In America, there are six living generations, which are six fairly distinct groups of people. As a generalization each generation has different likes, dislikes, and attributes. They have had collective experiences as they aged and therefore have similar ideals. A person’s birth date may not always be indicative of their generational characteristics, but as a common group they have similarities.
The six living generations
- Born 1901-1926.
- Children of the WWI generation & fighters in WWII & young in the Great Depression…all leading to strong models of teamwork to overcome and progress.
- Their Depression was The Great One; their war was The Big One; their prosperity was the legendary Happy Days.
- They saved the world and then built a nation.
- They are the assertive and energetic do’ers.
- Excellent team players.
- Strongly interested in personal morality and near-absolute standards of right and wrong.
- Strong sense of personal civic duty, which means they vote.
- Marriage is for life, divorce and having children out of wedlock were not accepted.
- Strong loyalty to jobs, groups, schools, etc.
- There was no “retirement” you worked until your died or couldn’t work anymore.
- The labor-union-spawning generation.
- “Use it up, fix it up, make it do, or do without.”
- Avoid debt…save and buy with cash.
- Age of radio and air flight; they were the generation that remembers life without airplanes, radio, and TV.
- Most of them grew up without modern conveniences like refrigerators, electricity and air conditioning.
- Sometimes called The Greatest Generation.
- Born 1927- 1945.
- Went through their formative years during an era of suffocating conformity, but also during the postwar happiness: Peace! Jobs! Suburbs! Television! Rock ‘n Roll! Cars! Playboy Magazine!
- Korean and Vietnam War generation.
- The First Hopeful Drumbeats of Civil Rights!
- Pre-feminism women; women stayed home generally to raise children, if they worked it was only certain jobs like teacher, nurse or secretary.
- Men pledged loyalty to the corporation, once you got a job, you generally kept it for life.
- The richest, most free-spending retirees in history.
- Marriage is for life, divorce and having children out of wedlock were not accepted.
- In grade school, the gravest teacher complaints were about passing notes and chewing gum in class.
- They are avid readers, especially newspapers.
- “Retirement” means to sit in a rocking chair and live your final days in peace.
- The Big-Band/Swing music generation.
- Strong sense of trans-generational common values and near-absolute truths.
- Disciplined, self-sacrificing, & cautious.
- Born between 1946 and 1964. Two sub-sets:
- 1. the save-the-world revolutionaries of the ’60s and ’70s;
- and 2. the party-hardy career climbers (Yuppies) of the ’70s/’80s.
- The “me” generation.
- “Rock and roll” music generation.
- Ushered in the free love and societal “non-violent” protests which triggered violence.
- Self righteous & self-centered.
- Buy it now and use credit.
- Too busy for much neighborly involvement yet strong desires to reset or change the common values for the good of all.
- Even though their mothers were generally housewives, responsible for all child rearing, women of this generation began working outside the home in record numbers, thereby changing the entire nation as this was the first generation to have their own children raised in a two-income household where mom was not omnipresent.
- The first TV generation.
- The first divorce generation, where divorce was beginning to be accepted as a tolerable reality.
- Began accepting homosexuals.
- Optimistic, driven, team-oriented.
- Envision technology and innovation as requiring a learning process.
- Tend to be more positive about authority, hierarchal structure and tradition.
- One of the largest generations in history with 77 million people.
- Their aging will change America almost incomprehensibly; they are the first generation to use the word “retirement” to mean being able to enjoy life after the children have left home. Instead of sitting in a rocking chair, they go skydiving, exercise and take up hobbies, which increases their longevity.
- The American Youth Culture that began with them is now ending with them and their activism is beginning to re-emerge.
- Born between 1965 and 1980*
- The “latch-key kids” grew up street-smart but isolated, often with divorced or career-driven parents. Latch-Key came from the house key kids wore around their neck, because they would go home from school to an empty house.
- Very individualistic.
- Government and big business mean little to them.
- Want to save the neighborhood, not the world
- Feel misunderstood by other generations
- Cynical of many major institutions, which failed their parents, or them, during their formative years and are therefore eager to make marriage work and “be there” for their children
- Don’t “feel” like a generation, but they are
- Raised in the transition phase of written based knowledge to digital knowledge archives; most remember being in school without computers and then after the introduction of computers in middle school or high school
- Desire a chance to learn, explore and make a contribution
- Tend to commit to self rather than an organization or specific career. This generation averages 7 career changes in their lifetime, it was not normal to work for a company for life, unlike previous generations.
