Graphic Design & Marketing

Defining Your Target Market


Who does your client want to reach with their brand and campaign message? You must know who you are “speaking” to before you can design something for them.

Mountain Dew targets young people who live a fast, active lifestyle. The design of Mountain Dew’s logo, packaging, advertising and commercials “speaks” to their young, active target market. Everything designers and marketers do is based on speaking to these Mountain Dew drinkers and connecting them with their lively, green beverage.

You should learn as much as possible about your target market, and begin to understand what their lifestyles are like. Many students choose to market to their own generation because they can use their peers and friends for information and inspiration.

  1. Sex (male, female, or both)
  2. Age Range
  3. What generation is the majority of your target market from?
    • iGen (name is still pending broad acceptance)
    • Millennials
    • Generation X
    • Baby Boomers
    • Silent Generation (Traditionalists, Veterans)
  4. Characteristics of your target market’s generation


Other Questions to Consider

What kind of lifestyle does your target market live? You can further define your target market by answering the questions below. They will give you and your client a more detailed picture of your target market’s lifestyle.

  1. Total American population of target market:
  2. Percentage of target market that is married and living together
  3. Percentage of target market that has never been married
  4. Percentage of target market with a Bachelor’s degree or higher
  5. Median annual income
  6. What products do they like to buy with their disposable (extra) income
  7. What do they do for fun and entertainment? What are their hobbies

Generational Characteristics

Here is an excellent report that compiles characteristics of the four main generations. Read though it to learn how you may reach your target market with your message most effectively.
Download it here: gen_mktg.pdf (166k)

More generational marketing info:


  • Born: 2000–2020?
  • Other names: Post Gen, Multi-Gen, Generation Wii, Gen Tech, Digital Natives, Net Gen.
  • Medium of choice: Social Media, Instant media like smart phones.
  • Events that shaped their lives and views:




  • Born: 1980–2000.
  • Other names: Generation Y, Nexters, Baby Boom Echo, Bridgers. Neil Howe and William Strauss are widely credited with naming the Millennials.
  • Medium of choice: Internet
  • Events that shaped their lives and views: September 11 Attacks, Columbine Shootings, Rise of the Internet. Lived during a huge cultural change in how to nurture children. It was the era of the Baby on Board stickers. Cocooning. Over-protected kids.

Characteristics: Blunt. Optimistic. Computer and Internet savvy. These are the cyber kids who grew up with the Internet, and speed and access to information is something that they are accustomed to. Pragmatic. Cynical. Racially diverse. Education is “in”, and it is seen as a life-long process. Self-esteem is high. Less religious than their parents. 1 in 3 is not Caucasian. One in four lives in a single-parent household. Three in four have working mothers. They are more tolerant and open-minded to racial, religious and sexual diversity. They are less tolerant of abuse, racism, sexism, homophobia and environmental damage. Very coddled, fawned over. Assaulted with multi-media from an early age. Grew up in a world of mass-marketing and a advertising-saturated society. Technology is valued and is used as a tool for multi-tasking.

Look like new versions of grandparents—want to keep parents in tact. Brave and courageous. Traditional values. Strengths: optimistic, confident, social, moral, diverse, multi-task very well. Prefer word-of-mouth peer endorsements (internet viral advertising) to slick ads, (Ex: Mountain Dew/caffeine). They like clever humor, the raw truth and straight facts—less gimmicks, Sprite’s, ‘’Image is nothing. Obey your thirst’’ reached them. Do not like image or “feeling” ads. They do like personal advertising that comes to them, in their own “worlds.” They like bright colors, cool designs and cool products (iPod, cell phones, clothes, ring tones, etc.).

What others say about Generation Ys:
Veterans - Polite, smart, they have good manners, smart little critters but watch too much TV
Boomers - Cute, need more discipline from parents; need to learn to do it themselves
Xers - They are spoiled; what do you mean, what’s an album?


Generation X

  • Born: 1965–1980
  • Other names: Post-Boomers
    Unintentionally named by Canadian Douglas Couplan's novel: Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture
  • Medium of choice: Cable TV and the Internet
  • Events that shaped their lives: No major War, Cold-War ending, Challenger disaster, Being raised as Latch-key kids, many parents divorcing.

