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Automotive marketing tips to reach every generation of car buyer

Recovering from heavy student debt and a slow economy, Millennials are gaining more earning power.

How do you market to Boomers, Gen X, Millennials, and Gen Z while running a single dealership? You wouldn’t be far from the truth in thinking that you need multiple brands for your dealership – we’re becoming that fractured in our society.

And it’s not just marketing that is posing to be a challenge. There’s also a product mix challenge. Among the manufacturers who rush to produce SUVs and EVs for Boomers and Gen Zs, studies on Millennials’ habits show that you better have a mix of reasonably priced sedans. For example, Motor Biscuit said, “Surprisingly, the top five most popular cars for millennials aren’t SUVs. Recovering from heavy student debt and a slow economy, Millennials are gaining more earning power, but they’re going for more practical cars and affordable brands.” And Millennials are now around 40% of the car buyers who walk into a dealership.

We wonder what those numbers forecast for the coming years as SUVs begin to sit on the lots, but that’s for another discussion.

You cannot do much about an OEM’s product mix, but you can tweak your advertising campaigns. So, let’s look at some tips about that.

Tips for Marketing to Boomers

High Touch: Where virtual displays are nice with some segments, they’ll be lost on boomers because they need to see and touch a visible vehicle. For the most part, buying online isn’t an option.

Brand Loyalty: Once a brand proves itself, whether vehicle or dealership, keeping it a quality brand will make a customer for life. Cash or Points are King: Cashback and loyalty programs are good because 38% of boomers rely on credit cards.

TV is Valid, but Facebook is Better: Regardless of Facebook’s change to Meta, the truth is that FB is still a Boomer’s paradise. According to Statista, 68% of Boomers use Facebook. So yes, you’ll still need to advertise on local TV, but Facebook deserves your dollars.

Tips for Gen X

Cause Marketing: When you can prove the dealership benefits a cause or the environment, you can be a hit with Gen X. Cause marketing is essential.

Social Media is King: It could be the ‘Gram or TikTok, but Gen X is the top social media user, according to Statista. And that gives you an inroad to establish your customer loyalty chops. Build customer loyalty by offering assistance on social media. Pick-up, and deliveries will build loyalty.

Direct Mail:  Vertis says that 86% of Gen Xers bring in the mail every day and 68% use coupons. Build up your service and accessories through coupons. DM is still a thing.

Tips for Millennials

Watch the Reviews: Regardless of the generation, you should be keeping an eye on reviews, but even more so in reaching Millennials. Over 68% say they won’t decide without reviews from people they trust.

Loyalty Programs: Like boomers, you’re more likely to get visits if you have a loyalty program. According to Yahoo, if you offer incentives as little as 20%, it’s enough to get 50% of millennial customers to your dealership.

Podcasts: Statista says 48% of Millennials were weekly podcast listeners. Track down and sponsor or produce podcasts that target Millennials.

Tips for Gen Z

You Need a Purpose: Making money is a purpose, but Gen Z doesn’t care. Your dealership should already have a broader purpose, for example, helping provide affordable, sustainable transportation for everyone. And be authentic; 90% of Millennials say authenticity is important when choosing a brand.

Loyalty: Everyone likes loyalty and commitment, but Gen Z wants meaningful moments and not points. It sounds like a hybrid of cause marketing and weekly support, but your commitment can make a difference.

Mobile: According to Business Insider, more than half of Gen Z surveyed said that their favorite pastime includes using some form of technology, whether watching Netflix or scrolling through social feeds. So, it’s essential to optimize your website and marketing for mobile-first. And that should be for each generation but especially Gen Z.


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Steve Mitchell
Steve Mitchell
Steve Mitchell has had a passion for automobiles, and used it as a creative director for ad agency automotive marketing. Most recently, he was the manager of interactive marketing for Mitsubishi Motors, NA. He earned bachelor's degrees in Marketing and Television from the University of Texas in Austin and a Masters of Theology study from Dallas Theological Seminary in Dallas.

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