Off-Topic: Defining The New Generations

There’s way too much discussion about the generations, what characteristics define the generations, and who belongs to which generation.

That’s why I’ve come up with a new generation classification scheme.

First up is Gen What?

Gen What-ters are generally clueless about what’s going on in the world. Don’t use the terms “social media” or “blog” in front of a Gen What-ter — you’re likely to become frustrated. Partially because, well let’s face it — at their age, their hearing is starting to fail, and they’ll simply keep responding “what?” to everything you say. I hope I didn’t offend any of them, but the reality is that none of them read blogs, so they won’t see this in the first place.

Next is Gen Wine.

Gen Wine — sometimes referred to as Baby Boomers — is the generation responsible for displacing beer as the alcoholic drink of choice. You can always tell who’s the Gen Winer at the dinner table. We’re the ones who think we (oops, I mean “they”) know everything about wine — which is the best with what food, which wineries are the best to visit when you go to Napa, which years are the best, etc. Unfortunately, this arrogant, snobby, omniscient attitude creeps into pretty much every other aspect of Gen Winers’ lives. Can you say “insufferable bore”?

Then there’s Gen Whine.

It wasn’t until recently that I learned what the term emo meant. Gen Whiners define emo. The fact that a lot of people who are referred to as Gen Xers are also Gen Whiners could simply be coincidental. Everything — and I mean everything — that happens in the world has a deep, scarring, and emotional impact on Gen Whiners’ lives. And unfortunately, they feel the need to tell the rest of us about it.

Finally, there is Gen Wired.

The label has nothing to do with their proclivity to be on the Internet 20 hours a day, conversing on the 37 social networks that they belong to. No, it refers to their caffeine addiction. Twice daily trips to Starbucks is nothing unusual for Gen Wired. They know what every thing on the Starbucks’ menu means. And most annoyingly, they have to Twitter about every stop they make at Starbucks, and let the rest of us know what they ordered.

These are the “new” generations, and here’s the beauty of my generation classification scheme: It doesn’t matter which year you’re born in. You get to choose your generation!

So, no more agonizing over whether or not you’re part of one generation or another just because you were born in, say, 1979. The fact that you even thought about it in the first place makes you a Gen Whiner.

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17 thoughts on “Off-Topic: Defining The New Generations

  1. I’m little bits of the last two. When Startbucks is out of vanilla syrup for my Iced Cafe Con Leche with Vanilla and Breve, I go like this:


    I’ve also been in line behind people your age (they were being assisted by burly orderlies) who made the same face for the same reason. So, your new classifications-sans-birth-year really helps people round out who they are.

    However, this is a hard blow to marketers. Now with the ability to be Multicatigorical, it makes it almost impossible to apply the categories in their most important way: Getting the generations to buy our crap.

  2. As Forrester Research defined in the ’90’s – Technographics – Getting the generations to buy can still be done if you forget that old fashioned “age demographic” thing & focus on Gen Wired technographic regardless of that age thingy 🙂

  3. As usual – you’ve nailed IT. I can identify with all the GEN_er_a_TIONs and have decided to Gen Hop. I’ll move from gen to gen and see if my friends can guess which one I am this week.

  4. You have opened up a can of worms here, I can just feel the different schemes of generation classifications exuding from various blogs.

    But seriously the only problem I have with having people put into boxes/categories is the anomalies that don’t typically fit. If there are 6 billion people on the planet, and they are totally unique, then are their reactions and perceptions in the market place:
    – always the same
    – somewhat the same
    – never the same
    On any given day, which again is unique, is their reaction going to be similar to the day before. i.e. bad hair day. So I end up in a confused state using energy to categorize instead of energy to do what I intended.

    But if I create a relationship with a consumer and use my inherit human ability that involves both the subjective and objective realms, then I may not need categories to a great degree. Non-relationship marketing does need the algorithmic approach, the human brain uses it as a quick filter.

  5. @Brad: thank you, thank you, thank you for posting that link. My fellow Gen Winers were about to kick me out of the “generation” for writing Napa instead of Sonoma. They didn’t believe me when I said it was a mistake, and that I was rushing to finish the post during lunch. You saved me. I owe you one.

  6. @gene: There are always exceptions to the rule, and no ONE person fits the exact characteristics of any particular generational stereotype.

    But this isn’t “putting people in a box” anymore than we call a dog a poodle or collie. C’mon, you have to admit that despite both are “dogs”, there are some very different personality traits between the types of dogs. Same with people. We categorize because it’s just too damn chaotic and difficult to treat each situation, each interaction, each encounter as an entirely new experience.

