Resources - Chapter 15 Supplement

Group Mentality: Exploring Generational Marketing for Spas

by Judy L. Randall

Previously published in the 2004 August issue of Pulse, the magazine for the spa professional. This article cannot be reproduced in any form without the written consent of ISPA

As the industry continues to experience tremendous growth, spas will be welcoming guests from all generations as they learn the benefits of a spa experience. However, to take maximum advantage of this, today's spa owners and directors must learn how to listen and talk to these different age groups to encourage them to become frequent spa-goers.

How can the spa director motivate these very different generation segments? How can the spa grow current market segments and expand into new ones? How can the different expectations of customers from all the generation groups be met by the spa staff?

Today's spa director must realize that a "one size fits all" message will not motivate such very different customer segments. Each one needs to be targeted with messages that cater to their specific personalities.

For each of the five primary age groups it is important to look at the major events that occurred in their early lives. That is what created the differences in each group. Their lives and their thinking were shaped by these events.

Note: The ages are evaluated from the year 2004.

War Generation (ages 80+)

Life-shaping events for the War Generation:

This is the age group that Tom Brokaw wrote about in his book The Greatest Generation. They have spent their entire lives saving money, sacrificing and giving to others. They are embarrassed to even think about spending money on themselves in something as indulgent as spa treatments. However, their children and grandchildren make excellent targets for purchasing facials, pedicures, manicures and other "special treatments" for these senior customers for holidays and birthdays.

General traits of the War Generation:

Bottom line on the War Generation:

Silent Generation (ages 62-79)

Life-shaping events of the Silent Generation:

This is the age group that was too young to serve in wwii but too old to serve in the Vietnam War. They were raised prior to the fastpaced growth of the 1950s in a world that still clearly remembered the Great Depression of 1929. Fear of going without, and the need to "work hard and save for later," was instilled in these folks at an early age.

They were also primarily the older siblings of the baby boomers. They watched their younger siblings being spoiled with attention, merchandise, etc., during the booming 1950s while they had to be responsible and "do the right thing." After working hard all their lives and saving money, they are near or in retirement age and believe it is their turn to spend a little money on themselves. This can be a good market segment for the spa industry, but the right messages need to be incorporated.

General traits of the Silent Generation:

Bottom line on the Silent Generation:

Baby boomers (ages 44-61)

Life-shaping events for Baby Boomers:

Much has been written about how the Baby Boomers are the "spoiled" generation that is overly indulgent, demanding and willing to spend freely as long as it is all about them. And ... it is all true! Born at the beginning of the strongest u.s. economic surge, the boomers were trained to be high consumers at an early age when manufacturers realized that their War Generation parents were committed to making their children's lives better than their own. Boomers will always be indulgent consumers, so this is a perfect market for spas to target. Boomers were the most mothered generation in history. They had the first ever stay-at-home mothers who spent a great deal of time with their children to make their lives comfortable.

Because so many were born at the same time, boomers learned to compete at an early age for time and attention. They grew up to be demanding and impatient. They had the luxury of focusing on their needs and desires and feel those needs are important and worth expenditure. They even compete with other Baby Boomers over who spent the most on themselves!

Even more important to spa managers, Baby Boomers never thought about getting older. They are actually surprised that they are aging and will do anything to keep themselves young and vital. (There is a reason why products such as diet books, plastic surgery and Viagra are doing so well!)

For spas, this is the market segment that represents the most potential financial gain. They are happy to spend on themselves. But beware - they constantly want the latest and greatest.

General traits of Baby Boomers:

Bottom line on Baby Boomers:

Generation X (ages 23-43)

Life shaping events for Generation X:

Generation X grew up in a totally different environment than the boomers. While the boomers grew up in a growing economy with limitless resources, Generation X experienced fuel shortages, recessions, etc. Boomers had Martin Luther King and John F. Kennedy urging them to expand their horizons; Generation X watched months of "Watergate" and other scandals and crime on TV. They grew up suspicious and disenfranchised, all the while watching the wasteful boomers. They endured parents who were quick to divorce and mothers who worked outside of the home. They grew up knowing that money does not necessarily buy happiness.

Today, while Generation Xers enjoy spa treatments, they want to know all the details up front. They are also natural bargain shoppers. Give them access to your Web site, covering all the details about various treatments, and show them how to create extra value with their spa experience.

General traits of Generation Xers:

Bottom line on Generation X:

Millenials/generation Y (ages 23 and younger)

Life-shaping events for Millenials:

This age group is an excellent target market for spas. Today's average teenager spends approximately $100 per week. One third of all teenagers today have cell phones and credit cards. They love luxury, fashion and spoiling themselves. They enjoy group trips to the spa so they can share their experiences with their friends.

This is a very interesting age group. Realize that they are very knowledgeable and have never known a time when they did not have access to a computer. They are empowered, optimistic, fashion conscious and enjoy spending. But remember that they have no loyalty to any business. They are the consummate shoppers, and they yield a good deal of influence over their parents.

General traits of Millenials:

Bottom line on Millenials:

Addressing the different needs of each generation will ensure satisfied—and repeat—clients for your spa. Taking the time to develop your messages will provide a large pay-off for your bottom line.


Judy L. Randall is president/CEO of Randall Travel Marketing, a company that focuses solely on leisure research and marketing. With more than 20 years of "capturing the voice of the customer," Randall is an international leader in tracking the trends that affect travel and leisure consumer behavior.