Let’s Talk About Xennials
I was born in 1978. Just late enough to have missed Elvis, but too young to have been able to enjoy the excesses of the ‘80’s. I grew up not having a cell phone or a personal computer, and the internet was still in its infancy when I was in college. I am not a digital native, but I have adopted to the technology and social expectations that surround them very quickly. That adoption rate, according to some, is what differentiates me from Millennials and Gen Xers. It’s why experts are now classifying me as a Xennial.
The term Xennial originated from a 2014 article published in GOOD magazine by Sarah Stankorb and Jed Oelbaum. In it, each author outlines the difficulty they’ve had placing their generational qualities like values, skills, and social-economic factors that fit the existing Millennial and Gen X framework. Alternately, Stankorb & Oelbaum proposed a new group known as Xennials – a “micro-generation” born between ‘77–‘84 who don’t identify as either Millennials or Gen Xers.
The idea, though slow to gain steam at first, is finally getting picked up by news organizations and other Xennials who are looking for a generational identifier to call their own.
Why, as marketers, should we care about Xennials? Because this micro-generation can tell us something about the way generations are changing in an age of technological advancement.
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When Baby Boomers came into the world things were changing. The second world war had come to an end and the manufacturing capacity left in place by the war effort made homes, appliances, cars and other goods cheaper and more abundant than ever before. As the United States was taking the world stage, Baby Boomers watched it all unfold on their brand new televisions and radios.
Change was in the air but ideas still took time to spread. This era was the age of print, radio and television. And even though these mediums gave the average person access to information quickly, that information was still filtered through networks, journalists, and individuals with access to a distribution channel for their ideas. Not long after, when the microprocessor came onto the scene, the flow of information changed forever.
When Steve Jobs introduced the iPhone in 2007, he ushered in an era of unfiltered and instant access to information. Today the iPhone and other smart devices augment our daily lives with real time updates of finances, world events and even work email. Information guides every aspect of our lives, including our values and social experience. In my opinion, this is why Xennials exist. Because unlike Baby Boomers, Xennials are just as connected to the influences of Millennials as they are to their parents’ traditions. Ultimately, technology has allowed this generation to adapt and adopt the behaviors of generations around it.
If you’re like me, you’ve probably met Millennials who don’t identify as Millennials. Instead they look to a global community and the next generation’s moral compass to define their values and beliefs. This changes how we as marketers communicate.
The practice of defining generations is still useful. These categories help us aggregate the behaviors and beliefs of millions of individuals across the globe. However, technological advances mean that we will soon see the lines between generations blur, and transitional micro-generations will likely become more common because of this.
What this means for brands is fairly simple: brands need to adapt at an equally speedy pace to their consumers. As consumer’s values shift and their demand for products begins to match their growing values, brands need to be there, growing alongside them.
In sum, change will continue to happen faster than we can realistically adapt. But the creation of Xennials, whether you agree with their existence or not, shows us that consumer values and identities are shifting faster than ever before and our brands need to be ready for this shift.
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