2019/10/29

Marketing Millennials


A comment by author JD Cowan on yesterday's viral post demonstrates the deliberate memory holing of Generation Y in this article from 2001.
Here at the turn of the real millennium, trend forecasters and futurists are pondering new ways of cross-marketing to all of America's biggest consumer groups. First there was the generation of World War II GIs--part of Mr. Brokaw's The Greatest Generation--followed by the Silent Generation and their kids, the Baby Boomers--the group that cemented generational targeting as a discipline.
Then came Generations X and Y, and now there's the "Millennial" generation. 
There you have it--generations X, Y, and the Millennials all acknowledged as separate cohorts. That was the accepted model until Madison Avenue Boomers revised history, but we're getting  ahead of ourselves.

They also skipped Generation Jones, but what else is new?
In the past, generations were defined largely by the year in which one was born. Now target marketing has reached the point where generational attitudes are discerned and used as a starting point for media planning.
Like I've been saying for a while now, classifying generations by twenty-year intervals is arbitrary line drawing in an era of rapidly accelerating societal change.

In other words, it makes no sense to call someone who grew up with neither internet nor smart phones but who remembers the Cold War a part of the same generation as someone whose entire life span parallels that of The Simpsons.
"Generation Y was a [popular phrase] in 1993, a term which at that point identified correctly the last third of Gen X," Mr. Strauss said. "The notion has become familiar in popular culture and in marketing to refer to teenagers. But now Y is a little older-those marketing styles are either directed at current young twenty-somethings or they're applying the veneer of X to a short-lived effort to reach teenagers that is not going to work over time." Understanding the new generation as its own animal is key to reaching its members successfully, Mr. Strauss said.
Defining the Millennials as the generation born in or after 1982, Mr. Strauss calls them more numerous, more affluent, better educated and more ethnically diverse than generations past. Millennials also have been trained to be "doers" and "achievers."
"The GI's were the first great generation," said Mr. Strauss. "We now need a new `greatest generation'-one that's responsible and civic-minded. The shoes are there for them to fill. It's harder to become more cynical than the boomers, or more sarcastic than the Xers. The kids aren't going to go linearly from what adults are doing; historically, they never have."
Thus proving a) that Generation Y is a real cohort which differs significantly from the Millennials, b) that the former term was cynically phased out by marketers, and c) how clueless most people in marketing are.

To hear me discuss Generation Y in more detail, listen to my recent appearance on The Front Porch Show.

The Front Porch Show

20 comments:

  1. I'd love to hear more on Generation Jones.

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    1. Born 1957-1967. As younger siblings of the Boomers, they are defined by jonesing for what their elder brethren had.

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    2. Brian

      Interesting. Because I belong to that generation in the U.S but not in Canafa I'm Gen X.
      Anyways I never imitated the older boomers. I never got into Pink Floyd or really cared much for their tastes.
      In fact I was sick and tired of their dominance and how they kept my generation down and denigrated us as slackers etc.

      xavier

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    3. Never heard of Gen Jones, though I fall in that cohort. Technically both of my parents, born in '42 and '43 are Silents. My mom is a total boomer though: entitled and no concept of the socialism scourge that her generation unleashed on the nation. My dad, at least repented after his first vote for Obama.

      He changed his mind after he witness the demonic display at the 2012 DNC where the delegates lustily cheered when they voted to remove mention of God and Jerusalem from their platform.

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    4. Generations are continua, not graduated scales.

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  2. Another dividing line that they couldn't predict: 9/11. Things were much different growing up pre-9/11 than post, and it's never been the same since in the western world. Ys were either late pre-teens or barely legal adults when the fallout occurred. Their childhoods had already been formed.

    Millennials don't remember anything else except the changes.

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    1. Good point. Millennials know only perpetual adventurist wars and have no concept of privacy.

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    2. Speaking as a Y, I'd venture to say childhood ended for many of them that day. I was still in college, but my (future) wife was already teaching at a bitty little school (1A) in rural West Texas. Instruction stopped when the news broke. The boys were scared, because they understood it meant war. Some of my high classmates were already in the service. Others joined later. The long war was the hard stop on our childhood and adolescence

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    3. It did. That was when Gen Y's collective Truman Show bubble collapsed.

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  3. From children who want to save the world but know nothing of history, O Lord, deliver us.

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  4. Interesting how Boomers are described as "cynical" instead of "entitled." "Cynical" starts with Gen Jones, but it's hard for a Boomer to say anything less than glowing about his own generation.

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    1. Apart from correctly pointing out the Gen X/Gen Y/Millennial divide--which is a simple restatement of a then-common understanding--the marketing experts quoted in that article get almost everything else laughably wrong. My favorite absurdity is the claim that Xers are really children of the Silents--an error caused by the omission of Generation Jones.

      Note that these are the same people who purposefully folded Gen Y into Gen X and the Millennials. No wonder they made such a nonsensical hash of it.

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    2. The Boomers are objectively the least cynical generation. If you read works of their parents that talk about them growing up, such as by Marshal McLuhan, you can see the pattern even as kids. They were trusting of everything as long as it was on the TV or radio or from their peers. The only thing they were cynical of were their parents and any notion of tradition.

      I'm hoping one day there is a work that correctly identifies the generations of the modern world without their constant revisionism.

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    3. I've noticed when The People in Advertising need to dump on a generation, they split out Gen X. Other than that, we're glossed over, but not to the extent Gen Y is. My theory is that Boomers are slowly realizing how hated they are so they're glomming onto any other generation to spread the blame.

      I'd like to see proper generations, too, JD.

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    4. They should've had the ticket to the clue train as far back at the early 90s.

      My cohorts were pretty vocal hating the boomers for shutting us out from work because we didn't have ya know 5 years experience for an entry level job or didn't know HTML, etc

      xavier

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  5. Seeing Strauss being quote, did him and Howe develop their model for the Marketing industry? Would be interesting to see if generational theory models different when approached from purely a mindset of trying to find legit patterns, from a sociological perspective. Because aspirational marketing is demonic, seeing as it only develops ideas and “data” based on how to manipulate via vice.

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    1. Aspirational marketing is also the only kind--besides awareness marketing--that actually works.

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    2. If temptation didn't work we wouldn't be here.

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    3. Addicts make the best consumers.

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