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Michael Sheen
| 21ST SEP 2023

Zeno Thinks: Are we stuck with a Millennial bug?

“Gen A” is appearing in planning decks but it’s easy to forget just how incredibly recently we started thinking of generations as a “thing”.

Two decades of Google Trends data shows:

👉 The generation obsession only started with Millennials in about 2015

👉 Before them, Gen X and Baby Boomers weren’t searched for or used in the same way

👉 Boomers saw a *massive* spike in November 2019, with the "OK, Boomer" meme – the first time they’d been discussed like a 21st century generation

Prior to 2015, if we looked at audiences by age group they simply were not branded a separate “generation”.

What changed?

Social media and the smartphone didn’t just change culture. They provided a window into users’ lives as never before. And because we could literally *see* their culture up close and personal, they seemed more strikingly different to their forebears, which made them appear more like a homogenous blob. What used to be called the hipster became “the Millennial”, which became shorthand for “anything contemporary”. And as Millennials age, youthful replacements are needed (goodbye Gen Z, hello Gen A!).

Why it matters

💡Grouping people based on birthdates, decades apart, doesn’t tell us much

💡One perceived characteristic becomes “the norm” and drowns out all others. Which is nonsense. Boomers are now seen as dominating housing wealth… yet 20% of pensioners live in poverty

💡We end up looking for commonalities that aren’t there, and overlook those that are

💡This creates a sense of fixed identity, downplaying the fact that our needs and attitudes evolve over time. (You won’t stay 21, but you’ll always be Gen Z)

What should we do?

Wake up, smell the oat milk latte and look instead at current values, interests and actions. Isn’t it time to be the generation that stops fixating on “generations”?