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Marketing to Multiple Generations

Darlene Fiske August 2006 issue of Skin Inc. magazine

From tweens and teens to baby boomers and the forgotten Generation X , each client segment has different needs and desires. In addition, never before have there been so many opportunities to communicate with clients—through technology, relationships and experiences that shape their thoughts and drive their actions.

Spas that cater to multiple generations will reap the benefits of an extremely diverse clientele. Strategically targeting various age groups also will benefit your spa if you know specific facts about how each generation spends its time and makes decisions. There are numerous books about how to market to each segment, and this article will not attempt to tell you everything you need to know about promoting to everyone. What it will do, however, is define each of these groups, and provide insights about their interests and how they spend their time.

Tweens—Ages 8–12

“Tween” stands for the ages “in between” the childhood and teenage years. This group is getting a lot of attention lately. Unlike other generations that are segmented by birth year, this is a rolling segment that will be refreshed annually as the children grow up and become teenagers. In addition, its members are the first to be born into the age of technology, in which moms pick up their kids from day care wearing wireless phones; DVD players entertain youngsters in the backs of minivans; and enables little ones to dance with Oscar the Grouch, read virtual books and send e-mails to their favorite furry friends. This is a new era for marketers, and as this group ages, it will be imperative to give them what they want—when they want it—and to recognize the importance that technology serves in their lives. For many children, it is like another member of the family.

The economic power of this group, however, still lies with their parents, who provide allowances and gifts. Communication must be twofold: directed to the tween who influences the purchase, as well as to their parents. According to the Web site, tweens spend $51 billion per year, while their parents contribute an additional $170 billion. That’s a lot of money spent on toys and games. One popular item is the Build-A-Bear Workshop’s stuffed animals. Tweens can build their own teddy bear and select an outfit for it to wear. When will a spa brand negotiate its logo on a bear’s spa robe? This cross-marketing tactic has been integrated by Harley-Davidson and Disney—both offer bear-appropriate clothes for children to purchase that reinforce their respective brands.

Teens—Ages 13–18

Teenagers have immense buying power worth $175 billion, and 63% of their spending money comes from a part- or full-time job. Among this tech-savvy group, one in three high school seniors carries a credit card. What piques their interest? Teens spend money primarily on clothes and food, according to “Coinstar Teens Talk Poll: Teens Report on Money, Spending and Buying,” a 2003 study by Coinstar, Inc.—an entertainment service company. Teens allocate 33% of their weekly earnings and allowances for clothing, and an additional 21% for food. Other popular items include movies, music and games.

Ever heard of Although this Web site appeals to many generations, teenagers take advantage of its message boards and chat rooms most frequently. Learn about this group and how its members interact with others by logging on. Parents of teens also need to be targeted. Parent-and-child savings packages and specific mother-daughter packages are great ways to drive brand loyalty at this very impressionable age. Keep in mind that mom most likely will be footing the bill, so emphasizing added value will be important. Also, the trend in family travel is on the rise. Many spas have incorporated packages and facilities that meet the needs of the entire family. Keep an eye on this trend, and realize the importance of families spending time together in a meaningful and healthy way.

Generation Y

The segment of people born in the 1980s and 1990s generally is considered to be members of Generation Y—this includes the current tween and teen generations. According to, 49% of Generation Y members have built Web sites, and 25% have their own blogs. This technology-based group communicates differently than generations that preceded them. Think instant messaging (IM), text messaging, blogging and cell phones as the most effective ways of reaching these clients.

Generation X

This group typically is defined as generations born in the late 1960s and 1970s, and is comprised of the children of baby boomers. Because this segment is stuck in the middle of two very appealing markets, many marketers have a stereotypical perception that its members are mostly hippies. As a result of this, Generation X often is overlooked. However, it is important to remember that this group is self-reliant and independent, in the work force, starting families and considered by many to be trendsetters. Meeting the needs of this neglected demographic will create loyal clients.

Baby boomers

Born between 1946 and 1964, during a great increase in this country’s birthrate, baby boomers are the most sought-after clients. According to Brent Green, author of the book Marketing to Leading-Edge Baby Boomers (Paramount Market Publishing, 2004), “Consumers over age 50 now hold three-quarters of the country’s financial assets. By 2010, nearly 33% of American adults will be over age 40, and they will have nearly $800 billion in combined economic power.” What’s not to love about this generation? With 10,000 people turning 50 every day, there are daily opportunities to connect with this segment’s dreams and goals, and to recognize their accomplishments.

Another trend is the growth of the LOHAS (lifestyles of health and sustainability) market. Among the 55 million American consumers who make up this group, 47% are between 46–64. Eighty-five percent of LOHAS consumers will pay 20% or more for products that are sustainably made. Boomers want to do business with companies that are real and authentic, and that will give something back to their lives and the environment. Many of them are the elders in their families, and are providing financial assistance to children and grandchildren. They are active, intelligent and curious, and several of them are still in the work force. Create new and meaningful experiences for them, and they will respond.

Retirees, or silverbirds

Born between the early part of the 20th century and the end of World War II, retired clients are the parents of baby boomers. One interesting fact about this segment is that its members are more active in chat rooms and on message boards than baby boomers. This may be a result of their desire to connect with family and friends, as well as to keep people up-to-date on their health and other developments, according to the new study “U.S. Adults: Word of Mouth Communications,” from Lucid Marketing.

As this market ages, another interesting trend emerges: returning to college. Universities are actively recruiting seniors back to campus, offering housing and other perks normally enjoyed by faculty and staff. In fact, more than 580,000 adults age 65 and older plan on taking college courses, and 165,000 of them are 75 or older, according to Bob Jordan, president of International Demographics, Inc.

This generation is hungry for knowledge and human interaction. Offering cooking classes, birding excursions or other experiential-type activities will appeal to retirees. Although taking care of themselves and staying healthy never have been more important, engaging their minds will best deliver what these clients want.

Targeting the generations

Aiming your marketing efforts to specific generations is not only smart, it’s efficient and will provide the best return on your marketing investment. The way in which you choose to spend that money to reach them is up to you. The options are endless. Get to know your clients and your most loyal customers. This will give you insights into how and why they make the decision to purchase your services and products. Marketing to multiple generations can be highly profitable if you are strategic and use communication methods that are specific to each group’s needs and lifestyles.