Branding and Culture Uncategorized

Zoomers and Boomers: Why Gen Z is Changing the Landscape for Brands

Generation Z; Overly-sensitive, vegan, social media obsessed and misunderstood. While Gen Z seems to have many (less than favourable) labels, are they really that different from the generations of youth before them? It’s nothing new for youth culture to influence trends and crazes, but Gen Z seems poised to shake up the system in-terms of, well, everything.  The question is no longer “how can my brand target my customers” but “how can my brand remain relevant in a market where consumers are unafraid to hold brands accountable?” 

Who are the Generation Z?   

Generation Z is self-proclaimed as perhaps the most misunderstood generation of all-time. Born during the mid 90’s and through to the mid to late 2000’s, the Gen Z cohort suffers from an unfortunately fuzzy delineation between generations. Most Zoomers have never known a world without the internet, mobile phones, and social media. While Millennials may roll their eyes at the younger generation feeling misunderstood, it’s impossible (and quite frankly reckless) to overlook how growing up with constant technological, societal, and political developments has moulded Gen Z as individuals and future consumers. 

Innovation, Innovation, Innovation 

Growing up with the internet for the entirety of their lives has meant Gen Z has experienced a non-stop barrage of technological innovation. This has provided them with access to more choices than ever before. As a result, Generation Z is more likely to spend money on brands that are innovative. Innovation remains a cornerstone in their purchasing desires whether it be technological, or design based. Brands who wish to successfully capitalise on the Gen Z market need to be prepared to push for innovation.

Convenience Culture 

A decrease in “from scratch” goods coupled with a prevalence of convenience product use by their Gen X parents is likely to heavily influence the purchase decisions of most Gen Zers. Fuelled undoubtedly by past generations and encouraged through social media, Gen Z feels an amplified pressure to achieve success at an early age, generating an increased appeal for convenience. They have grown to rely on convenience not only in terms of use, but in terms of delivery, attributes and even product messaging. 

Hidden Fears of Financial Insecurity 

Brand sensitive but not brand loyal, Gen Zers are likely to be somewhat conservative in where and what they decide to spend their money on. This is a consequence of growing up in uncertain financial times and witnessing the crippling debt of their Millennial predecessors. While some Gen Zers may respond with cautious investing and saving, others may choose to avoid arbitrary spending or unnecessary product purchases as an attempt to achieve long-term financial security. 

Enjoyment of Escapism 

Due in part to the helicopter trends of their parents, Gen Z slightly mirrors the pressures of previous generations, but with different stressors. This has led to a yearning for goods and services that cater to the idea of escapism. The allure of escapism has been facilitated and encouraged through advances in tech, which have provided 24/7 access to social media, greater mobility in devices, and video games with ever-advancing graphics and features. 

So how can you adapt your branding, messaging, and actions to assure they are meeting the needs of this influential generation as they enter and transform the buyer’s market? 

1. Widen Your Scope

Does your brand’s segmentation include Gen Z? Shifting your segmentation to include a younger audience is essential if you wish to remain relevant. Shifting to support a wider audience is not only beneficial for attracting Zoomers, but for entering newer and often more niche markets. Start by identifying brand elements that could be utilised to refresh your brand identity and messaging.

2. Be Picky

Small changes can be made by focusing on key brand assets and exploring ways to modernise them. Subtly elevating your brand to make it more contemporary will help your brand appeal to a younger audience without alienating your established base. Think edgy accent colours and font modifications. Brands may also want to reevaluate how their product stands out against others on the shelves. A packaging agency is a fantastic option to consider when it comes to modifying subtle design assets and elements of product packaging – especially if you wish for your brand to be considered as one of the best designs in it’s category. 

3. Collaborate Consciously

For many brands, a complete rebrand is often too expensive. Collaborations are cost-effective and calculated actions that can often be more beneficial than a total redesign. Choosing to collaborate with brands and influencers that appeal to potential customers outside your normal target audience can have transformative effects. It is vital that collaborations be deliberate and conscious, with partners that share common values as well as aspirational ones.

4. Be Bold and Authentic

Gen Z is unapologetic about the values and ethics they expect from brands. It is essential that you communicate your brand’s values in a way that exemplifies them. Gen Z is very aware when brands use trends and other methods as marketing ploys, and they aren’t afraid to call out brands for bad behaviour. It’s vital that your brand expresses what is important to them, but it’s even more crucial that you mean it. 

