It is time for the so-called experts in media and communications folks to cut the crap and stop building stories and characteristics around those imaginary generations. For too long we have quietly accepted the idea that there is a clearly delineated and characterised line of generations when even the most casual glance shows us how ridiculous this is.
Generation Y suffers from exactly the same origin problem, which makes sense considering they are supposed to immediately follow Generation X. Weirdly, Generation Y is now gaining another name, the Millennials, which suggests they were born close to the turn-of-the-century. What that name doesn’t suggest is a worldwide demographic event that shaped a generation.
So right at the top it is very apparent that we can't even agree on the years that this supposed demographic conforms to.
Briefly, let’s look at a generation we can define, the Baby Boomers. A world war was involved in their foundation, so Baby Boomers were a generation born out of an international phenomenon.
It is a generation that has a very clear demographic description because of this. It is linked to an event, World War II, and the response of that war generation that led to a very clearly described increase in births. Baby Boomers are a generation that in nearly every country arises from a single source and a time of shortage.
It has clearly articulated itself and is a large demographic that has influenced policy and economies in extremely clear ways worldwide. There is certainly variation across that generation but it is united by a single large event and a specific demography.
This cannot be said of Generation X and Generation Y/Millennials. What is the one common experience that powered these two generations around the world?
What international event bonds Generation X, especially when they have supposedly been born across a 30-year time span? Anyone who has traveled knows the Generation X cohort in one country does not have a lot in common with the Generation X cohort in another – even within Western democracies.
Generation Y presents a similar story.
To be honest it seems the characteristics we give to each supposed generation are just thinly disguised opportunities to take cheap shots at different age groups. It is something humans have done throughout history.
When you look across time, countries and races we are experts at finding ways to complain or differentiate ourselves from those who came before or after us. Giving clever generational names just makes that name-calling sound credible.
It's also pointless because there are so many market segments where we can clearly identify differences in opinion, beliefs, experiences, wealth and much more. But this division of generations is not one of them.
Each generation is filled with variety. But this arbitrary discussion about what constitutes the members of Generation X and Generation Y is so undefined that we cannot even tell us when they were born. They do not exist as an identifiable group but more as a collection of prejudices.
So, if anyone starts an article or opens a pitch with a marketing concept that talks about Generation X, Y or Millennials, turn away. If these so-called experts have been sucked in by this shallow fanciful division of generations, then the chances are they haven’t looked with any great depth, analysis or skill at anything else they propose.
It is time we called out these useless, lazy, definitions that can’t even make up their mind whether I am a Baby Boomer or a member of Generation X.
I guess without such an informed insight I’ll just have to choose to be an individual instead.