Would Youth by Any Other Name Sound as Sweet?

This post originally appeared on the DeutschLA Tumblr.


You may have seen one of these floating around the office recently:

millennial jar

$.25 for every offense (using the word “millennial”)

In case you were wondering what it’s about, it’s simple: the planners here at Deutsch believe have a responsibility to our clients (and ourselves) to find better words to use than “millennial”.

In 2010, Pew Research defined Millennials as 18-29 year olds, suggesting that they are currently 22-33 years old. Merriam-Webster defines millennial as someone born in the 1980s or 1990s. Everyone’s favorite semi-legitimate source, Wikipedia defines millennial as anyone born between the early 1980s and early 2000s, citing a widespread discrepancy across researchers.So who are the Millennials then, really? And what do we call those who aren’t? Perhaps the problem is that we haven’t decided the best way to identify them – is it age or characteristics? Is it a combination of the two? Could there be a 50 year old millennial?

It’s not like this is a new challenge. Try looking up Generation X and you’ll find similar debates over when Gen X begins and ends. Big groups of people are understandably hard to define, because traits, behaviors, and attitudes are inherently subjective.

The real problem comes when a new group arises with different perspectives and attitudes and we prescribe a pre-existing label to them. And of course we would! It’s easier for us if we group them. We like order and understanding. And this is what we are starting to see happening with current teens.

You can argue that older Millennials are growing into a new life stage (home ownership, parenthood) and, therefore, are beginning to exhibit different traits than those on the younger end of the Millennial group (stereotypically living in their parent’s basement), but research is starting to show that teens have entirely different values than Millennials. The University of Missouri State released their annual report on Young Adults in early 2014. They see this rising generation as having a stronger affinity for global travel and exploration than the Millennials and a stronger desire to be a part of a movement for social good.

So why are we charging each other for using the term “Millennial”? It’s important for all of us to start working harder to get at the truth of what we’re saying. For example, instead of of saying “Millennial”, maybe we cite the age of the people we are really talking about, or suggest a value or characteristic we are trying to connect with. Instead of saying “Millennials” to refer to a subset of our client’s consumers, maybe we reference a specific persona or quality the target possesses.

And until we determine the best label for this new, upcoming generation, here are a few different suggestions to start trying on for size:

Generation C: http://www.thinkwithgoogle.com/articles/meet-gen-c-youtube-generation-in-own-words.html

Generation Z: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Generation_Z

Post-Millennials: http://adage.com/article/special-report-tv-upfront/nickelodeon-targets-post-millennials-upfront/240045/

En Gens: http://thefuturescompany.com/business-categories/generations-posts/engens/

(Special thanks to Eva Cantor, creator of the Millennial Jar)

Blog —
July 25, 2014

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