Marketing across generations

It’s not so long ago that aesthetic enhancements were seen as the reserve of the older and richer generation, as well as celebrities. Now it’s become more mainstream, more socially acceptable and accessible to the masses than ever before.

An industry once thwarted by controversy and secrecy, it has cast aside most of its stigma partly thanks to the growing number of celebrities and social media influencers who are open and honest about the work they have done. Such non-surgical treatments are booming as ‘polish and perfect’ and ‘tweakments’ become the mantras of the Instagram generation and an image-conscious ageing population.

Post-COVID comeback

The chairman of Estée Lauder once coined the phrase ‘the lipstick index’ to describe how the health and beauty sector often defies recessions.1 But will the aesthetics specialty be able to bounce back from COVID-19 social distancing, and the recession that is likely to follow, as household disposable incomes are stretched? The pandemic has certainly hit the industry hard, with clinics legally required to shut down for the past couple of months.

But as they now begin to reopen and life finally returns to the new normal, and patients return in droves to their regular practitioners after being confined to home, business could be booming. So how can clinics keep customers across the generations coming back for more?

Getting up close and personal

The days of using a one-size-fits-all marketing strategy are long in the past. Each generation, from the silent generation to Gen Z, have different characteristics, cultures, values, needs and expectations, so a campaign that works for one cohort might not necessarily work for another. Although, marketing a product or service to a broad mix of social demographics – from a sixty-something who may be uncomfortable with digital marketing to a twenty-something who texts, not talks – is a challenge. What most of the generations do have in common, however, is an innate desire or, indeed, for the younger generations, an expectation, for increasingly sophisticated personalisation from brands.

Making any generation feel special and understood is key to building brand loyalty and lucrative relationships.

Small gestures can make a big difference. But who can remember the birthday of every patient or where they went on holiday? Can you recall the name of a prospect’s husband or which is their favourite restaurant?

Recent developments in technology are allowing businesses to build highly accurate customer profiles which then inform hyper-personalised marketing campaigns.

Customer relationship management (CRM) software forms the bedrock of this approach, collating critical customer information at every touchpoint – from their treatment likes and dislikes, lifestyle choices, medical issues and ideas on budget to preferred contact method.

By capturing such data in one place, it can help aestheticians to build up accurate customer profiles allowing them to then micro-target smaller, niche customer segments through the most appropriate channels. A CRM system can also act as a virtual PA, automatically sending reminders about thoughtful insights, personal touches or important dates. Integrated with an email distribution platform like Mailchimp or a social media platform like Hootsuite, it then allows aesthetic practitioners to send out targeted content via the most relevant channel for each generation. From a birthday offer or ‘we’ve missed you’ discount to a how-to video, here we look at the most relevant strategies for each of the five main generations.

Generation Z (1995-2010)

Typically considered as those born after 1995 (however the exact year brackets for all generations can be debated slightly), this generation grew up with technology surrounding them in their daily lives. Research has suggested that they spend a huge 10.6 hours a day engaging with online content2 and virtually all (98%) own a smartphone.3

However, choosing the right social channel on which to focus your efforts and spend your money on is key. According to one survey, almost half (49%) of Gen Zs said Instagram was their favourite social media channel, while only 18% chose Facebook as their top choice.4 Gen Zs consume their information via visual engagement.5 Video marketing should also play a key part in your strategy, so create informative how-to videos on YouTube, as well as shorter, snappier content over on Instagram showing procedures, launches and mini Q&As with practitioners.

Remember to be authentic, though. Gen Zs are savvy and having been bombarded with content with most of their lives, they can quickly spot the real from the fake. Live your brand from the inside out. For example, if you’re sharing a photo of a procedure, use real photos of your practitioners doing the treatment rather than a stock image.

Millennials (1980-1994)

According to Mintel, 53% of millennials consider non-surgical treatments to be an increasingly normal part of our beauty regimes,6 and aesthetics businesses are now frequently engaging with this cohort – one of the most technically and socially-connected demographics in society.

These tech-savvy prospects crave ‘experiences’ – and this desire has drastically changed textbook marketing because they want so much more than a functional product or service that fulfils a need.

A 2019 survey of 13,416 Millennials across 42 countries and territories suggests that they want to buy from companies that are ethical, transparent and socially conscious at the core of their DNA. In fact, 37% of Millennials say they have stopped or lessened a relationship with a business for not operating ethically.7 If you run an eco-friendly clinic or donate part of your profits to charity, promote it in your marketing material, certainly, but be prepared to back it up with proof and stats to avoid it being seen as a publicity stunt.

In terms of which social media platform best to use, research has indicated that millennials dip in and out of many different ones.8 As a result, aesthetic businesses should have a comprehensive social media marketing plan to ensure the brand is connecting with consumers at multiple touchpoints, from Twitter and Facebook to Instagram and YouTube. This generation are notoriously more risk-averse than their two predecessors,9 so it is perhaps unsurprising that eight out of 10 say they are likely to check reviews from previous customers before making a purchase or booking an appointment.10Ask your patients to leave Google and Facebook reviews and make sure your glowing testimonials and case studies take pride of place on your website. Along a similar vein, incorporating user-generated content into your Millennial social media strategy is important. Whether that’s sharing customer-taken photos, such as pre- and post-treatment, on Instagram or a vlog of their appointment on Facebook, Millennials are likely to deem user-generated content as more trustworthy than branded content, as well as humanising the brand.

