Travel through time is one of the most enigmatic, imaginative, and scientifically daring concepts that had occupied the minds of many people centuries ago and will continue into the future. Nonetheless, not employing any time-machine contraptions, modern archeologists and paleontologists are traveling back in time more than anybody else. They examine the rich iridium layer in Wyoming’s clay deposits and take exploratory tours back to early Cretaceous period. Why? Scientists search for the proof that dinosaurs’ extinction 65 million years ago was caused by a cataclysmic collision of a large extraterrestrial object with the Earth (What Killed The Dinosaurs, 2007). The hypothesis is still publicly debated, and even the scientific world at large is full of non-believers. Luckily, the controversy has not harmed the study of mass extinction causation, but rather has made it a dynamic and interesting area. The reader would rightfully wonder: what does this scientific hypothesis have to do with Generation X (Gen X), Generation Millennium (Millenniums), and marketing? The author of this paper offers the answer in sociocultural, generational cohorts’ trend comparison—in yet another hypothesis that might not be too far from the plausible truth. As Homo sapiens of today anxiously try to unearth the secrets of previous civilizations through tireless archeological, astro-biological, forensic DNA, and other scientific endeavors, the future generations of marketers would likely peel the history’s onion uncovering socioeconomic, psychological, and sub-cultural structures to re-discover marketing trends of modern times. Just as modern paleontologists dig through the layers of Wyoming clay, or enologists associate specific characteristics of ‘terroir’ accentuated in single-varietal wines, marketing professionals of the distant future will try to describe the social and economic forces’ affects on marketing in the 21st century. How would they conduct their research? What would they deduce from artifacts found in knowledge layers of human history? Which of the two generations—X or Millennium— would consume their imagination, guide their inspiration, and influence the sociocultural beliefs? What is important to Millennium Generation? The author of this paper will answer these and many other questions in the following sections. Even though the paper will depart from a typical third-person, APA-required format of story-telling, the author hopes the style deviation will be redeemed by engaging and inspired research. The story is told through the open letter written by the University of Phoenix, MBA570 class of 2061 to both generational cohorts. Letter from the Future—To Gen X and Millenniums
Hello dear Gen X and Millenniums. We are the Generation 21-3, MBA marketing students. Unlike in your 20th century, when marketers followed socio-economic cycles while stamping different names on consecutive generations, we systemized everything. For example, the name of our generation stems from the third quartile of the 21st century. We were tasked by our professor to analyze, compare, and interpret attributes and marketing processes of your generations. We conducted our research based on everything we could put our hands on—from the university library records to free press archives 1990-2007. Hence, we enclose our findings, and we hope that they accurately depict your times. Gen X—Traits and Attitudes. Even though we found discrepancies in records for Gen X’s timeframe estimation—Kerin (2005) insisted on 1965-1976—, our research gives preference that Gen X’ers occupied the birth period from 1961 to 1981 (Campbell-Bruneau, 2003). Nonetheless, we asked ourselves a question:--How this organizational cohort was represented by social, psychological, and economic attributes in the global consumer environment? Approximately 20 million strong—15% of the total population at the time—, and worth $125 billion in cumulative spending power (year 2000 dollars), you were the successors and children of exuberant and unique ‘Woodstock’ generation of the Baby Boomers (The Boomers), who were born between 1946 and 1964 (Kerin, 2006). Our insistent secondary research into solving the enigma of the Gen X’s social attitudes uncovered stronger than Boomers’ family orientation which manifested in subtle details—phoning home hourly from mobile phones or daily (Campbell-Bruneau, 2003). You were also rebellious individualists, skeptics, and critical of everything cohort. Additionally, and in our view controversially, Gen X displayed the traits such as brand and job disloyalty, lack of self-confidence, and nihilism. To put it into prospective, while some Boomers were entering their wisdom age at 50-60 in 2007, their children (Gen X) were between the ages of 26 and 45. As the Baby Boom cohort was followed by Gen X, we had learned that your group was known as the “baby bust” (Kerin, 2006) because the number of children born each year was declining. You were the generation of consumers who were self-reliant, entrepreneurial, supportive of racial and ethnic diversity, and better educated than any previous generation (Kerin, 2006). You were not prone to extravagance and likely to pursue lifestyles that were a blend of caution, pragmatism, and traditionalism (Campbell-Bruneau, 2003). For example, we had learned that Gen X was saving, planning for retirement, and taking advantage of this strange, rigid, and almost forceful 401K plans much earlier than your parents. As Boomers moved into grandparenthood, Gen X was becoming the new parent market. In response, some brands that Gen X’ers helped popularize were expanding their offerings. For instance, during our 2060s “20th Century”-themed fun parties, sometimes we dress our children into these antique, quaint 1990s uniforms as homage to Tommy Hilfiger and Donna