October 31, 2017

Marketing Chart: Generational differences (and similarities) among unsatisfied customers


When marketing goes awry, not only do you lose the sale you also alienate the customer — poisoning the well on future conversion opportunities, generating negative word-of-mouth, and overall having a no good, very bad day.

To help you avoid that scenario, this week we’re sharing data showing generational differences (and similarities) among unsatisfied customers.

Read on to see the chart, along with analysis and advice from MarketingSherpa and John Forrester, CMO at Inbenta.

“Most customer-first marketers and customer-success professionals have a difficult time getting sponsorship for customer-first initiatives — especially in the boardroom and amongst C-level decision-makers,” Forrester said. “So this data from the MarketingSherpa study and any data correlating business growth and business profitability with customer-first initiatives helps.”

(As seen in the MarketingSherpa Chart of the Week newsletter. Click to get a free subscription to the latest research and case studies from MarketingSherpa.)

by Daniel Burstein, Senior Director, Content & Marketing, MarketingSherpa and MECLABS Institute


We asked 1,200 consumers about a company they were unsatisfied with. We then asked …

Which of the following is true about [Company name]’s marketing? Select all that apply.

(The chart will open in a new window, click and zoom to read the data.)

To see 34 more charts from the study, download the free report.


Not experiencing customer-first marketing is the most frequent reason that customers are unsatisfied

Baby boomers were most likely to say that when companies don’t practice customer-first marketing, it makes them unsatisfied. Nearly half (43%) of unsatisfied baby boomers said that “[company name] does not put my needs and wants above its own business goals.”

This was also the top response for unsatisfied members of the Silent Generation (chosen by 38%) as well as unsatisfied millennials (29%).

Unsatisfied Gen Xers were slightly more likely to say that “[company name] doesn’t make me feel like I have a relationship with the company” (35%), however, not practicing customer-first marketing was a close second for this group (32%).

Unsatisfied millennials more likely than other generations to feel alienated by intrusive marketing

In general, millennials had less reason to be unsatisfied than other age groups.

For example — and perhaps continuatively — millennials were even less likely than boomers or the Silent Generation to be unsatisfied because they heard negative things about the company on social media from people they don’t know personally.

However, when we asked a separate group of 1,200 consumers about companies they were satisfied with, and then asked about the marketing of those companies, millennials were also less likely to have reasons to be satisfied. So perhaps millennials are simply less engaged.

While they had less reason to be unsatisfied in general, they were more likely than other generations to say intrusive marketing and marketing that is not respectful of their privacy makes them unsatisfied.

But sometimes you can’t win. Because millennials were also more likely than Gen Xers and boomers to say that the marketing is boring and irrelevant. So what’s a marketer to do?

Be relevant but respectful to customers

Perhaps there’s a way to split the difference. Create engaging and relevant content that speaks to millennials without getting too nosy and personal.

John Forrester, CMO at Inbenta (a natural language processing and artificial intelligence company), provides an example: “Every time I log in to my banking website (I won't give out the name), I get the same crappy stock photography that is completely uninteresting to me, and I imagine it is even more unappealing to millennials. Would it be so difficult for [banks] to adjust imagery depending on their age and marital status?”

Utilize generational differences to increase relevance

A less personalized way to use data about your customers in general, and data from the above chart, is to consider the different preferences of different age groups.

“A simple strategy would be to break ads into generational ad groups — both outbound and retargeting ads. Sure, the cost of developing the creative is higher, but isn't it worth it?” Forrester said.

The tactic could result in “higher performance and improved brand relevancy, not to mention extra scores with millennials in avoiding those awful ‘unappealing’ and ‘irrelevant’ tags. It's not like you'd have to go all out like Lexus did in creating 1,000 video ads in their award-winning Facebook campaign. Now that's some serious targeting and personalization,” Forrester said.

Understand differences within generations

Even segmenting by generation can be overly broad. Millennials range from people just getting out of college and entering the job market, to established professionals with children, a spouse and a house.

“Segment them even further as it is too broad of a range. Ad platforms give you a ton of targeting options. Many website CMS (content management systems) … allow you to do complex personalization of website visitors. Implement this, and your marketing success metrics will thank you later, along with your company's revenue growth,” Forrester advised.

Related Resources

Customer-First Marketing Chart: Why customers are satisfied (and unsatisfied) with companies

Lexus Creates 1,000 Video Ads for Facebook Campaign (by Jack Marshall in The Wall Street Journal)

Profiting from Personalization (by Mark Abraham , Steve Mitchelmore , Sean Collins , Jeff Maness , Mark Kistulinec , Shervin Khodabandeh , Daniel Hoenig , and Jody Visser of BCG)

Marketing Chart: How purchase experience affects customer satisfaction

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