- Society and thus individuals are envisioned as disposable.
- AIDS begins to spread and is first lethal infectious disease in the history of any culture on earth which was not subjected to any quarantine.
- Beginning obsession of individual rights prevailing over the common good, especially if it is applicable to any type of minority group.
- Raised by the career and money conscious Boomers amidst the societal disappointment over governmental authority and the Vietnam war.
- School problems were about drugs.
- Late to marry (after cohabitation) and quick to divorce…many single parents.
- Into labels and brand names.
- Want what they want and want it now but struggling to buy, and most are deeply in credit card debt.
- It is has been researched that they may be conversationally shallow because relating consists of shared time watching video movies, instead of previous generations.
- Short on loyalty & wary of commitment; all values are relative…must tolerate all peoples.
- Self-absorbed and suspicious of all organization.
- Survivors as individuals.
- Cautious, skeptical, unimpressed with authority, self-reliant.
- Born between 1981* and 2000*.
- Aka “The 9/11 Generation” “Echo Boomers” America’s next great generation brings a sharp departure from Generation X.
- They are nurtured by omnipresent parents, optimistic, and focused.
- Respect authority.
- Falling crime rates. Falling teen pregnancy rates. But with school safety problems; they have to live with the thought that they could be shot at school, they learned early that the world is not a safe place.
- They schedule everything.
- They feel enormous academic pressure.
- They feel like a generation and have great expectations for themselves.
- Prefer digital literacy as they grew up in a digital environment. Have never known a world without computers! They get all their information and most of their socialization from the Internet.
- Prefer to work in teams.
- With unlimited access to information tend to be assertive with strong views.
- Envision the world as a 24/7 place; want fast and immediate processing.
- They have been told over and over again that they are special, and they expect the world to treat them that way.
- They do not live to work, they prefer a more relaxed work environment with a lot of hand holding and accolades.
- Born after 2001*
- In 2006 there were a record number of births in the US and 49% of those born were Hispanic, this will change the American melting pot in terms of behavior and culture. The number of births in 2006 far outnumbered the start of the baby boom generation, and they will easily be a larger generation.
- Since the early 1700’s the most common last name in the US was ‘Smith’ but not anymore, now it is Rodriguez.
- There are two age groups right now:
- (a) Tweens.
- (a1) Age 8-12 years old.
- (a2) There will be an estimated 29 million tweens by 2009.
- (a3) $51 billion is spent by tweens every year with an additional $170 billion spent by their parents and family members directly for them.
- (b)Toddler/Elementary school age.
- 61 percent of children 8-17 have televisions in their rooms.
- 35 percent have video games.
- 14 percent have a DVD player.
- 4 million will have their own cell phones. They have never known a world without computers and cell phones.
- Have Eco-fatigue: they are actually tired of hearing about the environment and the many ways we have to save it.
- With the advent of computers and web based learning, children leave behind toys at younger and younger age. It’s called KGOY-kids growing older younger, and many companies have suffered because of it, most recognizable is Mattel, the maker of Barbie dolls. In the 1990’s the average age of a child in their target market was 10 years old, and in 2000 it dropped to 3 years old. As children reach the age of four and five, old enough to play on the computer, they become less interested in toys and begin to desire electronics such as cell phones and video games.
- They are Savvy consumers and they know what they want and how to get it and they are over saturated with brands.
deMesa, A. (2008). Marketing and tweens. Retrieved on February 21, 2008.
Elegant, S. (5 November 2007). China’s me generation. Time Magazine.
Generational Generalities. (2005). America’s generations. Retrieved November 6, 2007.
Generational Imperative. (2006). Meet Americas 5 living generations. Retrieved on November 6, 2007.
Parents. (December 2007). Check out this news. Parents Magazine, p.166.
This is only a guideline, remember that everyone is different and not everyone fits into this analysis, but for the most part you can generalize their behavior. As a marketer, it is important to know how to effectively communicate and market to these diverse generations. In understanding consumer behavior, you can create the right promotion, tailoring it specifically for each group’s needs and therefore effectively sell products and services.
The dates for GI, Mature, and Baby Boomer and the beginning of Gen X are set and do not change, the dates for the end of Gen X, Gen Y and Gen Z fluctuate depending on what source you are using.