Generation X (1965-1979)

Generation X, born between 1965 to the late 1970s, are busy juggling childcare and elderly relatives, as well as home ownership and the peak of their careers. Email marketing is an effective medium to target Gen Xers as it is something they’re using all day long, whether that’s at work, at home, or on-the-go. Emails should be optimised for both web and mobile though. While research has indicated that smartphones are the primary device that Gen Xs use to access the internet, 53% still use a laptop or PC to search for a product or service when they want to buy.11

The lives of Generation Xers were in full swing when the recession hit in the late noughties, so it is perhaps unsurprising that this gave them a new mindset when it came to spending. They’re frugal and buy smart; the age group that could be most likely to value company loyalty points.12 Send them information on your loyalty scheme, share discount vouchers or set up a referral programme where they will get money off if they recommend your clinic to a friend.

Baby Boomers (1946-1964)

Thanks to property booms, a buoyant economy and lack of student debt, Baby Boomers are often seen as the richest generation and have been found to have the most disposable income out of all the demographics.13 They have grown up with traditional marketing and advertising – TV, print and radio – so are much more accustomed to using those as a way to find out information rather than social media or websites. However, that doesn’t mean they don’t use the internet. According to Global Web Index, 69% of Boomers have a Facebook account,14 so Facebook Ads can be a cost-effective way to get in front of this audience as your products and services can be fed directly to them via their newsfeed.

In terms of brand discovery and research, search engines are one of the top channels for Baby Boomers – 59% said they use it to research products in a survey of 13,626 people in 201815 – so aesthetic clinics should ensure their SEO is optimised to ensure website visibility and likeliness to be found.

The Silent Generation or Traditionalists (1925-1945)

In their 70s, 80s and 90s, growing up through wars and economic crashes and usually retired, the Silent Generation prefer to consume news in a more traditional way. Research by Ofcom showed that of 903 surveyed individuals over the age of 65, 78% use BBC One to get their news, whereas just 10% use Facebook.16 As well as advertising in local newspapers, more affluent lifestyle magazines or targeted magazines like SAGA, direct mail with age-relevant case studies can be used to explain the treatments most valuable to this age group. Older people are also likely to still prefer to speak to someone on the telephone.17

Effective targeting for a post-COVID world

Working with a disparate customer base in a sensitive, competitive and innovative market is a challenge – and will be even more so in the unfamiliar post-COVID market. But with an effective marketing strategy that individually targets each generation, aesthetic businesses can be reassured that their patients will feel understood and valued. And a happy customer is always a beautiful customer – whichever decade they were born in.


1.Elizabeth Rigby, ‘‘Lipstick index’ smeared by recession’, Financial Times, 10 April 2009 <>

2.Colm Hebblethwaite, ‘Gen Z engaging with 10 hours of online content a day’, Marketing Tech News, 9 February 2018 <>

3.Katie Young, ‘98% of Gen Z own a smartphone’, 17 October 2017 <>

4.Paul Skeldon, ‘…while Instagram, beats Facebook and YouTube, to become shoppers’ favourite social and influencer platform’, Internet Retailing, 19 March 2019 <>

5.Jennifer Chan, ‘Gen Z and Gen Y: What do they want from a smartphone?’, Kantar, 24 March 2020 <>

6.Alice du Parcq, ‘Whether you’re wavering between Profhilo, Botox or no-tox, we reveal the new fillers and fixers causing debate’, Glamour, 26 August 2019 <>

7.The Deloitte Global Millennial Survey 2019, Societal discord and technological transformation create a “generation disrupted”, May 2019, p18.

8.GlobalWebIndex, Millennials Audience Report 2019, 2019, p25-27.

9.Mark Eltringham, ‘Generation Y employees see themselves as risk averse’, Workplace Insight, 27 February 2013 <>

10.Astrid Hall, ‘Most millennials only purchase items with online reviews, study finds’, Independent, 8 March 2018 <>

11.GlobalWebIndex, Gen X Audience Report 2019, 2019, p8. <>

12.GlobalWebIndex, Gen X Audience Report 2019, 2019, p8. <>

13.Five By Five, What makes baby boomers wise to new product launches?, 2019, p5. <>

14.GlobalWebIndex, Baby Boomers Audience Report 2019, 2019, p23. <>

15.GlobalWebIndex, Baby Boomers Audience Report 2019, 2019, p28. <>

16.Ofcom, News consumption in the UK, 24 July 2019, p21. <>

17.Ofcom, ‘Ringing the changes: do phone numbers still matter?’, Ofcom, 5 January 2019 <>

Share this article: