At BBQs and family gatherings, in class discussions and conversations with friends or even colleagues at work, I’ve had many conversations about this grey area that some of us feel when it comes to generational labels like Baby Boomer, Gen Xer, Millennial, etc. I’ve personally always been intrigued by who or what entity gets to officially decide what characteristics define a generation, the name of the generation and the cut off years for each generation. In the case of Millennials, the term was apparently coined by historian Neil Howe who first made mention of the term in a 1991 book called Generations which he co-wrote with William Strauss (Raphelson, 2014).
The term Millennial appears to be a nod to the generation who came of age during the turn of the century AND the turn of the millennium. “They would be the first to graduate high school in the year 2000, so the name millennial instantly came to mind” Howe says (Raphelson, 2014). I, who would graduate a year later from high school, remember hoping that every computer and electronic device in my home, school and America wouldn’t crash and the entire world would not end once the clock struck midnight on January 1, 2000. As we all know, nothing major happened.
Back to this grey area: when I google Millennial, almost every website, blog and official source gives a different age range which makes the generation somewhat difficult to define by year. In most instances, the first few years of the generation land between 1980 – 1982 and ends around 2000. A recent Huffington Post article gives 2004 as a cutoff for Millennials (D’Souza, 2017) which in my opinion is indeed a stretch. In most cases, Gen X is defined by people born between 1965 – 1979. Generation X spans about 15 years, but the generations before and after span 20 years or more.
Technically, by date of birth, I am an older Millennial (year 1 or 2 of the cohort depending on who is writing the article that day). Both of my parents were born in the middle of the Baby Boom and they raised me with many of the old school values from their upbringing. These are the nuances I believe marketers often fail to realize when targeting audiences and why relying too heavily on these generational labels and stereotypes can be misguided. When I read articles by Forbes or longitudinal studies/reports by Deloitte about Millennials this, Millennials that, shopping habits, voting tendencies, positions on social issues, retirement planning, job hopping every 18 months, only uses Instagram and Snapchat and have abandoned Facebook (which has been debunked by market research), etc. I often cannot relate to these conclusions. Many of the reports that I read tend to reflect the 18 – 24 year old segment of the cohort and not the mid-30 year old segment where I reside.
As someone who often feels in a generational Twilight Zone, the idea of microgenerations (D’Souza, 2017) is music to my ears. So apparently for folks like me who firmly identify with some of the stereotypical characteristics of Generation X and Millennial [folks born somewhere between 1977 – 1983 (D’Souza, 2017)], there is a microgeneration called Xennials. Xennials or the so-called “Oregon Trail Generation” (Stankorb and Wudel, 2017) is honestly a great start for a happy-medium classification for folks like me whose early childhood was steeped in the analog era.
For Xennials, even though our parents may have still had turntables, LPs and 45s laying around when we were growing up and not just for nostalgia’s sake, we grew up with cassette tapes, then CDs and MP3 players, word processors, then Macintosh and IBM. Then we transitioned from no internet to Prodigy, then AOL, to pay phones, land lines to pagers to cell phones, VHS to DVD, then TiVo, the list goes on. We basically grew up during a fast wave of technological advances that didn’t happen at this pace for previous generations. By the time younger Millennials were born, many of these technological advances (internet, cell phones, etc.) were commonplace.
This is precisely why advertisers who want to be smarter about connecting with their intended audiences need to be more targeted about the demographics of focus for advertising spending. They should pay particular attention to the concept of microgenerations for media planning. What appeals to Millennials born in 2000 will not always appeal to those born in 1982.
D’Souza, J. (2017, June 28). Xennials, The Microgeneration Between Gen X And Millennials. Huffington Post. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2017/06/28/xennials_a_23006562/
Raphelson, S. (2014, October 6). From GIs to Gen Z (or is it iGen?): How generations get nicknames. NPR. Retrieved from http://www.npr.org/2014/10/06/349316543/don-t-label-me-origins-of-generational-names-and-why-we-use-them
Stankorb, S., & Wudel, K. (2017, July 1). The person who came up with ‘Xennials’ has the definitive quiz to help you figure out if you are one. Good. Retrieved from https://www.good.is/articles/quiz-xennial-gen-x-millennial-do-you-know-if-you-qualify