28 March 2023 Martin Cheetham

I recently read an article that was discussing ways of communicating that show our age or, more specifically, our generation. As an example, how we use emojis in conversation is radically different.

🤣 vs ☠️

If you use a laughing emoji when you find a joke funny, chances are you’re probably Gen X or a Boomer. Whereas if you use a skull (meaning “ded”), you’re probably a Milllenial or younger.

So it got me thinking about how businesses communicate. Whether it’s how we articulate our value propositions or how we communicate at any point in the customer journey, specifically when it comes to user interfaces. The icons, the text, the language used – these could all mean different things to different generations, and will ultimately affect their experience.

Here’s a breakdown of the various generations to date (Credit: Parents.com):


The Greatest Generation (GI Generation): Born 1901–1927

Who is Gen GI? This generation lived through the Great Depression and then went off to fight in WWII. Notably, they popularized jazz and swing music but don’t be fooled by the wild provocations of the music of the times.


The Silent Generation: Born 1928–1945

Who are the Silent? They famously got their name for being so conformist that they were silent through the McCarthy era when the fear of Communism swept the country.


Baby Boom Generation: Born 1946–1964

Who are Boomers? Gen Z may think of Baby Boomers as their out-of-touch grandparents (“OK, Boomer”), but they had a wild youth we often don’t talk about. Boomers are so named after their parents came home from WWII, and the American population exploded. Baby Boomers defied their parents, protested the Vietnam War, and created the “Summer of Love.”


Generation X: Born 1965–1980

Who are Gen Xers? So often dismissed as the slacker generation, Generation X lived through the AIDS epidemic, MTV culture, and a shifting cultural landscape that would give rise to LGBTQ+ rights.


Millennial Generation (or Generation Y): Born 1981–1996

Who are Millennials? Millennials lived through 9/11, remember when Amazon only sold books, and are also the first generation to know a childhood both with and without the internet, which now plays a significant role in their personal lives.

While Boomers may accuse Millennials of being self-centered and entitled due to their excessive use of technology, this generation has proven to actually be incredibly community-oriented and environmentally conscious, which are traits that are being picked up by their children in the next generation.


Generation Z or iGen: Born 1997–2010

Who is Gen Z? While still “youngsters” and not old enough to have made their mark as a generation, Generation Z kids are the first to be born into a world where they know nothing else besides being constantly connected to one another, albeit through phones, screens, and tablets.


Generation Alpha: Born 2011+

In 2019, Adage identified kids born after 2010 as part of Generation Alpha. Generation Alpha is the first generation of kids who will never know a time when social media didn’t exist, and they are far more technically savvy than any generation previously, which is a powerful tool that can change humanity in a myriad of positive ways.


The expectations, desires, and motivations of these generations are radically different. If we’re not communicating in the right way, that not only keeps within our brand but also connects with the individuals we’re trying to attract and serve, we’re lost.

“Whoever understands the customer best, wins.” – Mike Gospe

The need to research should be implicit. Firstly unpacking who that ideal customer is. Then creating our assumptions around what that customer wants and needs, and how best to communicate effectively. This should always be followed by real, qualitative research to validate these assumptions.

All too often I hear, “But we don’t need research. We know our customers.” My answer is always the same: “Do you? Do you really?”. There is no way a 45yr old with a pony tail is going to create content that connects with a teenager without first understanding the teenager, i.e. through research.

We need to get out there and find out first.

PS. Remember when all our home ‘modern’ technology was beige?? Computers, telephones… so glad that’s over (for now).