Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Millennials, Yes. "GenZ", Not So Much.

There is a great deal of ink being devoted to the marketing challenge of so-called Generations "Y" and "Z".  (I find it amusing that other, older generational cohorts -- namely the Baby Boomers and the "Gen-Xers" seem to have been cast aside as marketing targets!)  I think there is also a good deal of confusion about these latest waves and that it is unnecessary.  Because I don't see Y and Z as separate entities.  Here's why:

The concept of a generational cohort suggests that there are influences on a wave of people born in a period of years that differ from influences on other waves.  The most compelling of these, to my mind, are those of nurture.  Parenting (and "village" standards, if you wish) differ over time, but there are only a few basic models.  Compare the relatively loose, hands-off and even hostile approach to children in the 1970s to the soccer-mom-scrutinized children of more recent years.  If we project back far enough and study the culture we see distinct patterns that seem to change ever 20-25 years or so.  The "GI" generation and the current "Millennials" had relatively doting and obsessive parents, in general.  Other cycles saw "parents-as-friends" and other societal norms.

Things have not changed greatly since the paradigm shift in the early 1980s when we started seeing all of the "Baby on Board" signs.  Parents were extremely protective and observant in the period that produced the Millennials (~1982 to 2001??) There are some initial signs that the nurture model is shifting a bit more the over-protective and dominating type but for our purposes there was no clear change in nurture for over twenty years.

Yet, some commentators think there are important differences between the children born in the 1980s, 1990s and since 2000.  One I read this week suggested technology and diversity made the difference.  Well, maybe.  I don't see this myself.  The Millennials are predominantly communitarian, hubristic, and nonmaterialistic.  That is consistent for a broad birth period.

I am perfectly willing to accept and expect a new cohort to be forming now, one that would be predicted to have started between 2001 and 2011, but one for which we don't have enough data.  As far as the Y-and-Z division, marketers should stick to the broad fundamentals and watch the relatively low discretionary spending pattern (outside technology) and the cohort values noted above.  And don't let yourself be confused!

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