How to think like an X, Y or W – the post baby boomer revolution.

October 17, 2006

We all make decisions that we believe are unique to us, but the reality is that we make these with a generational mindset.

Demographics research, the statistical study of a population, shows that people born within similar time periods share common beliefs, morals, expectations as well as work and spending habits.

By using this categorising philosophy we gain an insight in to why some people find a brand name product a must have whilst others find it a turn off; and why some consider a hierarchical workplace reporting structure an imperative whilst others consider it to be alien and counter productive.

The post world war II Baby boomers born between 1945 and 1962 have been well documented and discussed, but there have been numerous demographic eras since this lauded group, each bringing a new focus to the employment and marketing landscapes.

Generation Xers were born between 1965 and 1980 and are now aged between 25 and 40 years old. These post baby boomers were brought up on television, Pacman and personal computers and having been raised in the 1970s and 1980s saw Australia undergo a greed is good phase that they do not want to see repeated.

Generation X has little loyalty to organisations instead loyalty is to their career which they see as portable and advanced by working with several organisations. Their desire is to work on stimulating projects and to be managed by good leaders who are inclusive, collaborative and can build cohesive teams. Generally, Generation Xers stays with an organisation three to five years.

From a marketing perspective this group is characterised by being technology savvy, sceptical of advertising claims and attracted to personal style rather than designer price tags.

Generation Yers, aka net-genners, millennials, digital natives, echo boomers were born between 1978 and 1994.

According to Peter Sheehan, author of Generation Y: Thriving and Surviving, Generation Y is “inherently contrary, have technology flowing through their veins; have little respect for the age-old conformities of marriage, 2.5 kids and staying with the same employer for life, and they’re obsessed with pace. They love stimulation and they thrive on intense experiences, and are committed, passionate and diligent employees if they’re suitably engaged”.

From a marketers viewpoint they are cashed-up and brand-conscious, spend money on DVDs, mobile phones and iPods, which is why advertisers and hi-tech manufacturers are bending over backwards to attract them.

They differ from previous generations having been raised in dual-income and single-parent families, having already had considerable financial responsibility and been heavily involved in family purchases being integral to the decision making and purchasing process.

They are also a cashed up and willing to spend group who are highly cynical of traditional advertising methods and can see right through the hype and tactics.

From an employers viewpoint Generation Y workers are less motivated by money and more so by personal fulfilment – not because they don’t want the money but because it’s a given that they’re going to get it. The traditional start at the bottom and work your way to the top is not a philosophy they follow preferring instead to move straight to the top, whilst keeping their relaxed lifestyles high on the list of priorities.

They are also likely to change employers more often, on average every two to three years, in the pursuit of new opportunities and challenges. This does not mean that they do not work hard and give 100%, but in return for their loyalty and working 10 -12 hours days they may request a two month holiday, long weekends off, or time in lieu and if you don’t agree, you’re likely to lose them.

Generation Y’s know what they want and they’re willing to take risks to make it happen.

The most recently identified demographic group is the Millennium Generation, those born between 1980 and the present, that are also known as Generation W.

This newly emerging group (with dates that overlap Generation Y) are ambitious, focused and prepared to put in the hard yards to achieve great things and believe Generation X and Y’s were a drug-taking, promiscuous generation. In recent research this group’s top three “in” things are: being drug-free, eating healthily and being a virgin.

This group use x-ray like vision to see through marketing and clearly understands the tactics behind it. An increasing number of Generation W are anti brand as evidenced by the growing number of highly successful “soft non promoted brands” that have developed.

To have any chance of being accepted by this discerning group your product and brand must demonstrate substance, honesty, transparency and foster a sense of community.

As with Generation Y (with whom they chronologically overlap) they are technology, internet and SMS savvy and see these as integral to their lives and lifestyles rather than mere luxuries.

As employees they want to work for ethical companies that are achieving not only the company’s ambition but also society’s broader good and they easily transition from one employer to another.

These generational demographic evolutions are constantly reshaping our society, our values, our workplaces. What was true for the baby boomers is now the antithesis of what is true for Generation W’s. None of the generational groups are more correct, it is rather a matter of understanding the core beliefs of the person, or group, before you and framing your intentions appropriately.