generation, gen x, millennial, social media, media planningWith so much talk these days on new labels for social generation groupings, it’s an important topic to address as a media buyer or planner.  Understanding social groups is just another way a media planner can be more valuable in the ever-changing advertising world. It’s a fun and interesting topic, but there are a lot of blurred lines between the segments.  We wanted to explore the “living” social generations and see just where individuals might fall.

It is very important to note that there is not a hard-and-fast rule with the years/ages of individuals in the groups detailed in this blog.  Dates are all approximate, and there are overlaps because some ages can find themselves within the characteristics of two different segments.  

This is the way Pew Research defines generations:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chart Source: Pew Research


For the sake of this blog, the groups look a little more like this:

Generation Name Births

Start

Births

End

The Lost Generation

The Generation of 1914

1890 1915
The Interbellum Generation 1901 1913
The Greatest Generation 1910 1924
The Silent Generation 1925 1945
Baby Boomer Generation 1946 1964
Generation X (Baby Bust) 1965 1979
Xennials 1977 1983
Millennials

Generation Y, Gen Next

1980 1994
iGen / Gen Z 1995 2012
Gen Alpha 2013 2025

 

 

Let’s dive in to the groups a bit more – starting with the youngest:

iGen / Gen Z: Born between 1995 and 2012

According to Jean Twenge PhD., author of iGen, Why Today’s Super-Connected Kids are Growing Up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy …., iGens have these characteristics:

  • Considerably more tolerant of different cultures, sexual orientations, races
  • More cautious, less likely to take risks 
  • Less likely to drink/use drugs in high school
  • Less inclined to attend church
  • More likely to think for themselves and not blindly accept authority figures in church or government
  • Delaying serious romantic relationships
  • Less likely to experience teen pregnancy
  • Fewer run aways
  • Delaying driving – which leads to fewer teen accidents
  • Less time spent in shopping malls
  • Less likely to go to a movie theater
  • More inclined to utilize Instagram than Facebook
  • Less optimistic/naive about the job market

On the possible negative side, iGens are famous for: 

  • Less”in person” and”face to face” contact with other people as a result of smartphones
  • Heavy gaming
  • Less likely to read books and newspapers
  • Grew up more supervised/shielded than prior generations
  • Less experience with jobs and earning money while in high school
  • Likely to stay up after 2am using smartphone and/or social media – therefore less sleep
  • Higher likelihood of depression than prior generations
  • Experiences loneliness
  • Possible greater suicide rate

Gen Y:”The Millennials” Born between 1980 and 1994

Authors William Strauss and Neil Howe believe that every generation has common characteristics that give it a particular character with four basic generational archetypes, repeating in a cycle.  According to their theory, they predicted millennials will become much more like the”civic-minded” G.I. Generation. Strauss and Howe attached seven basic traits in the Millennial grouping: 

  1. Special
  2. Sheltered
  3. Confident
  4. Team-oriented
  5. Conventional
  6. Pressured
  7. Achieving

The Millennials grew up and started their careers in a time when:

  • Virtually every home had an internet connection and a computer
  • The largest economic decline since the great depression (2008) was a reality
  • 911 Terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon affected everyday life
  • Effects of 20+ years of offshoring of American jobs was finally felt
  • Global warming had become obvious with unusually severe storms, hotter weather, colder weather, more droughts etc
  • Weapons of Mass Destruction had become regular terminology despite the validity of the threats
  • Explosive growth in .com companies such as Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, EBay, PayPal
  • Widespread acceptance of flex-time, work from home, freelancing
  • An equally divided United States population, with different and opposite fundamental beliefs and values
  • Mass shootings have become an everyday reality
  • Housing prices growing beyond most young people’s reach

American sociologist Kathleen Shaputis labeled millennials as the Boomerang Generation or Peter Pan generation, because of the members’ perceived tendency for delaying some rites of passage into adulthood for longer periods than most generations before them. These labels are also a reference to Millenials’ tendency toward living with their parents for longer periods than previous generations. Some attribute the high cost of housing and higher education, and the relative affluence of older generations, as among the key factors driving the trend.

Xennials Born roughly between 1977 and 1983

Xennials are a “crossover generation” bridging the gap of the oldest Millennials and the youngest Gen X’ers.  This group have been sometimes dubbed the”Oregon Trail” generation due to the popularity of the same-named educational computer game in their childhood.

This generation:

  • Launched their first email account after high school (and a few still have Hotmail as a primary account)
  • Will still send postcards
  • Recall their family’s first mobile phone
  • Are more likely to read newspapers
  • Likely had to pick up a landline to call their first date

“It was a particularly unique experience.  You have a childhood, youth and adolescence free of having to worry about social media posts and mobile phones… We learned to consume media and came of age before there was Facebook and Twitter and Snapchat and all these things where you watch the evening news or read the newspaper,” says Dan Woodman, Associate Professor of Sociology at The University of Melbourne.  

