the popular vocabulary, but few understand the differences between these generations or the challenges and opportunities that come from these populations living and working side by side. Even fewer have grasped the importance of the opportunities that come with studying and understanding how each generation thinks, to better serve their needs and market goods and services tailored to those needs.

Traditionalist Generation: Who Are They?

This article will focus on understanding the elder statesmen in our economy today. This generation is often called the Traditionalist or Traditional Generation. They are sometimes called the Silent Generation as well. This is the group that was born before 1945. It is often useful to have these rough distinctions to help conceptualize generational distinctions, but the dates are more of a convenience than an immovable deadline. The Traditionalist Generation ends at roughly 1945 because that marks the end of World War II and the beginning of the Baby Boomer generation, which is most often references as being from 1946 to 1963.

What are the characteristics of the Traditionalist?

Those born into the Traditionalist Generation had parents who may have fought in World War I or World War II and also survived the Great Depression. The Traditionalists themselves were probably too young to fight in World War II and entered the workforce during the post-war economic boom. They also lived through the Korean War and McCarthyism and the Red Scare. Because they are conforming and civic-minded, a famous article in Time magazine in November of 1951 bequeathed on this generation another moniker: “The Silent Generation”.

The children in the Traditionalist Generation grew up with parents still reeling from World Wars and the Great Depression and gifted their children with a strong work ethic and an appreciation of having a steady job. The Traditionalists were and are the smallest generation in our workforce today. In part, this is due to the low birthrate in the United States in the ’30s and ’40s. Even with their small numbers, their conservative view on life, their work ethic and their strong desire to invest help create a secure future for their families, they are considered the wealthiest generation of the five in our workforce today.

The Traditionalists as a group are amazing people. In the 75+ years, they have been alive, they have probably seen more change any other generation in human history. They have gone from paper and pencil to cloud computing. In their lifetime they transitioned from listening to radio dramas for entertainment to watching YouTube, Netflix and streaming content. When they were young, they would keep in touch with friends and family by visiting in person, the occasional phone calls or writing a letter. Now, there are many other communication options such as email, voice mail, instant messaging, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, FaceTime, Skype and other means to communicate with anyone in the world, instantly. If they pursued higher education, they went to a university, went to a classroom on campus, listened to the lecture, and went home and read the textbook and studied for the test. Now we have online textbooks, distance learning, and virtual classrooms. All of these changes have positively and negatively impacted our world and all of the generations currently still in the workforce. The impact of the changes from generation to generation needs to be defined and studied. Those findings can help marketers target their message for each generation of consumers.

Things to consider when marketing to the Traditionalist Generation

The Traditionalists are tending to work longer and retire later than people just a few decades prior. Those in the Traditionalists Generation are retiring later because good medical care has allowed people to live longer, social security is not the safety net it used to be, and they are choosing to work longer because of their work ethic. Because loyalty is one of their defining characteristics, they are probably are still working for the same company they have worked for decades.

The roots of their past run deep. Having been schooled in thriftiness from their parents who lived through World Wars and the Great Depression, the Traditionalist Generation members tend to be cautious with their money. For example, because of their thriftiness, they may take care of their cars and keep them for a long time. If someone had the job of marketing lease vehicles to someone in the Traditionalist Generation, they would have their work cut out for them.

Marketing a car to the Traditionalist Generation may be a challenge, but not an impossible one. As one can imagine, many members of the Traditionalist Generation struggle with understanding and using new technology. If a marketer was trying to convince them to lease a car by discussing the cutting-edge Bluetooth connectivity capabilities of the car, that approach would probably not connect with the Traditionalist. However, family, safety, security, and predictability are all high on their priority list, especially protection and security for their family. To market a leased car to the Traditionalist Generation, a marketer would be wise to emphasize any characteristics of the lease that are in line with these values. Perhaps Bluetooth technology would not convince them to lease, but an emphasis put on the technology that helps avoid collisions and keep a car in its own lane may be a more persuasive selling point.

Having grown up watching their parents struggle to put food on the table and keep their jobs, members of the Traditionalist Generation do not lean toward luxury for luxuries sake. They tend to avoid waste and prefer simplicity and reliability to complexity. They would not do well with a high-pressure sales pitch and tactics that refer to “limited time offers” or “Order before midnight tonight!” Marketing campaigns that do not pressure, but praise the wisdom of going slowly and carefully, gathering information and considering all of the facts before making a decision would be much more in line with the values of members in the Traditionalist Generation.

Because of the lack of technological ease shared by many in this generation, email blasts or social media ads may not be the best way to reach out to the Traditionalists. Members of this generation report that direct mailings are actually their most preferred method of being exposed to adds and special offers. This makes sense, considering the fact that they grew up with print media like newspapers and books. Marketers may also want to consider such avenues as print ads or radio commercials. These platforms should be viewed as an important component of any effective marketing campaign. It would be wise to not totally count out any social media however. It is reported that just as many members of the Traditionalist Generation have computers as the Baby Boomers or Millennials. According to data from the Pew Research Center in 2014, 59% of adults 65 years old or older use the internet, and fully 88% of adults over 65 use email. The number of older adults online is continually growing. Many are using social media, especially Facebook, to stay connected and to search for friends and family. Other social media options, such as Instagram, Twitter, and Snapchat are not widely used by this generation.

Another avenue is television adds. Seniors view the most television in a week, with over 51 hours per week being the average in 2015. Having television adds for your products would be well-received by members of the Traditionalist Generation.

While the Traditionalist Generation may not be as tech-savvy as later generations, they do tend to have impeccable interpersonal skills. Marketers should consider that face-to-face communication may be the most effective way of marketing to the members of the 75 and older demographic. One note of caution however. This generation respects authority figures, and was raised with a strong ethic that “your word is your bond”. It is imperative to keep your word, follow through on your promises, and deliver on all of the benefits of your goods or services that you have discussed.
When talking to them, they will respond well when they are shown respect for their age and experience. The wise marketer may consider being a bit formal, introducing themselves and addressing the Traditionalist properly with a Mr. or Mrs. when speaking to them. Along the same lines, if the marketing is geared toward a big-ticket item, following up with a hand-written known is a more recommended way to follow up, much preferred to a more informal and impersonal email or text message.


In conclusion, the Traditionalist, or Silent Generation have lived a long time and have seen many changes in their lifetimes. They have witnessed firsthand the devastating effects of wars, and have felt the thrill of mankind’s advances, such as Neil Armstrong walking on the moon. They have strongly held values that are not going to change. They are conservative, hard-working, and family-oriented. They are loyal to a fault, and if a company can win them over, they will be loyal customers for a long time.
Knowing how the Traditionalist Generation is different from the Baby Boomers,

Generation X, Generation Y, and Generation Z, can greatly assist the savvy marketer to tailor their campaigns to each generation for the greatest effect. Make sure to look for other articles on the differences in each of the other four generations, and how best to market to each one.


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