Branding and Culture

What is brand purpose?

Product, Price, Place, and Promotion. While the 4 P’s of marketing have remained a cornerstone of marketing theory, a 5th P has been making a strong case for its inclusion. Purpose (brand purpose) has become an essential ingredient for solidifying brand identity, building customer loyalty and nurturing positive brand associations.  It might be time to ask yourself; Does my brand have a purpose? 

So, what exactly is brand purpose?

Brand Purpose is far more than a company’s ultimate goal, it’s an aspirational and idealistic view of what you want to become, the “why” of your brand’s existence. A brand purpose may not entirely make or break a brand, but it will fortify the other brand elements together, forging a stronger and more conducive brand identity. 

Why do brands need purpose?

Today’s consumers are demanding more from their brands than ever before. Patrons are becoming increasingly more educated and informed about the choices they make when it comes to purchase decisions. While a USP and mission are important aspects when cultivating a brand, they are no longer sufficient in retaining or building customer loyalty and repeat purchase behaviour. 

Customers want to connect with brands on a deeper level. Companies and organisations which have purpose go beyond the scope of their products or services, allowing consumers to support them in similar aspirations and goals. A 2019 Porter Novelli/Cone study revealed that 89% of participants had positive connotations with brands that displayed purpose. Additionally, 86% were more trustworthy of brands with 83% more likely to be loyal to purpose-driven brands. 

Start Finding your Purpose 

Former CMO of P&G Jim Stengel, identified and broke down fields of 5 human values into categories that can easily be translated into brand purpose. Although every brand may not fit squarely within one of the 5 categories, it is an ideal starting point for discovering a purpose in line with your brand identity. 

  1. Impacting Society
  2. Evoking Pride
  3. Inspiring Exploration
  4. Enabling Connections 
  5. Eliciting Happiness or Joy

Aligning your brand’s purpose with one of these human value ideals provides deeper connections with your demographic that span far beyond the products and services you offer. 

Communicating brand purpose 

Authentic purpose-driven brands are more successful, but how do you effectively communicate purpose without losing authenticity? 

Be transparent with your customers

Transparency is vital when it comes to promoting authenticity. Be transparent with your actions and how they reflect your brand’s purpose. For example, if your purpose is to work towards a more inclusive society, be sure to encourage and highlight diversity in your hiring practices, communicate in an inclusive manner and be mindful of how your marketing material can include (or potentially exclude) various demographics. 

Collaborate with care 

Be sure that you chose to partner with sponsors, influencers and other brands that share similar values. It’s important that your purpose and values be consistent across all channels, this includes the voices you select to represent and promote your brand. If your purpose is to provide healthy and affordable meals for children, partnering with a junk food label would be seen as contradictory to your purpose. 

Remember who you are 

Authenticity can be built through sharing honest, meaningful, and sometimes personal stories. Remember why your brand has its purpose and share those reasons with your audience. When customers have a better understanding of why and how the brand’s purpose came to be, it provides a deeper layer to your purpose, boosting authenticity and nurturing brand loyalty.  

Can a brand find purpose later in life? 

Finding a purpose is relatively simple in the early stages of brand conceptualisation, but what if your brand is already well-established? It’s highly likely that as a well-established brand, there will already be a clear-cut vision and mission, but can that be translated into a purpose? 

Perhaps the most efficient and effective method to identify a brand purpose in an already flourishing brand is with a complete brand audit. During this process you can review past marketing strategies, positioning statements and other useful data regarding the brand’s success over the years. Through reviewing past actions and decisions, you can discover a purpose that aligns with your brand and activities. 

A brand audit is a comprehensive project that requires time, research, and a fair amount of analysis. If you are looking to complete a brand audit to discover a purpose, it may be a good idea to enlist the expertise of a packaging design agency. Relevant expertise can be incredibly valuable, especially when looking to “find a purpose” after years of operation.     

Whether your brand is wildly successful or still in its early days, it’s time to have a good hard look at “why” your brand is and what it aspires to be.

Branding and Culture

Brick by Brick: Constructing the Foundation of a Successful Brand

Brand- A combination of attributes that gives a company, organisation, product, service concept or even an individual, a distinctive identity and value relative to its competitors, its advocates, its stakeholders, and its customers. 

