September 14, 2018
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Scrolling through Twitter, you’re almost guaranteed to see three things: a broadsheet think-piece berating Brexit, a tweet complaining about the weather, and a headline blaming millennials about something new. After their vicious murder spree of straws, the diamond industry, and bars of soap, millennials only kill things in cold blood.

But if you put the millennial in the police line-up, was it actually the millennial? Or the Gen X-er? Gen Y? Gen Z? The Xennial?

With all these terms flying around, you might feel like how your mother felt trying to put music on her iPod back in 2006. In PR, we’re often approached by our clients and asked to target specific groups of people. Understanding how brands can “resonate” or “connect” with a generation is instrumental to the success of a campaign.

ust group the various generations into mass categories. But doing so ignores what we could call the micro-generations. Those not quite x, and not quite y people.

Within PR wizardry, we tend to think of baby boomers as not particularly savvy with memes and slang, but as those with the biggest bucks to spend and are (shock) the most online.

But what are the main characteristics of each so-called generation?

Gen X – born between 1966-79 – are home-owners who love brands even more than they do emails, so they’re likely to be subscribed to multiple newsletters and are always willing to lend a ‘like’ to that post on social media. Targeting them is easy, as they appreciate brand loyalty and reward schemes the most!

Gen Y – born between 1980-1994 – otherwise called the Millennials, are more in tune to innovative and engaging marketing that inspires rather than blatantly sells. Social media is key here and so is reaching out to them in ways they might not expect – such as interacting with their social media posts.

This leaves Gen Z – born between 1995-2012 – as the globally-minded folks that are at the forefront of changing how brands engage with consumers. They’re on social media almost constantly and think print is pretty much dead. Digital video and instantaneity are incredibly important. So, cementing that online relationship with them and using video and powerful photography is the best way to grab their attention.

As easy as it is to stick to these margins – you think, “We gotta go after millennials, so let’s do an avocado-filled campaign” – knowing the nuances is key.

It’s not quite so simple though if you consider the in-between generations. If you were born between 1977-1983, you’re known as a Xennial. The Xennial is not your regular Gen X-er – they have the Gen X-er optimism and the Gen Y-er cynicism. They grew up with the Yellow Pages and landlines but grew into mobile phones (and their bulky phone bills). They’re an in-between generation – growing up with two halves of two different generations, but not quite fitting into either.

So, while Generations Y to Z all grew up with social media, the Xennial can still use it all proficiently. A print campaign could target Gen Y easily, but a digital one to match would leave Gen Z in the dark (with only their iPhone screen to light the room). How could you target those in-between? Now, that’s the question.

The best advice is to take a moment to adjust your campaign from targeting only Millennials and alter it to get a few Xennials on board too.

While these generational terms are starting to look like alphabet soup, knowing the differences between them can make or break the effectiveness of your campaign.

Jordan Baker
Jordan Baker

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