Engaging Consumers Across Generations with Print

Traditional forms of communication remain vital and effective



Eve Padula


Marketing to consumers based on their age is not a new concept, but it sure isn’t getting any easier. The members of each generation have their own unique preferences about how they like to shop, how they spend their money, and how they want to be marketed to. As if this wasn’t complicated enough, these preferences are a moving target—subject to change based on personal experiences, major life milestones, and even a little something called COVID. Today’s marketers must work to establish that all-important connection with their customers to foster loyalty and trust, but recent research suggests that reaching consumers in our modern era might involve going back to the basics.


The Generations, Defined

Of course, the start and end years for various generations will often vary a bit. For the purposes of this blog, we will categorize the major generations into four basic categories:



If anyone wanted to feel old today, you’re welcome in advance. Consider the following about Generation Z consumers:

  • At 24 years old, the eldest members of Generation Z aren’t kids anymore.
  • All members of this generation are considerably younger than the Internet itself. January 1983 marked the official birthday of the Internet, when the establishment of TCP/IP enabled different kinds of computers on different networks to communicate with one another.
  • When the first iPhone debuted, the oldest Gen Z-ers were just 10 years old. This means that a great many members of Gen Z have never used (or even seen) a phone that isn’t “smart.”


On the other hand, today’s seniors aren’t what they used to be either:

  • The majority of Baby Boomers are still in the labor force. According to the Pew Research Center, the oldest Boomers are staying in the labor force at the highest annual rate for people their age in over 50 years.
  • Boomers love social networks! According to Statista, 70% of Baby Boomers were using YouTube as of 2019, and nearly as many (68%) were using Facebook.
  • As a group, Boomers are staying healthy and living longer. This enables them to work later into life, which in turn gives them greater disposable income. As such, this is a demographic that no marketer can afford to overlook.


Printed Communications Still Get Noticed!

Although younger consumers are digital natives who tend to display a greater reliance on all things electronic, printed communications are still an effective way to reach consumers of all ages. According to Keypoint Intelligence’s marketing communications research, 64% of total consumer respondents read all or most of their direct mail before throwing it away. Furthermore, the youngest respondents (45%) were the most likely group to review all of their printed direct mail.


Share of Direct Mail That Is Read/Reviewed


Direct mail continues to enjoy high response rates—even among younger consumers—because it delivers a visceral, tangible punch that electronic communications simply can’t match. Paradoxically, because younger consumers grew up with digital, they are uniquely positioned to get excited about the personal touch that printed communications can offer. In an age of digital overload, print can stand out as the less cluttered channel. This is especially the case when the printed communication is personalized and highly relevant. Younger consumers are demanding to be seen and heard, and direct mail can enable marketers to connect with their customers on a tangible, emotional level.


Inspiring Consumers to Engage with Print

Today’s marketers must understand what’s important to each generation. Modern print technologies offer multiple options to support the initiatives of each age group and improve response rates. Younger consumers (i.e., Millennials and members of Generation Z) are actively supporting businesses that are working to make the world a better place. Rather than using the same images for all age groups, it is especially important for direct mail that is targeted toward younger consumers to reflect your company’s core values and beliefs. Younger consumers want the companies that they do business with to see the world through their eyes, rather than what it might have looked like for their parents or grandparents.


Today’s consumers won’t simply take your claims at face value. You must earn their trust, and this means delivering transparent messaging that is void of hype and grand promises. Some important promotional keywords that communicate trustworthiness include savings, security, and value. Testimonials are also considered gold in today’s marketing world, and younger consumers in particular place a great deal of credence in their peers’ opinions.


Interactive elements can also be quite impactful. Rather than incorporating QR codes that direct the recipient to e-mail addresses, phone numbers, or websites, create meaningful links that lead to a true online experience. Interactive print can create immersive sensory experiences that excite the consumer and prompt them to take action. At the same time, however, attention spans are short. The interactive component must be seamless, otherwise the consumer will quickly lose interest.


Consumers are also drawn to a tactile experience. Think of all the packages that are delivered to people’s doors on a daily basis, then consider how you might be able to make their direct mail more dimensional to replicate the excitement they feel when unboxing an online purchase. Dimensional mailers are a dramatic departure from flat postcards or envelopes, so they really stand out in recipients’ mailboxes.


According to the USPS, the average American household receives only 454 pieces of marketing mail each year. In today’s era of digital overload, a tangible piece of paper that lands directly in the hands of the right consumer can truly command attention.


Keypoint Intelligence’s Opinion

Despite any preconceived notions, printed communications can be highly effective among all age groups—even the youngest consumers. In fact, because they are so saturated with digital messaging, younger consumers may be uniquely responsive to a tangible direct mail piece that delivers a human touch. Marketers that are hoping to make inroads across the various generations will of course need to reach out via a wide variety of media channels, but the traditional print channel should not be overlooked.


For more information about the complete findings from our ongoing Marketing Communications Research, please contact your Keypoint Intelligence account representative or send an email to sales@keypointintelligence.com.