Talking Bout My Generation

One of my favourite television moments comes from The Simpsons. There is an episode where Bart and Lisa explain to Homer that they are MTV generation X and feel neither highs nor lows. Homer asks what it’s like and Lisa simply shrugs and says “Meh”.

What I love about this (apart from the joke is a brilliant comment on popular culture) is that it is on a show that has successfully managed to appeal to audiences over decades by using the very popular culture it regularly satirises. It a strong lesson to learn if you want to speak to a range of age groups with your marketing.

There is a lot of marketing chatter about Millennials at the moment and for good reason. Let’s put the term into perspective. We can very broadly categorise three main age groups in society. It is also probably worth mentioning that these categories are fluid, to say the least.

Baby boomers are generally now what we would consider the older working generation. They were born somewhere between the late 40s and early 60s and as such have probably seen more changes than any other generation. They tend to have adopted the less cynical and more caring attitude prevalent in the 60s and 70s.

Following them are Generation X, who reached adulthood in the 1980’s. Categorised by their fixation on life goals and achieving they are very much a result of the recession years. The generation X’er is very self-focused and leans towards career development and acquisition of social status. There is a real element of laddish and ladette in this group and, of course, the Yuppie mentality emerged here.


Latterly come the Millennials, or Generation Z as they are sometimes referred to who reached maturity after the turn of the century. These are switched on and financially savvy individuals with a strong moral compass. Almost in total contrast to the yuppie generation, they are looking to invest in their future while maintaining the fair trade mentality.

Of course, we are talking about the general traits of a whole generation here but if you are looking to send them a message in your marketing, then we need to make sure that that message hits the right note for each age group. Alternatively, much like the Simpsons, we are trying to produce something that spans generations with the same product.

Guinness, for example famously retargeted using this principle in the late 90s with a series of print, radio and television ads, the most recognisable is the surfer or tick-tock advertisement. Several others followed, and this was supported by new direct age-appeal products such as ‘extra cold’ pumps, resulting in the brand moving from an old man’s drink to trendy beer.

There are numerous examples of this in action in print in every media and the principle extend from the image through to the message in the text because the words we use and the pictures we show are appealing to that generation’s social and cultural environment.

We will be happy to chat with you about this for your marketing activity. There is a wonderful word that sums this up, ‘zeitgeist’ which roughly translates as the ‘spirit of the times’. Good marketing will take this into account and use it to a greater or lesser degree as needed but the real key is knowing what to say to appeal to which spirit.