For exhibit and event professionals  

Feature—Baby Boomers and Gen X: Reaching both generations at your exhibit

February 21, 2014 By Editor


Reaching customers is an art, not a science. But that doesn’t mean we can’t take science and use it within our work.

That’s why it’s helpful to read our report, “The Generational Marketing Balancing Art: Now We Are Six.” A closer read provides insights for exhibit marketers into reaching their attendees at trade shows. From discussing the multiple generations, preferred media channels, generation-specific profiles and each one’s comfort with digital devices, find out how they all play into the when, who and how to market company messages in the exhibit world.

Though the report intimates that all six generations, stretching from ages 8 to 80, are more digitally-connected than ever, exhibit marketers are particularly interested in two generations for the next six to eight years – Generation X (29-48) and the Baby Boomers (49-67).

If you’d like to read the full report, simply go here.

For a brief summation of the key points, keep reading because this article will apply the findings of the report to exhibit marketing with an eye towards refining and targeting exhibit communication techniques to the age groups comprising the current market.

Why Boomers and Gen X?

  1. Both generations are in the work force (29-67 years old)
  2. Both contain mature workers with the confidence of their companies to attend trade shows
  3. Both generations are old enough to be decision-makers or recommenders for their companies

Of the two generations, Gen X is more highly-sought.

  • They make up 42 percent of the American workforce.
  • They possess an entrepreneurial frame of mind. The report states that “for at least the next few years, Gen Xers will be the major facilitators of change.”
  • They are likely to be the age group sent to trade shows, as opposed to the older Baby Boomers who are likely to be in upper management
  • This will shift in 10 years. Millenials (15-28) is already the largest generation and will be the decision-makers by 2024.

So how do we make the exhibit experience relevant to Gen Xers and Boomers? We must first take a look at some traits they have and figure out how to please each one. Let’s start with the Gen Xers.

Generation X Habits and Traits 

  • Observation: The 24-49 year old age group is highly digitally connected.
    • Marketing Solution: Use web, social media and digital devices to reach and stay in contact with them before, during and after the show.
  • Observation: They want to get the most for their money.
    • Marketing Solution: Recognize what it costs to go to a trade show and provide value for that expenditure.
  • Observation: They seek value over grandiose marketing claims.
    • Marketing Solution: Zero in on what you have to share/sell/show in your exhibit with an eye toward how it will benefit the customer. Product or service demos will go a long way to showing the “Show Me” generation the value of your offering.
  • Observation: They do respond to direct mail.
    • Marketing Solution: Consider attracting their attention with snail mail.
  • Observation: They like edgy, but not rude.
    • Marketing Solution: Depending on your company's personality, an exhibit experience that pushes the envelope will attract, engage and retain attendee attention.

Baby Boomers Habits and Traits

  • Observation: The 49-67 group embraces new technology.
    • Marketing Solution: Don't be afraid to use the most current techniques for reaching Gen Xers with Boomers. They will adapt.
  • Observation: They trust word-of-mouth.
    • Marketing Solution: Testimonials will go a long way to converting Boomers to your message. But be sure they are genuine and believable.
  • Observation: Prefer face-to-face interactions with entertainment value.
  • Observation: They believe technology can bring about social change.
    • Marketing Solution: Boomers will respond to captivating videos, theatrical presentations and one-on-one demos.
    • Marketing Solution: Boomers take Gen X's requirement for value a step further. Tying your message into a charitable or socially benefitting enterprise will go a long way to capturing and holding Boomer attention and loyalty.

Getting specific with segmentation

The more detail you have about the attendees at your shows, the better you can micro-target relevant communications to them. This is not an overnight task, but a continuous program to find out more about your visitors.

This is what the buzzword “big data” is all about. It's collection and analysis of a vast amount of information about consumers so that marketing messages are segmented, targeted and measurable.

The data you collect for exhibiting purposes may not be “vast,” but it will help you segment and target your messages and thereby be able to measure success.

For example, Gen X age range is 24 to 49 – a significant range. Segmentation would narrow that range to, say, 10-year increments. Male, female, education, position in the company, company location, etc. — these are all characteristics that can further define your audience and refine your message.

This approach applies to both groups.

So how does segmentation play out in your exhibit marketing strategy?

According to a Forrester Research report, Gen X males and younger Boomer females were more willing than some other segments to move to a more enjoyable provider.

If you know that your exhibit audience is predominantly male Gen Xers, based on the Forrester conclusions, you would be well-served to develop an intriguing, immersive demo in your booth.

According to another recent study conducted by InnoMedia, NuStats and Vertis, 87 percent of Gen Y and 86 percent of Gen X bring in the mail the day it's delivered. Seventy-three percent of Gen Y and 68 percent of Gen X have used coupons they received in the mail.

In fact, Gen X and Y consumers rate 75 percent of the mail they receive as valuable.

Though both Gen X and Boomers are receptive to direct mail, segmentation suggests that direct mail (promoting value over claims) would be as successful with them as with the 28-49 year old group.

Again, if this appears to be your upcoming market segment, consider budgeting for direct mail over email to promote your show. Be sure to check with the show organizer that they can deliver street addresses, not just email addresses.

Boomers, on the other hand, can be coaxed into digital message delivery (they are partial to text messages) via direct mail. So consider a preshow email campaign to encourage signing up for text messages for specials, VIP treatment or exclusive offers.

This is good stuff. Where can I find information about my audience?


Since the advertising and marketing industry is fascinated with demographics, a simple search on the Internet uncovers a wealth of generational research on the generations. See what comes up when you simply enter “Gen X male.” Go ahead. Do it. I dare you.

If you want more specifics about your particular audience, how about just asking them? A simple question on LinkedIn or a more rigorous poll of your current customers (who might be more inclined to participate) can unearth the granular detail you might be looking for.

I encourage you to go in, read and scrutinize our report, The Generational Marketing Balancing Art: Now We Are Six.” You can tease out your own strategies for reaching the generations who are your audience at trade shows.

The Generational Marketing Balancing Art: Now We Are Six can be downloaded from https://mc2talks.mc-2.com/generational-marketing-balancing-act-now-we-are-six/

Caroline Meyers is the director of corporate communications for MC2.  Caroline joined MC² with a mandate to support and develop online services which are increasingly part of the communications marketing mix. Her years as a magazine art director, as a web designer, as a public relations practitioner and as an ad agency creative director have given her a unique perspective on effective state-of-the-art communications – vital support for clients pre-, at- and post-show.


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