2021 . 04 . 23 | written by Karen Marin

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Esxence 2022

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Nearly ten years ago I met Ann Fishman while waiting in line to have lunch at Angelina in Paris. In a matter of minutes, Ann captivated my attention as she explained the basics of generational marketing. Ann has an impressive list of credentials: she is president of Generational-Targeted Marketing LLC and the author of Marketing to the Millennial Woman. She was an Adjunct Associate Professor at New York University and also a recipient of four U.S. Senate Fellowships to study generations. Ann and I caught up on Zoom recently to get to the heart of the matter and look at the influence that generational marketing could have on the fragrance industry.

Can you tell us how you define generational marketing?
Generational marketing is marketing to a specific generation of people based on their preferences, attitudes, and upbringings which distinguish them from other generations. The impact of major historic experiences stays with a generation throughout its lifespan, only to be tempered somewhat by age and current events. Consequently, each generation has its own values, attitudes, and lifestyles. These characteristics never change because no one can rewrite the history of their youth. Businesses have learned that these characteristics affect how people react – whether consumers or employees. Each generation responds to marketing, advertising, products and services that relate to them in their own generational way.

That’s why it’s important to speak to the targeted generation in the communication style that they will respond to. Getting to know what your target generation wants, what they have experienced, and what they value can make all the difference in getting the reactions your business needs to succeed. If you are of a different generation than your target market, you probably need to know a good deal about generational marketing. Sometimes it’s tough to connect to a generation that is different from your own. It’s also important to realize when a new generation appears in your market because you will need new sales tactics.

Let’s focus on Millennials (1982-2000) and Generation Z (2001-2019). What has influenced them and in what ways?
Millennial kids were raised to feel empowered. They think they can change the world. They grew up with globalization, the digital revolution, and the economic crisis of 2008. Millennials are team players who operate in groups and are influenced by peer pressure. They expect companies to understand them. They expect companies to include them in their product development and marketing. They expect companies to ask for their opinions and feedback. Their preferred method of communication is social media.

Generation Z has lived through a lot of terrifying events in their young lives bookended by September 11, 2001 and COVID19. They are a worried generation that seeks a sense of peace. Z’s are digital natives who are highly connected but protective of their privacy. They tend to be pragmatic and independent, and they are business-savvy.

How can brands earn their trust?
Millennials trust their friends, their family, and the influencers they follow. So, if a product or service is validated by one of these groups, they will trust the recommendations. Gen Z’s are less trusting than Millennials because they saw the mistakes made by Millennials. Posting anything everywhere came back to haunt Millennials – so Gen Z uses aliases on social media to identify themselves. They only reveal their real identities to their “circle of trust”. Companies have to penetrate their “circle of trust”. One thing Generation Z doesn’t like is being spied on. If an algorithm follows their private conversations to promote products mentioned in that conversation, Z’s get turned off.

What can you tell me about their shopping habits and how it could apply to the fragrances they buy?
When it comes to in-store shopping, Millennials want a memorable experience. And they want customization and personalization, something to set them apart from their group (like tattoos). Millennials value the convenience of having access to product information, being able to comparative shop, buy and communicate from anywhere and at any time by way of devices (smart phones, tablets, computers, etc.). To companies, Millennials can be your best friend or your worst enemy. If they like your product or service, they will spread the word on social media. But if they dislike a product, a service, or how they are treated during the buying experience, they will blast you all over the internet.

Millennials are looking for products that are vegan, clean, and environmentally friendly. In terms of fragrances, they are looking for scents that are fresh and minimal like they find in essential oils such as rosemary, sage, vetiver, and lavender.

In contrast, Gen Z needs hybrid experiences, both online and in-store shopping. They want hassle-free shopping from the in-store experience. They want easy-to-navigate websites. They want simple return processes. They don’t want to be worried at all on the path to buying. They’ve had enough worry in their young lives. They want to buy quality over quantity, but they are also price-conscious and thrifty. Their challenge is how to be unique without spending a lot of money which may be why they shop on rental and resale platforms as well as at thrift shops.

Since Gen Z is a worried generation, fragrances that are calming are important to them. They want scents that soothe. In addition, Z’s appreciate subscription fragrance boxes that allow users to try different scents every month with a relatively low price point.