While the definition may vary depending on who you are asking, all brands come down to reliable foundations. So what makes up a brand’s foundation, and how can a solid foundation lead to a successful brand?  We’ve broken down the elements of the Aaker brand vision model to identify the building blocks of successful brand foundations and why they are crucial to every brand’s future success. 

Brand Elements 

Brand Vision Elements (Brand Elements for short) are vital components that help define and orient a brand. Each brand is different, but a company’s core brand elements may include things like their logo, company name or slogan. Successful brands will identify several core and extended vision elements. Although they may vary slightly, both core and extended brand elements are important for cultivating brand personality. Identifying these vital elements early in the branding journey will serve as a guideline, keeping activity aligned and ‘on-brand’ during the various stages of brand growth.  


Just like individuals, no two brands should be identical. Recognising the values and traits that are unique to you and your brand fosters authenticity and distinctiveness. Precise details help craft an interactive and authentic brand personality, allowing your brand to respond effectively and accordingly to any development.  

How is your offer different from your competitors? If your brand was a person, what would they be interested in? How would your brand interact with customers and potential clients? How would your brand feel about a given situation? Why? Don’t be afraid to get specific! 

Brand Association

Brand Association is a pillar in brand evolution, but what exactly is it? Simply put, brand association can be anything that the customer has in their mind about your brand.  Understanding positive and negative associations with your brand provides an opportunity to branch out into other markets. Brand Association also provides a set of remembered qualities which are communicated to customers, a real win when it comes to brand loyalty!  Equally, Brand Associations give customers a reason to purchase, providing yet another basis for moves into newer and more lucrative markets. 

Brand Essence 

Brand Essence represents the central theme of your brand vision, acting as a sort of umbrella covering aspirational goals, USP and internal and external values. 

Brand Essence helps drive internal communication and can serve as inspiration for employees or as a guide for future programs. While a brand’s essence is something that should constantly be sought after, it is in fact an optional building block. In certain instances, a brand’s essence may draw attention away from core elements, potentially diminishing a brand’s external personality. 

In these instances, it’s better to highlight core elements rather than forcing a contrariant essence. If you’re still a bit confused about whether your brand’s essence meshes well with your brand vision elements, it might be the right time to reach out to a brand strategist.


Communication is key. While this building block may seem obvious, it’s important for brands to be versatile enough to excel in a variety of different contexts. For example, brand positioning in a magazine will differ from that of a social media platform. 

Employing a brand in various contexts and situations can highlight the multitude of elements (and hard work) encompassed within a brand’s vision. While positioning might change based on the product-market context, a strong and versatile communication strategy allows for a brand position to evolve without ever losing sight of its core elements and associations. 

Tried & Tested Crew

While it might be true you can technically lay the foundation for your own home, some things are best left to the professionals. Just as it’s essential to have a strong and reliable foundation for a building, it’s essential that your brand be built on a solid and consistent foundation.  A brand strategist can be an incredibly beneficial addition to your team, working with you to identify each of these essential building blocks for your brand, raising important questions and making suggestions based off market and insider research. Working with your brand strategist can also be a vital resource when it comes to branching into new and unknown markets. Even well-established brands can benefit from a second opinion from a packaging agency when it comes to effectively capitalising their brand. 

Whether your brand is in its infancy or well-established, a solid foundation is essential for long-term brand success. The building blocks outlined in Aaker’s brand identity model lay the blueprint for a robust and reliable foundation, ready for the construction of a consistent, distinguishable, and valuable brand.

Branding and Culture Gender in branding

What brands can learn from JK Rowling

Last week JK Rowling, perhaps a little behind on the movement to make language surrounding periods more inclusive  – poked fun at an article which used the term ‘people who menstruate’ instead of ’women’ when talking about periods.

The reaction was disproportionate outrage, from the transgender community, fans, even Daniel Radcliffe and Hermione Grange (Emma Watson) joined in. Fan blog The Leaky Cauldron called for fans to boycott Rowling, to stop buying her books and watching the movies. The call to ban stories which have entertained and supported generations of confused teenagers, of all genders and races, where ‘bad’ and ‘misunderstood’ were not grouped together and bravery prevailed, is a worrying step in a direction which threatens to stamp our healthy debate and morph us all – or at least the language with which we describe ourselves into one genderless, identity-less, ageless, unidentifiable blob.

But what effect will the latest debate over inclusive menstruation have on brands? And should we be using inclusive terms across all categories? Changing our targeting language to  ‘people with periods, people who shave their faces or people who drink baby formula’ instead of women, men or infants.

