Puzzled about how to approach the boomer generation, or the younger set?

Marilyn Moats Kennedy has a strategy for you: “use generational marketing.”

The founder and managing partner of Career Strategies, a management consulting firm in Wilmette, Ill., Kennedy pursued that point here at the Retirement Industry Conference sponsored by LIMRA International, LOMA and Society of Actuaries.

She described generational marketing as “customizing” the advisor’s message to the generational characteristics of clients. This can give an advisor a competitive edge, she indicated.

Her firm works with generational demographics and trends, and has done consulting with AIM Investments in this area.

Today’s generations fall into five groups by birth date, she indicated. Many of her remarks delineated characteristics for the various groups (see chart). She also offered tips on how to respond with age-related solutions.

Boomers tend to have a set agenda of how to do business, Kennedy said. They prefer to go to meetings, and they expect consensus. They expect submission and “everyone in a meeting must participate.”

By contrast, the younger busters and netsters will not go to meetings at all if they can find the information on the Internet, she said.

Boomers like food and networking, she noted. It’s an “if you feed me, I will come” kind of thing, she quipped. So, at breakfast meetings, try offering food.

When meetings are over, she cautioned, expect to see younger people clear out fast, while the boomers “stay around, still networking.”

By implication, to get face time with boomers, go to meetings or have meetings. But to get face time with busters and netsters, Kennedy said, spend time with them on the web.

To get busters and netsters to go to meetings, some schools now play host to panel discussions offering negative information that’s not available on the Net, she noted.

“You have to get to meet with and know these people early; otherwise, they will disappear off your radar screen,” she said.

Where aging is concerned, a lot of boomers refuse to let their grandchildren call them grandma and grandpa, she noted.

In general, they don’t want to be seen as old or to be surrounded by old people, even people just 10 years older, Kennedy continues. So, they won’t go into retirement communities. Rather, expect them to live in a mansion in the suburbs–five couples and their caregivers.

Boomers’ well-known predilection for “excess” continues, she indicated.

Meanwhile, busters and netsters are into underconsumption. For them, “all freedom is based on underconsumption,” she said. Hence, expect them to buy as much term life insurance as they can afford; use less space and have fewer possessions than boomers; and be urban, interested in protecting the environment and concerned about global warming, Kennedy said.

Many busters and netsters have huge school loans to pay off, she observed. So, they are living in inner cities while paying down the loans. They’re saving and investing for retirement at the same time, she said, noting many want to be debt-free and financially independent by age 50. Many intend to be entrepreneurs.

For people born in 1960 through 1988 (the cuspers, busters and netsters), don’t use emotional pleas and pitches, she advised. “You educate them into buying.”

Boomers are competitive, but younger people are not, she noted at one point. Therefore, the U.S. Army was able to attract boomers with its “be all that you can be” message. That didn’t work with busters and netsters, she said. What did work? Be “an army of one,” she said.