Characteristics: Fiercely independent. Technology savvy, skeptical of advertising and marketing, believe in personal style rather than designer products, many are entrepreneurs, and they easily transition from job to job. Detest incompetence. Less religious than their parents.

Affected by their parents divorcing in large numbers. They want a work/family balance in their lives. They want time to raise their children now, and not be absent like their parents were. Desire immediate and honest feedback in life and work. They will not rely on institutions for their long-term job or financial security. Entrepreneurial Spirit: Xers believe in investing in their own development rather than in their organization’s. While others may see them as disloyal they are cautious about investing in relationships with employers because experience has shown that these relationships are not reliable.
Spend a lot of time in front of the computer and are comfortable with e-commerce, so high impact internet marketing influences their purchases. Xers like informality, don’t like false comments; highly tuned BS meter. Don’t insult one’s intelligence -- just tell it like it is, don’t play games. Don’t explain -- just tell them the bottom line. Tech savvy, like to be challenged. Impatient, cynical. People skills are not great. Like to, “Try it your way and let’s see what happens.” “The worse thing that could happen is that it won’t work.”

What others say about generation Xers:
Veterans - Xers are not educated; don’t follow procedures
Boomers - Xers are slackers, rude and lack social skills; spend too much time on Internet and email
Nexters - Cheer up!


Baby Boomers

  • Born: 1946 and 1964.
  • Medium of choice: Network television
  • Events that shaped their lives: Assasinations of JFK, MLK, Vietnam War, Space Travel, Civil Rights and Women's Movement.

Characteristics: Less religious than their parents. First divorce generation. Pursued personal gratification at high cost to others­—divorce, changing jobs, lack of seniority. Need to be liked. Need to know we are okay. Not budget minded. Not comfortable with conflict. Process ahead of results - likes to discuss. Overly sensitive to feedback and don’t handle bad feedback well. Very judgmental and self-centered. Give them information—they like to be “in the know.” Expectations were high—Time Magazine names BabyBoomers the “Man of 1967”—we would end racial inequality, cure the common cold. Raised on extreme optimism and hope of their parents.

Boomers started the “workaholic” trend. Boomers value peer competition and can be seen by others as being egocentric. While they don’t like problems, if you give them a cause they will fight for it.

What Others Say about Baby Boomers:
Veterans - Baby Boomers talk about personal details they should keep private, they are self-absorbed
Xers - Baby Boomers talk the talk but don’t walk the walk
Nexters - Baby Boomers say they are cool, but they work way too much.


Silent Generation

  • Born: 1927–1945
  • Other names for silent generation: Veterans, Traditionalists
  • Events that shaped their lives: Great Depression, World War II, Korean War.

Characteristics: Generous. Their parents were affected by the depression. Don’t BS them—just be straight. Traditionalists values are influenced by the experiences of their parents whose values go back to the 1800s. This generation experienced the Great Depression and World War II, both of which shape how they view the world. Traits: security, loyalty, dedication, trust, law and order. They like consistency and uniformity. They also like attention on a grand scale -- but not gifts. They value handwritten note—not an e-mail. Conformers—believe in logic, not magic. Appreciate tradition and past. Veterans need advance notice on changes -- like an upgrade to software. Veterans are uncomfortable with conflict.

Traditionalists are the private, silent generation. Don’t expect members of this generation to share their inner thoughts. Members of this generation often feel that their career identifies who they are. Social Order: Other generations may view this desire for social order and placement as bias, prejudice or even racism or sexism.

What others say about Veterans:
Baby Boomers - think they are rigid, technical dinosaurs, narrow thinkers
Gen Xers - think they are too set in ways
Gen Nexters - think they are good leaders, very brave


Greatest Generation

  • Born: Up to 1926
  • Other names for GI’s, Builder, Veterans
  • Events that shaped their lives: Depression, New Deal, Roaring 20s.

Characteristics: They set up today’s society & church. They are loyal. Duty is important.




References for generational characteristics and census data tables:

  1. From the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Association Office of Diversity
  2. MANAGING STAFF FROM THE BOTTOM UP, Notes from the Finance Committee’s May 13, 2003 Presentation, By Mimi Krumholz