    We need to predict and anticipate. The generational “boxes” help us do that. Nobody — especially me — said you have to create unbendable, inflexible definitions of who goes in which box.

  7. I wonder if marketers need to coin yet another phrase: Gen Fat, short for “Generation Fatigue.” It describes marketers who are inundated with attempted shorthand based on age clusters.

    I recently read about RenGen (short for Generation Renaissance). Which of course means a generation of Europeans between 500 and 800 years old. 🙂

    I got into the second paragraph before I realized that it wasn’t even April 1, but dammit, we’re all being duped.

    I’m going back to studying response rates. I don’t care if a client’s best customers and prospects are their own grandpas. Let’s just talk to them!

  8. I think I’m floating between Gen Whine and, if you replace Starbucks with Diet Pepsi, Gen Wired. But geez, why would anyone go to Napa OR Sonoma for wine? If you’re going to get on a plane, spend the extra couple of hours and go to France. Or better yet, Italy.

    ………………Huh. I guess there’s some Gen Wine in there too.

  9. As a direct marketer, I resist putting people into groups of any kind.

    After all, the direct marketing mantra relies on the idea of selling products and services to people one at a time.

    Each of your groupings reflect a part of who I am and no single characteristic describes me as an individual.

    I suspect that applies to almost every one. None of us belongs in any single group because of behavior patterns or age bands. We are far too complex for that approach.

    Mass advertisers attempt to speak to groups. Direct marketers appeal to needs that resonate with all people.

    So I try to speak to needs that transcend any artificial or simplified grouping. Sell your products to people as individuals based on their own personal behavior patterns. The technology allows this and customers resent it when we don’t talk to them on a personal basis.


  10. @Ron: Actually, this morning it’s more like wine-induced caffeine, if you know what I mean. Ouch.

    I was wondering what prompted your “WHAT?” response to my comment yesterday. Was it because I slighted California wine? Or was it the scattered, caffeine-addled nature of the comment itself?

  11. @elliotross: thx for commenting. the FORR technographics segmentation was a stroke of genius — at that time. The beauty was that it helped predict and understand technology adoption. but with internet adoption rates topping out, the usefulness of technographics has waned. And that’s really the lesson that marketers should take away: That any segmentation may be useful — but possibly only for a specific purpose and for a limited time.

  12. @ted grigg: with all due respect, I think you are very wrong. direct marketing is ALL ABOUT SEGMENTATION. It’s often about putting people into deciles — which is a “segment” — based on their propensity to respond to an offer from a particular channel at a particular time.

    The fact that you don’t give that segment a fancy label doesn’t mean that it isn’t a segmentation.

    And personally, I’d rather you accuse me of being a “Baby Boomer” with all its behavioral and attitudinal implications, than accuse me of being likely to respond to the 1 millionth credit card offer that I received in my mail box this month.

    fyi, my disagreeing with you in no way deters me from my feeling that your last blog post on offers vs. creative was excellent:

  13. Good point Ron. I guess segments are groupings. And thanks for the compliment on my recent blog.

    I actually found this post quite interesting. That’s why I responded.

    So what I write now is not to dilute your great insight on this subject. But rather my thoughts on the usefulness of the generational descriptions in improving response.

    So your insights are right on. I am going beyond your post evaluating how we can best use this type of information.

    The segmentation of the nature you describe in your reply to my post is typically based on actual response or behavior as opposed to some “psychographic.” Generational definitions, though interesting, do not help increase response in my opinion. Nor do they really help us understand the customer.

    Reading the Bible would probably give us a better and deeper understanding of people.

    The real problem with nebulous clusters like generational segmentation is that effective media targeting requires specifics, not general descriptions. In fact, such classifications are so generic that even slanting the message to respond to them proves meaningless.

    Do such discussions about generational differences impact the effectiveness of general advertising? Perhaps to some degree. That is because general advertising thrives on generalities.

    But I haven’t found a good use of generational studies in direct marketing applications. Simple demographics or back end analytics targeting most products to the appropriate markets work best in lifting response.

    In my experience, most direct marketing creative teams get little helpful information from these studies.

    There are many response predictors that are more useful such as basic demographics; purchase of products that show a propensity for another purchase in a different product category; RFM; and the list goes on.

    In the creative arena, such generational definitions may help if they are tied in directly to the offered product. But in my opinion, it is better to focus on clearly understood human wants and needs that cross all generations and clarify how the product fulfills them.

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