Underwood Reveals Generational Insights to Expo Attendees


Know the core values of your customers and marketing to them becomes second nature, according to Chuck Underwood, a pioneer in field of generational marketing studies, and the keynote speaker at the World Tea Expo.

Underwood described five living generations before narrowing his focus on the three generations that the tea industry should set its sights upon – the Baby Boomers, Generation X’ers and Millennials. Knowing what makes each of these discrete demographic groups tick will help retailers better able to craft targeted marketing messages that draw loyal customers.

Underwood has spent decades researching generational dynamics and shared with the audience his insights on how retailers could best connect with their customers – present and potential. It all begins with core values of each generation, he explained These values are molded during a child’s formative years, and these generational values exert a powerful influence over an individual’s lifestyle, career and relationship choices.

Youthful Bloomers

Baby boomers, born during the years of 1947-1965, are the idealistic generation, born in the heart of the social consciousness movement of the 60s. They came of age during the civil rights and feminist movement, the sexual revolution with increased ecological awareness all mixed in with a liberal attitude toward recreational drugs. Career driven and divorce-ridden, they were brilliant in the workplace and permissive parents at home. Forever young, they want to continuallyredefine themselves, re-invent and turn things upside down.

Experiential learning is a boomer characteristic. If you can teach them, you win, Underwood says. Appeal to their wellness orientation, a desire to be and stay young and to their emotional side. Boomers are ethical and courteous. “They want the personal touch,” he adds.

A Pendulum Swing

Generation X or Gen X’er’s, those born between 1965-1981 are the product of their driven, oft-divorced parents. The children of time-poor parents, they are accustomed to material comforts yet struggle with emotional difficulties. Underwood refers to them as an island generation. Independent and self-reliant, they keep a distance from older people (their parents), see marriage as disposable and take an "us against them" stance.

The feminist movement’s legacy, coupled with the passage of 1972’s Title IX Athletic Equality Act, made for a more confident female Gen X population, while the Gen X’er men struggled to find their voice and masculinity.

Less emotional than their parent’s generation, Gen X’ers are attracted to irony and cynicism, and are interested in playing a more integral parental role in their children’s lives. They want to use technology more fully to achieve their goals. Their magic marketing question is: “What’s in it for me?”

The Youngsters

The youngest generation, the Millennials, born between 1982 and now – are the children of attentive parents. Hovered over by their parents, they have developed close bonds with mom and dad and look up to them. They are optimistic and enthusiastic, team players, who want to be actively involved in the community. Like their grandparents, they are idealistic and seek out socially conscious organizations and companies. It’s "we" instead of "me."

Despite the sunny outlook, this generation is burdened with credit card debt, college debt, job insecurity and for better or worse, long life spans that mean extended work lives of up to 80 years. Not in a rush to jump into the work world, they remain stalled in extended adolescence for quite some time during their post-school years.

Millennials respond to optimism, online communication and unique experiences. Viral buzz and technical jargon excite them, yet they want to know they are getting a quality product not a flashy brand. What they don’t respond to, Underwood says, is the moniker, Gen Y.

Underwood provided the audience with a mere primer of his in-depth research, offering a window into three distinct generations, their attitudes, beliefs and lifestyle choices, formed early on in life by the generations that preceded them and the unique point in history in which they were born. He encouraged retailers to delve into the subtle and not-so-subtle differences amongst their customers in order to craft a marketing message that truly speaks to and honors the consumer’s complex generational heritage.