Let’s look at both sides of the argument, because they both have a point.

On the one hand, making menstruation a ‘woman’s  thing’, means those who have periods but are not women don’t feel brands speak to them or include them in their communication. When I researched menstruation language on BOSSY – a Facebook group for women and non binary people in the creative arts – for the work we did on Ebb, I learned that more than just excluding non-binary or trans from brand communication, using the term ‘women’ in association with periods means women who do not menstruate feel somehow less feminine.

On the other side of the debate are charities, feminists and brands who are fighting for the right to continue to use the term ‘women’ when referring to a bodily function which occurs in the female body, and products targeted to that bodily function. The counterargument is that by ‘desexing’ periods we silence the right to talk about them – as occurring in women – predominantly. I explore this subject in depth in a case study written after the launch of Ebb reusable menstrual pads for the charity Binti Period.

Brands need to make an important decision on which side of the fence to stand, because there seems to be no middle ground between removing the label ‘woman’ from a product, and silencing the fight of feminist generations to be heard and making products more inclusive of vulnerable groups who might just be learning about their gender identities.

We decided to keep the term women on our brand communication for Ebb, feeling that the struggle women face all over the world to menstruate without shame doesn’t mean we don’t also understand that some people face additional struggles relating to gender identities.

I’ll end by saying the JK Rowling witch hunt shows that misunderstanding, labeling and taking statements out of context can steer us away from having important debates and perhaps coming up with creative solutions that work for everyone.

Branding and Culture Case Studies

Into the Wylde – finally, a lube for ladies

Standing in the ‘sexy’ section of the local pharmacist, dodging the judgemental eyes of shoppers, many women will relate to gingerly reaching for some lube and wondering if this really belongs on our bits. Kathie Bishop – a medical herbalist specialising in female intimate health, founded Into the Wylde with the mission to create a lubricant brand for women, made specifically with women’s physical needs in mind, and not just from a product point of view.  A vulva is not a penis, it has very different needs, and mimicking natural lubricant is about more than just making things slippy. A female lubricant product must work on a psychological, emotional level – connecting with women visually and verbally through the brand design and communication. And so, Into the Wylde set out to cross the slippery category of fem-care with a lubricant that gets women’s needs, inside and out.

The brand and packaging was conceptualised by designer Claire Hartley who set out to create a visual identity that’s a harmonious balance between elegance and play. The hand-drawn logo brings an organic yet sensual feel – a nod to the brand concept of connecting with our inner Wylde One. Paired with a rich colour palette of pinks and greens, the aesthetic is flirtatiously vibrant. The packaging features hand-illustrated nudes seductively wrapped in wylde botanicals – referencing the product’s natural ingredients. It was important the brand’s nude (which, we nicknamed Freda on account of her powerful poses and effervescent confidence) emerge from her botanical backdrop strong and unabashed. So often do we see feminine nudity as either oversexed or somehow hidden and secretive. The visual identity is about presenting a body the way it is, draped in nature, wylde, beautiful and unapologetic. The look and feel expresses femininity through its essence, with a sexy, adventurous tone that invites you to reawaken play.

The brand tone of voice and messaging, written by Siena Dexter, Creative Director at Idea Dolls London, was inspired by Kathie’s straight-talking tone and journey to creating the brand. Suffering for years with thrush, Kathie found the condition disconnected her from her intimate expression. The tone of voice had to approach sexuality in a gentler way, showing respect to the emotional and psychological complexities of female intimacy – all that with sophistication which fitted our visual identity, and a playfulness which articulated being ‘into the wylde’ – the freedom of connecting with a natural flow. The brand tagline ‘reawaken play’ and social hashtags ‘#VulvaLovinCare’ and ‘#FreeTheV’ all communicate the brand’s message of connection, natural vulva health, and between-the-sheets fun.

Creating the brand messaging highlighted some very real issues around fem-care messaging  – we wanted to be progressive, forward thinking, even bold, but can we really say ‘vulva’ on the pack? and will we sound like a GUM clinic doctor if we do?

Our messaging had to be direct, we didn’t want to shy away from talking about female anatomy, but if we were honest about how women communicate, the word ‘downstairs’ is far more likely to be used than ‘vulva’ in everyday conversation.  We navigated uncharted paths of how to say natural lubrication without saying ‘moist’ or ‘wet’ (too gross, too X rated), and whether yoni, vulva or just ‘down-under’ are best suited to describing where the product goes (we went with the latter).

