Move over millennials and ‘Gen Z’ – there’s a new player in the generation game.

12 April 2017

If age is only a number, why is everyone in the ad world so obsessed with playing the generation game?

Baby Boomers. Generation X.

And of course, the ‘Millennial’ generation, the mere mention of which will appease both the google gods and the many groups of like-minded marketers who still go nuts over the hottest buzzword for the last few years.

But wait, have you heard the hushed rumours? The whispers around campfires? The news is getting out about a fresh group of people we absolutely, positively must be entertaining and bending over backwards to accommodate.

Generation Z.

Depending on who you ask, this definitely includes anyone born later than 2001, and sometimes counts as far back as 1996.

As the new kids on the block, Generation Z are the new perfect brand advocates (much like the Millennial Cult before them), due to their ‘unique’ fondness for carrying a smartphone around everywhere and doing quite a lot on that smartphone.

They also don’t mind a bit of healthy consumerism, and are more open to brands and branded content from influencers, particularly in the fields of tech, fast food, fashion, or luxury. All this, despite many of them having a disposable income somewhere between nothing and f--k all.

The more we see mention of these young fresh-out-of-school-ers, the more we hear echoes of the rabid fever-pitch preaching of the Millennial Cult.

Admittedly, we’ve commented on millennials in the past, and even been guilty of occasionally using the term completely unironically too.

Although we still believe in the importance of telling a compelling story, rather than just a throwaway ad, even if lumping everyone in a 20-year age gap into that statement was a little presumptuous.

So first we had millennials to look up to as our saviour in this crazy mobile-obsessed world.

Then there was Generation Z.

Where does this generation worship end?

Here’s a new idea, so new that you’ve probably not heard about it, something fresher than a prawn baguette at your local petrol station.

It’s called the ‘Smart Baby’ promotion – a free smartphone for every new-born!

But not just a regular smartphone, oh no.

Brands will fight tooth and nail to provide these young-uns with their own branded phones, pre-installed with all the hip social medias, already following all the hip brand pages, and branded apps to help really develop that brand affinity at a critical age.

Get them sold on their favourite products nice and early.

Who needs Angry Birds, when you’ve got Birdseye?

Want to watch a 30 second cartoon? Sure thing, Billy. Right after 30 minutes of super awesome branded content first!

Sure, it’s a long game, one that’ll take about 18 years to pay off, by the time they finally start earning enough spare cash to spend on some of their ‘dream’ brands.

But don’t worry too much about the long wait, you’ll still earn enough positive sentiment with mummy and daddy, as their little whippersnapper starts reciting ads word for word in a disturbing new take on the idea of free promotion.

They’ll be all grown up as loyal brand spokespeople faster than you can say ‘washing machines live longer with Calgon’.

What could possibly go wrong…right?

The problem with this generation obsession is that these broad spectrums of demographics make it far too easy to pigeonhole a large segment of people with the same lazy stereotypes.

“Young people hate TV, love watching things on tablets, and are instantly experts at using every new piece of technology that comes out.”

Forrester analyst Anjali Lai, speaking to Marketing Week, explains how research into more nuanced demographics discounts the idea of millennials as this homogenous hive mind.

“ ‘[The research] helps to prove that millennials aren’t one isolated group that poses the greatest threat to companies today,’ says Lai. ‘There’s a type of behaviour and attitude that isn’t just a function of age or even a life-stage.’ ”

If we take the idea of millennials too seriously, we’re essentially dismissing any further segmentation of audiences, laughing in the face of individuality.

Statistically, that means I, Millennial no. 834,613, am active on 3.1 social media accounts, have a portion of a degree, 1.2 projects on the side, have a third of a lumberjack beard, and really enjoy the work of Mumford & Sons.

Yeah, about that…

Here's (another) fresher than fresh idea.

How about we don’t get caught up in this generation fascination, and focus instead on something a little more insightful than ‘young person do iPhone good’.

If you know your brand, you’ll likely know your audience. And once you know your audience, you won’t have to keep worshipping at the altar of Millennials any more.


Strawman Says

Smartphones for all new-borns for maximum brand awareness and affinity! Alternatively, here’s a better idea: no more general assumptions about generations. I am not a number!