What are Generation X and Millennials

The trends of a generation are much more than characteristic clothing styles and musical anthems. Generation X, Y and Z prove that the different social developments profoundly shape the children of their time and are reflected in values, life plans and priorities. Companies are now faced with the task of knowing these attitudes and responding to the sometimes contradicting requirements.

Below you can find out what the Generations X, Y and Z and what that means for your positioning as a brand and employer.

What are the Generations X, Y, Z?

Trend research divides the generations of the last century on the basis of different socialization tendencies and experiences. Especially Generation X (born 1966-1980), Generation Y (born 1981-1995) and Generation Z (born after 1995) are currently the focus of sociological considerations due to emerging generation conflicts. Because of their different values ​​and expectations of (work) life, the three generations play in the marketing and Employer branding an important role.

Generation X, Y, Z: An overview of the concept

Generation X, Y, Z: The zeitgeist of a century is carried by its generations. Cohorts with an interval of 10 to 15 years can be determined. Of course, there is a high spread within a generation (intra-generation variance), so that a strict separation based on clear year numbers is difficult.

However, there are considerable, non-negligible differences between the mean values ​​of the respective generations (intergenerational difference), which justify a division into different generations. So even if a generation does not represent a homogeneous mass of identical views, tendencies are clearly discernible.

Generation X (1966-1980): Raised by baby boomers

In times of economic crisis, the Generation X on. Raised by their parents' generation, the baby boomers (born 1956-1965), they enjoyed the prosperity they had achieved. Characterized by strong consumer behavior and brand awareness, this cohort is also referred to as the “Generation Golf” after the Volkswagen car model. Status symbols became objects of longing and placed before political engagement.

With the advent of television as a mass medium, Generation X experienced the transition from analog to digital media. Later, e-mail and mobile phones were also important means of communication. The uncertain times around the East-West conflict created a certain pessimism. Although the Generation X a higher education than her parents enjoyed, there was no special one great desire for professional fulfillment. Financial security with simultaneous separation of private and professional life as well as a good work-life balance are higher on the list of priorities.

Generation Y (1981-1995): Millennials

She is constantly on the lookout for the meaning of life Generation Y, Gen Y for short. From connecting via modem to snake games on the first cell phone to smartphones, Y-lers (or millennials) have seen digitization and the Internet boom to the fullest.

The "Generation-Me" characterizes the striving for freedom and self-determination, combined with increased self-portrayal via social networks. But the decentralization through the Internet, the bringing together of different cultures and the emerging globalization also ensured the extreme tolerance of millennials. In addition, there is an always-on mentality, which is due to the numerous digital communication options.

As early as 2015, Generation Y made up 30 percent of the workforce; by 2020 it will be 50 percent worldwide. Well-trained specialists who grew up in a technological, mobile world enter companies and question established structures. While Xers strictly separate work and home, the concept of work-life balance in Generation Y is increasingly merging into work-life integration.

Image: Private University of Applied Science

What Millennials (Gen Y) expect from the job market

The Generation Y busy the job market for some time. Not least because the young adults are finally integrating themselves into professional life. But they also differ fundamentally from their previous generations. Unlike the X-lers, Millennials are not only looking for self-fulfillment privately but also professionally.

With the demographic change, the labor market is facing an additional problem of attractiveness: With the elimination of the baby boom generations and the entry of the Gen Y now employers are in competition and have to convince the new generation.

Because they want to make up for their parents' mistakes, environmental issues and socio-political discussions come to the fore. Sustainable consumer behavior becomes a figurehead, organic labels and green packaging replace classic status symbols. Correspondingly great importance is attached to sustainable and ecologically acceptable behavior on the part of potential employers. The technical know-how that the Generation Y intuitively brings with itis enormous. This quickly puts the well-trained X-lers under pressure. He has to continue his education in order to keep up here.

Generation Z (after 1995): influencers & YouTube stars

BibisBeautyPalace, Pamela Reif or Gronkh: Die Generation Z grew up with influencers and YouTube stars. The names "Generation YouTube" and "Digital Native" point out that the Z-learners are the first generation to be digitalized in the cradle. She no longer knows a world without the Internet.

Access to various media gives digital natives new research opportunities and means that companies have to be present on a wide variety of channels. The constant updates of algorithms and user interfaces in social networks are both the reason and the product of an ever shorter attention span. The separation of virtual and real has almost been abolished Online search is a natural part of obtaining information.

Image: Simon Schnetzer

In such a networked time, political antics, corporate missteps and social grievances are more visible than ever. And it is precisely against this that the young generation positions itself. Not least because of the pronounced sense of identity, the Z-lers advocate human rights and the equality of disadvantaged groups.

Access to information also changes the way this generation looks at companies: Z-people and Gen Y generally inform themselves before they buy a product. The concept of consumption is also becoming increasingly flexible. The new generation is no longer so concerned with owning a physical product. Much more important is (digital) access to various services and products. It is not without reason that companies that offer streaming subscriptions (Netflix, Spotify) or belong to the sharing economy (Airbnb) are so successful.

Gen XYZ: multichannel communication and targeted targeting

The strict separation of generations can lead to thinking in drawers. But that Generations concept of X, Y, Z also holds the potential for companies to cluster different target groups and to create so-called buyer personas from which certain strategies and measures can be derived. The importance of communication across different channels also becomes clear here: If Generation X is mainly on Facebook, millennials and digital natives are more likely to be found on Instagram or TikTok. A multichannel marketing strategy therefore manages to reach different generations.

If, on the other hand, you want to address a specific target group, it is not only important to take into account the different advertising acceptance and choose the right channel. Instead, communication must also address the respective values, demands and wishes of the generation concerned. Especially in the Employer branding this targeted approach is gaining in importance. While Generation Xers still have a company car and an attractive annual salary Millennials have flat hierarchies and a corporate philosophy they can stand behind.

The Generation X, Y and Z are a prime example of how much demographic factors (should) influence the user approach. As a consequence of the zeitgeist and personal socialization, completely different values, norms and goals play a role for different generations. It is important to know and address these if you want to address potential customers or future employees in a targeted manner.

Header: banusevim / iStock / Getty Images Plus

Originally published November 5, 2019, updated March 03, 2021

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