After 6 years of development, and almost 2 years of brand creation, Into the Wylde’s ‘Wylde One’ water-based lubricant is finally set to launch on Monday 13th April, and we hope will resonate with sexually active women of all ages, reawakening play and lubricated lovin’.

Branding and Culture Consumer trends Packaging

Cannabis – why weed better get used to it

Cannabis: formally frowned upon as a demon drug; wacky ‘baccie, The Devil’s lettuce, Beelzebub’s broccoli, once comparable to crack cocaine and amphetamines, is now one of the bestselling items in your local cosmetic store.

We’re not talking about over-the-counter mind-bending psychotics that are going to evoke two hours of frightful forgetfulness, or cravings for chocolate and cheese-based-naughtiness, but more so nourishing CBD infused cosmetics, along with a whole array of cannabis-based edibles.

But all that is set to change…

While CBD (Cannabidiol) is the most prominent and certainly the most widely discussed element of cannabinoid-based products, used as a remedy for anxiety, pain-relief, with anti-inflammatory and anti-spasmodic properties, THC, (the psychoactive compound in Cannabis that results in those red eyes and giggle fits) is also beginning to slowly make an appearance.


Most CBD products actually contain a tiny percentage of THC, as it’s thought to activate the body’s endocannabinoid system  (yes, our bodies have a “weed” system) and enhance the calming, therapeutic effects of CBD. Don’t worry though, these products definitely won’t get you high, it’s just a smidge to activate the good stuff.


Science, hey?!

Cannabinoids – are set to dominate every major industry, and legalisation of cannabis means CBD is only the start.

How cannabinoids will disrupt Beauty and Personal Care:

Cannabis in beauty is nothing new but the CBD revolution has meant that references to hemp have been replaced by ‘superhero ingredient CBD’ with its supposed oil-balancing, anti-oxidising and anti-inflammatory properties.  These days there are more CBD skin-care products than you can shake a bong at, and the potential for beauty and personal care brands will only grow with legalisation.

Euromonitor expects skin-care to be the main driver of Cannabinoid beauty growth as brands operating in the therapeutic and dermocosmetic space will pull together current holistic and health-based beauty trends. Meanwhile  THC beauty products will align trends in neurocosmetics. In layman’s terms, chemicals that are believed to affect the brain in a positive way, such as soluble, digestible, CBD oil will only grow in prominence. Irina Barbalova, Global Lead of Beauty & Personal Care at Euromonitor International suggests that cannabis may well become as ubiquitous as any other mainstream beauty ingredient in the not so distant future. As products continue to develop, the use of CBD will surely be hard to resist by larger companies. Health is becoming intrinsic in every brand’s strategy, cannabis’ remedial and therapeutic properties present an immediate investment opportunity and will become as recognisable as any other active ingredient in these products, in the very near future – good news for every edgy design agency in London!

How Cannabinoids will disrupt Packaged Food:

The standards and expectations of packaged food are in a constant state of evolutionary development, racing to keep up with ever changing societal standards. Hemp first showed its face years ago as a braggadocious, protein affluent superfood in the form of hemp seeds, protein bars, hemp milk and oil. Although deriving from the same raw ingredient, cannabis, the difference here is the missing element of CBD.

Euromonitor International expects global sales of CBD packaged foods to double over the next two years, as consumer awareness grows of the ingredient’s benefits.

Now, food products will not only be marketed on a nutritional level, but also in a way where food will also be sold for specific conditions that CBD can assist in. Here, we will see the market becoming dominated by outcome-based products, where food will also be seen as medicinal, blurring the line between food and consumer health.  Presently, CBD food products are purely sold in the form of confectionary, but as the normalisation of cannabinoids in mainstream food ubiquitously become an active ingredient, cannabis will become prevalent in a whole range of food categories, such as bakery products, pasta, soups and any other savoury goodies you can think of.

Just as vegetarian and vegan brands were barely even conceptual a decade or so ago, plant-based foods have now disrupted the entire packaged food industry – look towards Linda McCartney, VioLife, and all those other delicious, animal-free brands we see on supermarket shelves on a daily basis. Equally, cannabis will play its role in bringing a brand new, medicinally beneficial edge to mindful consumption. Consumers will not only look for food that will boost their body, but also their minds – Who would have thought?

