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Okay, I Give Up. What's a Xennial?

3 min read

I'm Jeremy Carson, and this is everything I wish I knew about the advertising and creative industry when I got started. And everything I'm discovering as a Creative Director today.
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Before there were Millennials, there was Gen X. The MTV generation. The punk rock generation. The self-proclaimed "fuck you" generation was folks born from 1982 all the way to 1965. From an advertising perspective, their shine is wearing off, and Millennials (2005 - 1983) have won the prize as being the most sought after and misunderstood generation in marketing.

The deal is, Gen X-ers that grew up in the transition between analog and digital worlds identify more with Millennials and less with their 52-year-old generational companions. Meanwhile, older Millennials feel the same way about their college-aged counterparts. And this is why ad peeps have no idea how to speak to them.

So, late-Gen-X'ers-that-feel-like-Millennials, experts gave you a really stupid new name: Xennials.

God, that's a dumb name. And for so many reasons...

Why the Name Is Stupid

Ok, the name’s lame. I mean, they just combined “Gen X” and “Millennial.” That's lazy.

“Millennial” just means “I don’t know” to most marketers.

Seriously...naming this micro-generation similarly to Millennials or to Gen X is a sign of why marketers don’t understand either one. Millennials are drastically different from other Millennials, so why use that misunderstanding to attempt to understand young Gen X-ers?

Make up a new name. It removes the risk of thinking, “Oh, well Millennials are like this, so we should treat Xennials kind of like that, too.”

Could You Be More Different

(If you read that headline in Chandler's voice, this is for you.)

Millennials: you high schoolers and collegiates. Think of the parties. Or the stupid shit you do with your friends. Think of the dating scene. What you bought. What you wanted. Now, all you way-past-college Millennials, let me ask you a question: Does that sound as exhausting to you as it does to me?

But take a look at Gen X: should we lump together a 54-year-old, deep into adulthood, and a 34-year-old, who's still trying to understand what the hell a 401k is? The evolution of society has accelerated too much for a 20-year window.

Post-Analog, Newly-Digital

Younger Gen X-ers and older Millennials are kinda in the same Xennial boat here. We exist in a post-analog, newly-digital state of the world.

We didn’t grow up with the internet, but we grew into it. We read paperback books and wrote notes in spiral binders. We knew the pain of missing a TV show live, and having to wait for reruns to see it again (unless you could figure out the VCR). Then, boom, the internet was everywhere. We had to understand the digital world by how it replaced familiar parts of our analog lives.

Xennials merely adopted the internet. Millennials were born in it, molded by it.

But school-aged Millennials, they’re completely different. They grew up with microchips on their shoulders. Their entire lives are documented on social. Privacy is both non-existent and constantly considered.

To paraphrase Tom Hardy’s Bane, “Xennials merely adopted the internet. Millennials were born in it, molded by it.”

What’s In a Name? Everything.

Identifying the in-betweeners as a completely separate group is a step in the right direction. But, don’t think of it as a subset, or even related. It’s totally unique. And until it’s recognized that way, our micro-generation is going to continue to be misunderstood and mis-marketed.

Just take a look at this video and tell me if I’m wrong.

Thanks for reading!

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