Woodman continued that differing experiences play a part in how an individual identifies with their generation.  For example, a millennial who didn’t grow up with a great deal of money would be less likely to have the same experience  as a wealthy millennial or even Xennial who would have greater access and comprehension of technology.

Gen X: Born between 1965 and 1979

According to WikiPedia, Gen X was initially known as “Gen Bust” because their birth rate was significantly smaller compared to the preceding Baby Boomers. Members of Generation X are children during a period of changing societal values and as children were sometimes known as the”latchkey generation”, as a result of decreased adult supervision over children in contrast to previous generations.  This was a result of increasing divorce rates and improved maternal involvement in the workforce, and prior to widespread access to childcare options outside the home.  As teens and young adults, they were often labeled the”MTV Generation” (a reference to the music video station of the same name). In the 1990s they sometimes were characterized as “slackers”, cynical, and disaffected.  Gen X  had a number of cultural influences:

  • Musical Genres of grunge, and hip hop
  • “Indie” independent movies
  • 1976 Gas Shortages in the USA
  • MTV
  • Collapse of the Berlin Wall
  • Fighting in the first Gulf War

Midlife for Gen X’ers has been described as busy, happy and balanced.  They have an entrepreneurial spirit as they were the first generation to to have the highest level of education in the United States to date.

Baby Boomers: Born between 1946 and 1964

Baby Boomers are named as a result of the massive population increase that followed World War II and the Great Depression.  These individuals grew up during a period of prosperity and “peace”.

These Boomers were raised in a time of wealth and with a lack of world wars troubling them.  They made up the Flower Children, protesting Vietnam and taking LSD and other illegal drugs. Unlike their parents that grew up during the Great Depression, the Baby Boomers were wonderful consumers.  They became known for spending every dollar they got. Baby Boomer spending and consumerism has fueled the economy worldwide.

The Baby Boomers were also the first generation to experience:

  • Unparalleled national prosperity
  • Bomb shelters and hiding under a desk in school
  • The assassination of a President John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr.
  • Seeing man first land on the moon
  • Destruction and waste of the War in Vietnam
  • The Civil Rights Movement
  • The birth of rock and roll music.

This group also was the first to grow up with television and shows like Howdy Doody, The Mickey Mouse Club, Happy Days, Ed Sullivan, Gilligan’s Island and The Soupy Sales Show.

The Silent Generation: Born between 1925 and 1945

While there were numerous civil rights leaders, the”Silents” were so named because of their focus on their careers instead of on activism.  This generation was mostly encouraged and conformed to social norms.

As young adults in the McCarthy Era, members of the Silent Generation believed it was dangerous to speak out. Time magazine coined the term “Silent Generation” in a November 1951 article titled”The Younger Generation”, and the expression stayed ever since.  The Time article stated that the aspirations of this generation had shrunk, but they had learned to make the very best of bad situations.

This generation’s population were born during the Great Depression.  Their parents were comprised mostly of the Lost Generation. They grew up expecting a challenging life.  This was the age when a Christmas gift could have been an orange, or perhaps a complete meal. Depending on the dates utilized, this generation produced no U.S. presidents.  Our country essentially “jumped from George Bush Sr., the World War II veteran, to Baby Boomer Bill Clinton”. However, it did create Vice Presidents Joe Biden (born in 1942), Dick Cheney (born in 1941) and First Ladies Barbara Bush (born in 1925), Rosalynn Carter (born in 1927), and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis (born in 1929).

The Greatest Generation: Born between 1910 and 1924

This generation experienced a majority of their childhood during an accelerated technological boom of inventions (including radio and telephone) on top of growing amounts of global income inequality and a soaring economy.   Following the Stock Market crash, this generation experienced deep economic and social turmoil, which culminated in World War. Demographers William Stauss and Neil Howe coined the name “G.I. Generation” in their 1991 book Generations: The History of America’s Future and used the birth years of 1901-1924.   The initials “G.I.” of “G.I. Generation” is referring military terminology “Government Issue” or “General Issue”. This group can also be referred to as the”World War II Generation”.  

The members of the Greatest Generation grew up during the Great Depression and likely fought in World War II.  They are the parents of the Baby Boomers and have been called the Greatest Generation by Tom Brokaw, renowned News Broadcaster.  Brokaw said they were the greatest because they fought for what was right instead of battling for egotistical reasons. They certainly made great self sacrifices by fighting to protect people in other countries from the likes of Hitler, Mussolini and Japanese Kamikaze suicide bombers.

 

So what generational group are you?  Do you fit the “type”?  Will this change how you buy?