How Cannabinoids will disrupt Drinks:

Alcoholic drinks will need to take a ‘if you can’t beat them join them’ approach if they’re to weather the weed-revolution. But while three major alcoholic drinks producers have successfully jumped on the CBD bandwagon, there has been little research into the effects of mixing THC in alcohol so for now, consumers and brands will have to pick their poison.

As the drinks market moves towards no alcohol or low alcohol, THC provides a good alternative for buzz-seekers, whilst simultaneously retaining the social aspect of “going out for a drink”.

The soft drinks market is also cashing in on cannabinoids – with CBD drinks (literally everywhere, do they work? Who even knows) replacing sugar for a potentially healthier buzz.

With soft and alcoholic drinks fusing into an alternative CBD or THC infused drinks category, an opportunity is created for a ‘good for you’ beverage that capitalises on social drinking, but remains aligned with the wellness, healthy living trend.

In summary…

If we thought the face of cannabis infused FMCG brands has changed, we’ve not seen anything yet. The report outlines how by 2030, the cannabis market will move from quirky artisan brands to big players, from household brand names.

It’s only a matter of time legalisation of cannabis will create a cash-cow opportunity for emerging brands and household names as THC will be come routine ingredient in our daily lives.

The ‘sensorial’ social lubricating properties of cannabinoids will change how we socialise, falling out of a club with a KFC drumstick in one hand and a shot of Jager in the other (what? we’ve never done that) is so 2012, slow-living will only get slower with this chill-inducing ingredient in, well, pretty much everything from coffee, to toiletries, to your evening tipple.

Branding and Culture

Stranger Things – Why shopper age, relationship status and gender are irrelevant in today’s upside-down world.

Everywhere I look, something weird is happening. Teenagers are sipping £4 oat milk lattes at Planet Organic and talking about activism. ‘Grown-ups’ are skateboarding to work and talking about polyamory. 

Something weird is happening and not just to packaging design in London, an upside down world (though I hasten to add, a refreshing rather than unpleasant one) where traditional polar divides are being smooshed together into one blurred group that isn’t defined by age, or gender or whatever ‘class’ even means anymore. 

The young are acting old, the old are acting young, married people are polyamorous, gender is blurred and our traditional mode of profiling audiences feels completely out of sync with the zeitgeist. 

Before we explore how we should be targeting audiences more effectively, we must understand if a shift is happening that necessitates a dramatic change in the way we profile. 

I’ve focused on three key areas – gender, relationship status and age – which along with spending power form the basis for much of our audience targeting, and exploration of purchase behaviour. 

For the purpose of this article, I will disregard the benefit of using age, relationship status or gender profiling when segmenting our buyers based on a particular need – e.g a dating app for singles or tampons for people who menstruate. It’s just common sense to acknowledge that some products fulfil a need that only some people might have, we can’t really call this ‘positioning’.

 Our job as brand creators, founders and marketers goes far beyond selling water to the thirsty – it’s our job to market a concept, a way of living and a myth that our target audience wants to welcome into their everyday lives. We must ask the question, ‘of the group of people who need our product, how do we communicate better with those who might believe in our vision, and our our brand’. 

Shift #1 - Don’t call us ‘old’ - the rise of age agnosticism

Euromonitor cites ‘age agnostic’ as one of the biggest consumer trends of 2019. The report pointed to the importance of winning and retaining loyalty and trust in brands amongst an older generation that doesn’t want to be seen as ‘old’. 

The baby boomer generation have more in common with millennials and younger generations than we would expect, so it makes little difference if our audience is 25 or 65. In terms of values, morals, ideals and brand relationship desires – a revolutionary startup is as likely to excite a 55 year old as a 25 year old. Euromonitor details the importance of adopting an inclusive mindset that focuses on values – clean living, connection or physical and mental balance rather than an age cut off that talks to 55 year olds like an advert for Saga Insurance. 

Boundaries are shifting – people are taking care of themselves and living longer than ever. Affluent baby boomers are technology and travel obsessed, living their retirement years like an extended gap year. This ‘Peter Pan’ generation of baby boomers are now moving into their 70’s, they have influence, often affluence, do not see themselves as ‘old’ and don’t want to be labeled ‘senior’. 

