'Tis the season for holiday advertising: Marketing to Generations X and Y

As businesses prepare for the welcome sales bump the holiday shopping season can provide, they must work extra hard to attract eager consumers to their locations. The best way to do this is to put together a top-notch advertising campaign.

However, business owners must first know who they are marketing to, as this will play a crucial role in how holiday marketing efforts take shape.

According to University of New Hampshire professor Nelson Barber, a member of the hospitality management faculty, the differences in consumer habits between Generation X and Generation Y are vast, and successful holiday advertising should draw upon the shopping tendencies of both.

Through his research, Barber found that Generation X, which typically refers to people born from the early 1960s to the early 1980s, is most comfortable with traditional media and internet platforms such as local search.

"Generation X is very motivated to search for purchase-related information and is adept at searching. Generation Xers tend to use information not as a point of pride but as assurance that they are not being taken advantage of by marketers and are getting the best deal possible," Barber explains. "For Generation X, marketing strategy should focus on providing product-related information that is verbally and visually rich, and highly informative because such messages are compatible with the needs of elaborate processors."

Members of Generation Y, which normally refers to the demographic born between the mid 1970s and the early 2000s, were found by Barber to be very reliant on others when they make purchasing decisions.

Generation Y is also often referred to as the Millennial Generation or Echo Boomers, as they are often the children of the Baby Boomer generation. According to the Oberlin Review, these individuals have grown up in a digital world where multi-tasking between iPods, televisions, cellphones and computers is the norm. Barber adds that this generation is overdependent on these technologies when it comes to making decisions, and it is also highly motivated by the desire to conform to parental and peer norms.

"Generation Y selects and consumes products that help them achieve their goals of blending in with the crowd or a certain group; thus, they are influenced by the need to conform in order to be liked and accepted by them," Barber said.

To market to Generation Y consumers this holiday season, advertisers should look to campaigns that incorporate peer interaction, such as live chats, blogs and social networking.