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A family with seven members representing different generations, from old to young

Generational Promotional Product Ideas

Promotional Product Ideas for Each Generation

Want to help gain optimal ROI for your client? Take generations into account.

When guiding a client toward the branded item that will be best suited for their specific need, you always ask the same question: Who is the end user and what is the desired goal of this branded item? Why not go a step further by determining what generation their audience fits into? Shared generational characteristics can (and should) assist in marketing decisions.

Understanding Different Audience Types

For example, think about the commercials playing on radio stations. You’ll begin to notice specific trends based on the audience of the station. You may hear commercials for farming equipment on traditional older-time country radio stations. Listening to current pop? Listen for louder and faster commercials for amusement parks or acne skin care.

A station that plays hits from the 1980–90s will feature landscaping services, retirement and investment planning companies, or other high-end services. The similarities in messaging are based on market research.

Most individuals fit into a category of shared interests and age groups, including certain types of music. Marketing directly to them usually helps bring a higher return on investment.

These assumptions are generalizations, of course. No message works for 100% of a specific group 100% of the time. However, understanding different types of audiences are great guidelines for sales.

What’s in a name?

Different generations are categorized this way:

Generation Z: born 1997–2015

Millennials or Generation Y: born 1981–1996

Generation X: born 1965–1980

Baby Boomers: born 1946–1964

The Silent Generation: born 1922–1945

Each generation name is based on when members of that generation become adults (18-21). Studies by The Center for Generational Kinetics use three trends that shape generations—parenting, technology, and economics—to establish generation definitions. Again, these shared life experiences are generalized (variations can occur with geographical differences), but similarities can be found for the majority.

Using generational knowledge for selling branded items can offer useful predictability for your clients. Here are characteristics, and subsequent promotional product ideas, for each generation.

Generation Z (1997–2015)

The most ethnically diverse generation in history wants to be true and real. They were young when the Great Recession of 2008 occurred, so they learned cautious spending habits. True digital natives, their technology opportunities have been available since birth. They truly care about their environment and appreciate all efforts to be as earth-friendly as possible.

Gen Z is the generation of freedom of self-expression. They love the ability to promote their identity and beliefs and do not feel label-conscious as older generations. When marketing to the individuals of Gen Z, be authentic!

Suggest branded items for Generation Z

  • apparel made from recycled materials or responsibly sourced items
  • custom apparel
  • USB charging hubs
  • phone accessories
  • wireless headphones

Millennials (1981–1996)

They are the biggest generation in history—even bigger than the Baby Boomers! Growing up in a time of rapid change gave them a set of priorities and expectations that were different from previous generations; the events of 9/11 molded their lives. Some members of this generation have delayed marriage and having children.

Because they have a love of adventure and travel, many Millennials do not place an emphasis on home ownership, car ownership, or purchasing luxury items. Technology is an intricate part of their lives, as is wellness. They are less likely to smoke and more likely to use apps to enhance their daily health activities.

Suggest branded items for Millennials

  • anything travel or adventure-related
  • portable pet accessories
  • glass water bottles
  • portable power bank
  • wireless charger
  • bike-adaptable speaker

Generation X (1965–1980)

The latchkey and MTV generation experienced the end of the Cold War and the rise of personal computers. As divorce rates increased and the family-life norm changed to more single-parent households, time alone without a parent meant more self-reliance and a DIY way of life.

Raised by hard-working (sometimes workaholic) Baby Boomer parents resulted in more alone time, which developed into an appreciation for work-life balance. As they were entering the workforce, the technology that keeps current-day workers connected around the clock and setting their own hours did not exist. As a result, communication skills and a strong work ethic were honed. This independent group is tech-savvy, but chooses not to be tech-dependent.

Suggest branded items for Generation X

  • eyeglasses cleaner
  • cooling towel
  • grilling tools
  • travel speakers
  • travel tags
  • anything retro or 1980s themed
  • good-quality cooler
  • golf balls
  • calendars

Baby Boomers (1946–1964)

The generation-shaping events for Baby Boomers were post-WWII optimism and a flush economy, the hippy movement, and the Cold War. This generation’s name reflects the extreme spike in birth rates after WWII.

Their shared characteristics are valuing relationships, being goal-centric and self-assured, and working hard. Baby boomers were adults during major technology advancements. This means while they’ve learned how to integrate electronics into their lives to a certain extent, they more comfortable and resourceful offline.

Suggest branded items for Baby Boomers

  • gardening tools
  • blanket
  • bookmark
  • adult coloring book
  • yoga mat
  • kitchen apparel
  • personal pedometers
  • golf gear

The Silent Generation (1922–1945)

The oldest generation was born at the beginning of the Great Depression and children during WWII. Due to war rationing, they grew up with an uncertainty that led to thriftiness. They endured many hardships which led them to be respectful and loyal to their religious beliefs and their families. No career-hopping here. They pride themselves on staying loyal to one company their whole career.

Suggest branded items for the Silent Generation

  • blanket
  • eyeglass holder
  • coffee mug
  • pill pack
  • lid remover assisters
  • knit winter hat
  • playing cards
  • shoe horn