“The Age Agnostic trend among older generations is strongly reflected in the desire among 35% of baby boomers currently between 54–74 years old who agree or strongly agree with the statement that they want to enjoy their lives and not worry about the future. This proportion is surprisingly even higher than generation Z and close to millennials (38%).”

Two generations down, gen-Z are rebels with a cause. 

A recent research project we undertook for a reusable menstrual pad revealed that 16-24 year olds are most likely to make purchase decisions that support ‘kind’ brands – brands who are working, or appear to work towards making a positive impact on the environment. 

Meanwhile, older generations base purchase decision on price, and at least in this category hold little brand loyalty. If we were to target ‘millennials’ with the typical startup knee-jerk reaction, assuming that generation Z have little disposable cash, or that baby boomers don’t use menstrual pads for incontinence (when in fact the ageing population makes incontinence wear  a more lucrative market than menstrual wear, and often the two needs are met by the same product) – we would be ruling out the two groups most likely to form a meaningful connection with a new, more relatable brand of reusable underwear protection. 

Rather than a linear scale with young on one end and ‘old’ at the other, the path is circular, with the very young and very old connected and actually having the most in common.

Kampung Admiralty in Singapore launched its first public housing project which actually houses senior centres with childcare facilities. The purpose is to develop a more integrated society and encourage cross-generational bonding. 

Zandi Bremner,  Head of Client Innovation at Euromonitor International explains that:

“To win now, it is less about conceptualising consumers in obvious ways but rather embracing the openness of accepting everyone in creating universal design across generations.”

The closing gap and efforts to minimise polarity between even the widest separated age groups represents  a global desire to bridge generational divide.

What if, instead of breaking down your audience into a group of health loving 25-35 year olds (because, snore, isn’t everyone?) you defined your audience in a more creative way? What if you approached your audience the same way you make friends, not discriminating on grounds of age, but bonding over the things you share?


At Idea Dolls, we’ve started using a derivative of the Meyer Briggs profiling system to define our audience personalities based on how they form relationships and friendships. Personality ‘types’ are flexible and may change as a person changes and their priorities shift. We have found this a far more effective way of figuring out what’s important to the group of people we want our brands to connect with.

Shift #2 - Single, and not ready to mingle. Why relationship status is redundant

I want to talk about polyamory, because from a branding point of view (and every point of view really) this subject is insanely interesting. But first, I’ll start with an introduction to this part of my argument – that we need to do away with ‘married, single, divorced, widowed’ as a basis for marketing products or reaching relevant audiences and this is why:

Using marital status to deduce consumer purchase behaviour makes absolutely no sense, even more-so when we consider that single person households will soon overtake any other household (Euromonitor 2019).  

With single living overtaking conjugal relationships, and monogamy, even amongst married couples in increasing decline, it is more important than ever to market to an individual based on individual personality profile. Certain personality types will naturally lend themselves to certain types of relationships, but it is the personality type rather than the relationship that dominates drivers to purchase.

In our new ‘stranger things’ universe, single people are acting as society dictates ‘settled down and happily married people’ would do (staying in, shunning social engagements, feeling complete without the need to, say, experiment with iowaska for a laugh) while married people are becoming increasingly experimental in the bedroom, their relationships – and we can deduce other areas of their lives too. 

Let’s look at singles first and how what we expect from ‘single living’ is being replaced with JOMO –  and instead of a Fear of Missing Out, single-by-choice-or-otherwise people actively relish the opportunity to stay away from the action and switch of.

“The fear of missing out has now given place to the re-appropriation of self-time as people find joy in missing out.” (Euromonitor) 

By re-empowering the time we have for ourselves, this intentional disconnection is symptomatic of the trend to live alone, work alone and travel alone – solo travel trips have increased by 80% in the last two years, especially solo female travel. 

Across the world, the number of single person households overtakes any other type of households with a shift from the high divorce rate of baby boomer generation to an outright rejection of marriage and cohabitation in generation X and Z. 

Consumers are embracing an independent lifestyle, and marketers must listen.

Now let’s talk non-monogamy.

The polyamory scene which first exploded in America among the nouveau-bohemian experimenters, quickly filtered into Tel Aviv’s ‘sex positive’ and ‘polyamorous’ movement. Psychology Today reports that one fifth of the US population has engaged in consensual non-monogamy at some point. This year 4-5% of Americans would class themselves as polyamorous, while Rolling Stone estimates that one in five people have engaged in a consensual non-monogamous relationship. Based on this, choosing a non monogamous lifestyle is more widespread than veganism and almost as commonplace as vegetarianism. 

