Who are Generation Z? A Guide to Age Group Categorisation.

Elephant family Generation Z

Whilst I’m not one for putting people into boxes, as a geographer, I do find the impact of social, economic, cultural and spatial factors on people’s behaviour very interesting. Numerous studies show that global events and cultures affect personality and behavioural patterns of socio-demographic groups. And from my perspective, myself part of Generation Z, lots of the societal ‘cataloguing’ does resonate.

Regardless of whether you agree or disagree, generational-categorisation is often used within marketing and media as a way of defining audiences for insight or targeting.

So, how are Generation Z and the previous generational categories defined? You’ve probably all heard the terms below, but do you know what behaviours are representative of the different groups?

Baby Boomers

Born: 1946-1965
Coming of Age: 1963-1983
Age in 2017: 51 to 71

Why “Baby Boomers”?

The reasoning behind the term and the grouping of two decades rather than one is simple; during this period of time there was a very significant increase in the number of births. Whilst there is no definitive reason for this, it is generally considered that the boom directly correlated to the end of World War II, a time of optimism and prosperity.

Common characteristics:

  • Work-centric: Baby Boomers are often extremely hard-working and their professional accomplishments are instrumental to forming personal identity.
  • Independent: Confident and self-reliant, Baby Boomers grew up in an era of reform and believe they can change the world.
  • Goal-oriented: With more educational and financial opportunities than previous generations, Baby Boomers are likely to welcome exciting, challenging projects and strive to make a difference.
  • Competitive: Since Baby Boomers equate work and position with self-worth, they are known for being quite competitive in the workplace. Boomers believe in hierarchal structure and rankism and may have a hard time adjusting to workplace flexibility trends. They believe in “face time” at the office and may fault younger generations for working remotely.

Generation X

Born: 1966-1976
Coming of Age: 1988-1994
Age in 2017: 41 to 51

  • ‘Latch-key’ kids: Sometimes referred to as the “lost” generation, this was the first generation exposed to lots of day care and divorce.
  • Sceptical: High levels of distrust, manifested by the lowest voting participation rate of any generation.
  • Socially connected: 95% have a page on Facebook, 35% have LinkedIn profiles and 25% regularly post to Twitter.
  • Work style: Generally independent, flexible, ambitious and eager to learn new skills, but on their own terms under a ‘hands-off’ management style. Generation X works to live as opposed to lives to work and recognition of balance in their workplace is important.

Millenials

Born: 1977-1994
Coming of Age: 1998-2006
Age in 2017: 23 to 40

  • Product of change: Millennials came of age during a time of significant technological change, globalisation and economic disruption – giving them a different set of behaviors and experiences than their parents.
  • Digital natives: Exposure to technology since early childhood has led to technology-sophistication, resulting in a sense of immunity to most traditional marketing and sales pitches. They are used to instant access to price comparisons, product information and peer reviews. That said, 60% of UK Millennials will engage with online content that interests them, even if it’s obvious that it’s been paid for by a brand.
  • Work-hard, play-hard attitude: Millennial’s are team-oriented, honest and enjoy building friendships with colleagues, but also want to have a life outside of work. Naturally, most Millennials want to be at a company that appreciates this desire for balance and openness. They relish high levels of dual-direction feedback
  • Stability-anxiety: In spite of perceived across-the-board advantages of working as freelancers or consultants, nearly two-thirds of millennials said they prefer full-time employment.
  • Health-conscious: Millennial’s devote time and money to exercising and eating right. Being physically and mentally healthy topped the list (77%) for UK Millennials when asked what would most help them live a happier, more fulfilled life.
  • Experience-economy: Over half of UK Millennials would rather spend money on an experience versus a possession (only 22.6% valued material goods over experiences).

Generation Z

Born: 1995-2012
Coming of Age: 2013-2020
Age in 2017: 5 to 22

  • Realists: Hyper-aware of tough economy, terrorism, and climate change etc., Generation Z are somewhat jaded, maybe even cynical.
  • Entrepreneurial: In the US, 72% of current high school students want to start a business.
  • Tech-addicted, mobile natives (rather than Millennial digital natives): If we thought Millennials were addicted to technology, get ready for more. In some surveys, Generation Z put technology in the same category as air and water.
  • Second-opinion purchasers: Generation Z has strongly integrated online ratings and reviews into the fabric of their consumer decision-making, almost half say they always get input from friends and family before making a purchase. This could be a generational statement about who Generation Z most trusts, or it could simply be related to their current life stage, it will be interesting to see if this changes as Generation Z gets older and accumulates more consumer experience.
  • Tolerant: Whether it be different cultures, sexual orientations, races or gender fluidity, Generation Z is the most accepting generation of diversity so far.
  • Social media preferences: Facebook has lost 25% of this demographic since 2011, whereas apps like Snapchat and Instagram have exploded in popularity. 70% of Generation Z watches 2hrs+ of YouTube per day and less TV than any previous generation.

These generation categorisations are based on analysis of lots of data points. So, there’s definitely validity to the profiles above. That’s said, I’m sure we can all point out lots of examples of friends or family who do not fit these stereotypes. And therein lies the problem with this type of ‘consumer profiling’. They rely on generalisations and averages.

Generational categorisation is a quick and easy way to paint a picture of a group of similarly aged consumers in a person’s head. But surely the ultimate aim should always be to treat an individual like an individual. And that’s where personal data combined with the specialist expertise in digital and direct marketing of agencies like BURN, comes into its own.

2 Comments

  1. Riona Whelan on November 24, 2017 at 10:42 am

    Awesome blog post



  2. Julie on November 25, 2017 at 12:23 am

    I learned from this, thanks Emma.