The Genius of Generational Marketing

What can go wrong if brands get it wrong with generational marketing?


Katrina McCarter

10/11/20233 min read

What can go wrong if brands get it wrong with generational marketing? Here’s my personal cautionary tale.

A couple of years ago I was hired by an Australian artisan chai company to drive their local online sales business. They already had a thriving business supplying hundreds of cafes across the globe but needed to nail the direct to customer stuff.

First thing I needed to understand: who was their online customer? This is the core of any successful marketing strategy. Specifically, I wanted to understand if their core online customer was a Gen X woman or a Gen Y.

Knowing their cafe business extremely well, the owners were convinced she was a Millennial Mum in activewear, fresh from Pilates with toddler on hip, drinking chai in cafes. This was based on what the team saw when they did deliveries to their cafe clients. It was purely anecdotal. No supporting data.

But I felt the core online customer might be more like me: a Gen X woman and passionate chai drinker.

Chasing the wrong generation of customers can spell disaster for any brand. So it was essential I got this right. Making assumptions doesn’t make money or business sense, so I ran a research project to clearly identify the brand’s most profitable online customer.

Any guesses as to who it was?

Yep. A Gen X woman. A non-aspirational coffee drinker who turned to chai in the afternoons to control her caffeine intake.

Had we created our marketing strategy around the Millennial Mum drinking chai in cafes we would have risked sales, customer loyalty, relevance—and potentially, their whole online business.

Instead, I drew on my insights into the Gen X consumer to build a strategy which appealed to these women. The imagery and language used was updated, a newsletter was introduced, plus collaborations with other brands which had a strong Gen X community. And we focused hard on relationship building by amplifying the brand story and showing clients ways to bake with chai as well as drink it.

Within eight months, online sales were up 655% from the same time the previous year.

And this is why I love generational marketing. The impact getting it right can make for any business is extraordinary.

For those new to it, generational marketing is a marketing strategy that involves tailoring your products, services and messaging to target specific generations based on their unique characteristics, behaviours and preferences. Each generation is influenced by the social, economic and cultural factors prevalent while they grew up. These experiences shape their values attitudes and buying habits.

Generational marketing is crucial because it allows a brand to resonate with its target audience on a deeper level. By understanding the unique values and experiences of different generations, brands can create targeted strategies that increase customer loyalty and engagement and keep the brand competitive in the rapidly evolving marketplace.

The role of marketing has expanded significantly in the past decade. Marketers and business owners are expected to be expert on SEO, social media, email marketing, Google ads and now AI. Because of the growing complexity and ways to reach customers, increasingly I'm finding marketers and business owners are spread thin and it’s easy to make assumptions about who our customers are and how they like to communicate.

The results of these assumptions can be devastating.

Like the chai business almost did, by chasing the wrong generation of customers or not understanding the generation of customers you want to attract deeply enough, you can experience a significant decline in sales and lack of loyalty. You can miss opportunities and there exists a very real threat that we can go out of business. This is largely caused by choosing the wrong channels, messaging and language.

On the flipside, if you get this right your brand can enjoy significant sales and revenue boosts through building meaningful long-term relationships. You can grow a legion of customers who want you to succeed and grow and will stimulate word of mouth marketing for you. They will assist you with future research and new product development.

The best way to be introduced to generational marketing is to know the six generations of consumers.

Seniors—born 1928-1945.
Baby Boomers—born 1946-1964.
Generation X—born 1965-1980.
Generation Y or Millenials—born 1981-1996.
Generation Z—born 1997-2010.
Generation Alpha—born 2011 and up.

What each generation loves, loathes and values is a story in itself, so here’s something I prepared a little earlier: a downloadable on the top seven insights of each generation:

Trust me: this is the marketing strategy that will drive growth in 2024.