Where in the past there were those in relationships and marriages, and those either divorced or single, we now have a collision of categories and a growing number of people who exist on a complex spectrum of relationship preferences – the split of ‘single’ or ‘in a relationship’ seems not just simplistic, but pointless.

Would it not be more interesting and effective to consider not whether an individual is cohabiting, married or single, but what motivated their lifestyle choices?

If brands are to communicate meaningfully and create long lasting loyalty, they must understand the flexible nature of the modern consumer, and connect based on values and lifestyle rather than relationship, marital or habitation status.

Shift #3 - adapting to gender fluidity

This is probably the biggest challenge for marketers, and for me – the most challenging to overcome in a hypothesis of under 600 words – but here goes!

I was talking through my theory with a marketer at Lola’s cupcakes recently and they challenged my assertion that gender divides when targeting consumers are becoming increasingly irrelevant.

“Well”, they said – our research shows women aged 25-35 buy our cupcakes. Organic, not targeted reach, so how would you explain that?

This is a question is valid and must be addressed but first we must evaluate the significance of the rise of non-binary gender types.

New Scientist recently reported a rising number of non-binary attendees at the Tavistock Centre, London. The centre saw a rise between mid 2018 and mid 2019. Those who identify as non-binary or queer-gender were not necessarily looking to transition from one gender or another. 

Polly Charmichael, director or Gender identity Development explains the rise of queer-gender and non-binary (who don’t identify as either male or female, and now make up 11% of referrals to the clinic), may be a response to being categorised or boxed into one gender or another and a desire to challenge traditional stereotypes.

The group of people who identify as non-binary (and the many other alternatives to male or female) is growing, this is a fact. But can we really do away with gender differentiation entirely and is this a feasible future for marketers? 

What about the brands who know as a categorical fact that they are suited to women aged 25-35?

I’ll call on the work of Foucault to answer this question. Let’s explore the thought that rather than brands targeting groups, brands or society are in fact creating the idea, or to use foucauldian terms the ‘discipline’ that women aged 25-35 must like this particular product or brand. So if you’re a woman aged 25-35 you’ll see a brand you’ve been told is ‘for you’ and you buy it. 

I use the term ‘discipline’ in the foucauldian sense as the unspoken rules and social expectations which force you to conform to society you’re in – a woman is a woman, a man is a man, an old person is an old person etc. etc.

So rather than a monodirectional targeting, or a force that goes just one way, we have a push and pull in society – a chicken and egg situation where marketers give consumers what they want according to their definition of what that group wants, and at the same time a group adhering to the socialisation they’ve been indoctrinated into which tells them – you’re a girl therefore you will like pink unicorn cupcakes. 

According to foucauldian thought, we apply the technology of discipline on ourselves to fit into a specific category. 

On the note of gender I don’t want to in any way imply that ‘femaleness’ needs to be eroded to make way for a gender fluid category, reattribution of brand identity to certain non-gender-specific profiles should in no way impact those who identify as women. The aim here is to be inclusive, not exclusive, to welcome, not dictate, to market responsibly not reinforce gender stereotypes and polarisation.

There is still, clearly a place for gender polarised categories, just like there is also a place for age differentiation and marital status distinction but we cannot ignore the shift in masculine women, feminine men, non-binary, ‘young at any age’, non-monogamous and everything in between. Gender, just like predisposition to adventure or experimentation  exists on a spectrum that isn’t necessarily defined by your given or self-assigned set or genitalia, your age or whether you wear a wedding band.

So I make the case that in order to adapt and more so, reinforce this social change and the growing number of individuals who do not fit into their assigned ‘box’ we must find a new way of targeting, perhaps based on psychological and personality types. 

Change is happening whether we like it or not, and we must adapt because the ramifications or continuing as we are, targeting ‘women aged 25-35’ with unicorn cupcakes are  worse than simply being ignored, and becoming irrelevant, we may actually be reinforcing harmful divides with a dam of discipline.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on anything and everything I’ve suggested in this article, if you’ve made it to the end – yay congrats, you must be a single, vegan, baby boomer (kidding… kidding).

Thanks so much for reading, if you’d like to hear more of this sort of stuff, send us a hello and we’ll add you to our soon-to-be-created mailing list.