Know your XYZ's A Guide to the New Generations
Updated: Apr 30
As I sit writing this, the Paul Simon lyric “every generation throws a hero up the pop charts” (boy in the bubble I believe) jumps around in my head.
Every generation does throw its heroes up the pop charts, but each also has its own attributes and influences. It is becoming increasingly important that businesses recognise and identify the different characteristics of each generation, after all these are the future customers, employees and business owners of the years to come. If we can better understand the new generations, it could improve our marketing, sales and additionally help our businesses to run better.
Below is a brief insight into the different generations.
Generation X Born 1965 – 1977
Coming of age 1989 – 1994
This is my generation, and is sometimes referred to as the lost generation. My generation with its baby boomer parents, saw an increase in divorce and single parent families. It saw the need for both parents to work and therefore often had to take ownership of the front door key becoming the latchkey kids.
We saw the emergence of the video game with my ownership of a Binatone games systems, delivering me bat and ball, and latterly the ZX Spectrum 48k which introduced a whole generation into personal computing (My posh friends had BBC’s). Gen X'ers are the cynical generation and have one of the lowest voting participation of any of the generations, Nothing to be proud of.
The flip side is that Gen X'ers are the best educated with 29% obtaining a Bachelor’s degree, and form families with caution and pragmatism, worried about the high number of broken homes and financial planning.
Generation X'ers had some great times, the introduction of longer drinking hours and the emergence of Madchester, Acid house and Rave (including its drug culture) led to this generation being referred to as the “Lad” generation.
This generation, was the TV advertising generation, and as such were bombarded from an early age by advertisers with products we should own, and images of how our lives should look. That said, we are pretty enterprising and speaking for myself understand that we need to work for what we get.
Generation Y Born 1980 – 2000
Coming of age 1998 – 2006
This generation start the evolution in the adoption of technology. Coming of age between 1998 -2006. Gen Y are sophisticated and advanced with their use of technology. They are the Sega and PlayStation generation. This generation has seen the boom in mobile technologies, and witnessed the rise of Apple with the first iPod being released in 2001.
Generation Y are more ethnically mixed, and have grown with the emergence of Sky and cable TV. They were raised with the internet and the power of the connected world, and as such technology forms a backbone of their thinking and way of life.
Marketing changed to Gen Y, with exposure to greater levels of advertising (online etc.) they are pretty resilient to messaging and are not easily swayed by advertising.
In the workplace Gen Y are collaboration led, and prefer open spaces rather than the rigid office set ups of the older generations. The “Baby Boomers” coined 9-5 working hours, but this generation is always on and prefers flexible working. As time progresses and generation Y become owners and business leaders, we will see a decline in email communications, in favour of social apps and tools which are less interruptive. Instant messaging may well become the common platform for communication.
Gen Y will look at things a little differently, no longer will attendance be a measurement of performance but the attitude of “As long as it’s done” will become the norm, with working hours no longer set. Gen Y want feedback and response on demand, after all they are the generation raised with Messenger and the emergence on demand.
For marketers, this generation heralds the absolute need for multi-channel marketing.
Generation Z Born 2001 – Onward
Coming of age – 2013 – 2020
Let us introduce you the post millennium iGeneration. These guys are immersed in technology and cut their teeth on iPads and tablets. They communicate over device rather than talking, they are true digital natives. Generation Z are Sassy. (I know I have a number of these at home) and out of all of the generations have a greater desire to change the world than any other. A survey by Sparks and Harvey revealed that 60% of Generation Z want to change the world, whilst only 39% of Generation Y felt the same compulsion.
Marketing to Gen Z will require a sophisticated approach through digital channels, and this generation with its exposure to rich media, will not be fooled by poor messages, after all almost every app and you tube video watched or downloaded, will be pushing some form of online advert or upsell pitch or in-game purchase.
We don’t fully know what Gen Z will be like, but we will have to keep an eye on the ball if we want to be able to sell into the purchasers of the future.