What best practices could brands implement to appeal to the widest audience?
Marketing to different generations requires knowledge of the targeted generations. The questions are: who are your customers and what is their generation? It’s essential to develop campaigns and messaging strategies that will reach and resonate with that audience. Be sure to avoid stereotyping the tendencies and habits of certain age groups. Creating buyer personas requires knowledge of how a generation thinks and feels about everything. It’s easier to market to more than one generation knowing the differences in each of their preferences as well as what irritates each of them. An old example of this goes back to 1995 when Microsoft Windows used the Rolling Stones song “Start Me Up”. That was the first time the group’s music was ever used in advertising. It appeased the Gen X (1961-1981) need for authenticity and it targeted Baby Boomers (1943 to 1960) with its creativity. Both of these generations loved the music of the Rolling Stones.

Who exemplifies a Millennial in your opinion?
Although she was born on the cusp of Gen X, Meghan Markle is the poster child for Millennials. She wants to save the world. She expects others to come to her point of view. She wants the royal family to adapt to her. She has everything, but she portrays herself as a victim.

Let’s look at her fragrance use. What perfume did she wear when she met Harry? She wore Oribe Côte d'Azur EDP, described as a cooling, refreshing blend of bergamot, Sicilian orange, sandalwood, and vetiver, which is a nod to nature and the environment. For Meghan’s wedding, she wore a custom-made blend made by Floris and inspired by sea breezes, sunshine, and water. The fragrance is described as crisp, clean, and airy: exactly the type of fragrance Millennials want. Plus, it was designed for her and her body chemistry which means personalization. Meghan also uses Dr. Bonner’s Lavender and Almond bath products which are nature-based, clean, and fresh, exactly what Millennials favor.

Below is a closer look at four generations. Ann Fishman’s research pertains to the USA although sources indicate similarities in other countries. People born on the cusp between two generations may have characteristics of both generations.

Baby Boomers (1943 to 1960) are perhaps the most valuable generation, given their wealth. Boomers didn’t grow up with the internet but many of them have become tech savvy. Boomers are a financially powerful generation, not to be overlooked when it comes to digital marketing. Today Boomers are comfortable shopping online and researching products online. In terms of social media, Facebook is their favorite.

Generation X (1961 to 1981) is brand loyal until a brand disappoints them. Their loyalty must be earned and maintained. Xers are cynical, savvy, self-sufficient, and resourceful. They are the “latchkey children” who grew up caring for themselves since mom and dad got a divorce, or they grew up with both parents working or in a single-parent household. Gen Xers value a straight-forward approach. In terms of technology, they choose the digital channel that best suits their needs. They tweet, post and pin only if it’s right for them. Their preferred form of communication is by text for conversations and by email for explanations. Gen X is the one generation you must ask for permission before contacting them in any way. Understanding X is important because they influence many decisions other generations make.

Millennials (1982 to 2000) are digital natives. They consume a lot of online content and are content producers themselves. Millennials use a wide range of social media networks, digital video, and mobile devices, all of which are all relevant to Millennials. They’re swayed more by influencers than any other generation. Most Millennials make extensive online research before making a purchase. Online reviews can sway them. Facebook and Instagram are their favorite social platforms. Because Millennials see themselves as victims, they expect companies to sell products and services to help them succeed in life, to live out their dreams, to enhance their life. They are coming into their peak spending years at this moment in time.

Generation Z (2001 to 2019) was brought up with smartphones, They’re incredibly tech-savvy. They thrive on self-serve options where they are in control. Gen Z’s prefer Snapchat and Instagram for social networks. When it comes to media, they “have all but abandoned traditional television viewing, opting to watch shows, movies and other digital content on their phones, tablets and laptops,” according to CNBC. “This shift has led content producers to go where Gen Z lives — YouTube.” And now TikTok is playing a vital role. Z’s spend more than three hours a day watching videos online. Their per capita spending will increase as they become adults, but as teens, they currently influence overall household spending.

For more information, visit:
Twitter: @AnnFishman


Ann Fishman, Dennis Brock, Wall Street Journal
Ann Fishman at the Fragonard boutique
Marketing to Millenial Women, di Ann Fishman (copertina)
Marketing to Millenial Women (backcover)
Ann Fishman stops to smell the flowers

Photo Credit: Dennis Brock for the Wall Street Journal