The inter-generational marketing challenge

We joined marketing leaders at the Financial Services Forum Conference to discuss the challenges of marketing to the ever more disparate generational groups.

ConferenceThe panel of experts shared a wealth of insights from academic and front-line research.

What were the key learnings, and how do they inform what we do at CDS do when delivering omni-channel communications?


Wealth-wise, the balance of power is still overwhelmingly with the good old baby boomers and their hard-working successors, Generation X. So we can all relax, right? Perhaps there’s no need to panic, but this won’t be the case for ever. Wealth will gradually pass down, the struggling millennials (Gen Y) and centennials (Gen Z) will work their way up but they will still be the product of their time – so we will need to understand them and how best to communicate with them.

The centennials were born between 2000 and present, and have only known the post-mortgage-crisis, post-PPI, flat-economy Britain. They don’t automatically trust big finance brands. They are also mobile, social, open. They crave realism, transparency, authenticity and meaning. This means that the traditional brand values, generic-positive tag lines and stock imagery of present day just don’t engage them. That’s not to say these aren’t still important in supporting general access to the service, but Centennials and Millennials are just as likely to engage with smaller, nimble firms who speak their language.

Behavioural economics

Behavioural economics is key to informing the creativity of the message, who it comes from and how it’s delivered. From hashtag heroes to crowdsourcing consumers, from rebellious renters to suspicious savers, tribal segments help us to understand shared values and common interests, that transcend the usual socio-demographic groups (A,B,C1 etc).

Internal challenges in big organisations

The panel discussed the internal challenges in big organisations; overcoming risk-averse Compliance departments, the need for strong board level influence and corridor miles covered to get buy-in for any changes in product, service and ethics to align with expectations of the younger generations. Marketers need to focus their work in the ‘Value Zone’; the sweet spot of activity where customer benefit overlaps with business needs.

In terms of overcoming internal resistance, small-scale trials help build the case for change. CDS helps our customers to set up, implement, measure and report ROI on trials involving new content and search techniques.

Consistency of message

Consistency of message between outdoor, off-line and online is essential to establish meaning in the consumer consciousness. For Gen Ys and Gen Zs, digital is king of course – mostly mobile and preferably video. Ys and Zs are also perfectly comfortable with automation, in fact they expect it, so personalising their onward journey with recommendations and options will develop the one-to-one relationship and trust.

Tribes help inform the creative and delivery, but also the onward customer experience via digital channels, call centre or in person. They guide our hand on tone of voice, language, on-boarding process and self-qualification which are all central to designing a great user experience.

Blog author: James Davis, Senior Business Development Manager at CDS.

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