Karan New York (DKNY). What a trip that is for some grand-grandparents! Products and Businesses For and From Gen X. As the 78 million Boomers (your parents) have aged, their participation in the workforce and their earnings had increased, making them an important consumer market. Kerin (2006) estimated that this group accounted for 56-58% of the purchases in most consumer products and service categories. Boomers’ interests were reflecting concern for their children (Gen X) and grandchildren (Millenniums), their own health, and their retirement, and marketers needed to position products to respond to these interests. For example, from Kerin (2006) we had learned this strange Boomers’ desire to look younger spurred millions of spas and creams brands (Olay’s Total Effects) instead of ionization chambers we use today. Some things had not changed though. As you did in the 20th century, even today, we recognize that the marketers’ challenge is to be aware of not only different generational cohorts’ consumption patterns, but also to be aware of the different segments within the same generation and to market an effective message to the appropriate segment. The retailers who were most successful were those who understand the nature of each of these sub-groups and use their knowledge to make purchasing both a rewarding and a painless experience. For instance, according to our research, one segment of Gen X was a Mecca for golf marketing, fashion items, and technology appliances such as Global Positioning Satellite systems (GPS), High Definition TV (HGTV), super-charged laptops, and “smart-home” automation gadgets. On the other hand, the same Gen X, but a different sub-group, favored environmentally conscious, back-to-the-nature, and outdoor-living goods and services. Their wallets were opening wider in hybrid car dealerships and on Seattle cabin-building construction sites. The rebound of hippies, society-examining generation (Boomers) was evident in cautious, self-examining, nature-conscious, and technology-enabled lifestyle of Gen X. This last thought gave us the impetus to the research of the new products/businesses that Gen X’ers would have found appealing. As your parents had started the ‘environmental movement’ and positively enthused Gen X in taking the relay, many businesses were developed by Gen X. We found evidence in marketing of ‘super cool’ ice-hotels in Scandinavia, building homes from totally recycled materials, organizing primitive yet commercially sound space flights, and conversion of GPS satellites into crime locating-and-solving instruments which we still use today. Thank you Gen X! Generation Millennium—Traits and Attitudes. We would like to open this section by quoting the actor and writer of the 20th century Peter Ustinov. In his narration to the photo album-book named “The Generation Millennium” he said: "They remain, however, within a context—the context of hope and of celebration: part of a tapestry, which Robin Laurance has woven for us, of the face of the Millennium Generation as it prepares for life after the year 2000,” (Ustinov, 1999). When we opened a few more records and reviewed quite bizarre yet entertaining digitized news reels, we have discovered another peculiar generational cohort—Generation Y, The Millenniums. According to Kerin (2006) the specimen are 72 million Americans who were born between 1977 and 1994; according to Campbell-Bruneau (2003) the timeframe should have been 1979-1994. Some lucky ones were in colleges around the world on the crest of the new millennium. That must have been one grandiose party on the eve of December 31, 2000! We found your cohort fascinating as our research subjects, as you have portrayed some of our parents and grandparents’ lives. From many digital media archives we can deduce you were the interesting type—a sartorial yet mundanely witted Ryan Seacrest, a developmental Ferris Bueller, a professional Carlton Banks. These apparently were the "American Idol" host, the truant Matthew Broderick movie hero, and the overeager Will Smith sidekick in "Fresh Prince of Bel-Air," (Hira, 2007). Nonetheless, who were you, the Millenniums? The 1979-1994 period of increasing births, resulted from Boomers having children, was often referred to as the ‘echo-boom’ or baby boomlet. Our research shows you were the largest generational cohort since the Boomers—more than three times larger than Gen X (Generation Y Information, 2007). These were an estimated 60 million ''Echoes," making them a considerable force within the country as they headed into adulthood (Kryzanek, 2005). Culturally diverse, confident, optimistic, and with swiftly-changing interests, your risk-tolerant, sarcastic, Music TV (MTV), VH1-VSpot generation had 25% single parenthood rate of which 75% were mothers (Campbell-Bruneau, 2003). At the same time, you were the catalytic seed of consumer tech-revolution at the end of the 20th beginning of the 21st centuries. The majority (over 60%) of tech-savvy, gadget-oriented Millenniums used the Internet daily, thought of cell phone as a person, 52% used instant messaging, while 63% of you preferred communicating with your friends by “going on line,” (Campbell-Bruneau, 2003). Additionally, we found you excessively reliant on “group views” and “group philosophy”, critical towards your athletic heroes, school systems, and even presidents. Unlike most Baby Boomers and Gen X’ers, Millenniums were strong team players. In the professional world they looked for opportunities to heard representatives from all three generations on teams. We were surprised to learn that the Boomers and Gen X’ers were likely volunteers to share their knowledge and experience, while the eager younger Millenniums would be chomping at the bit to put the plans into action faster (Generation Y Information, 2007).
What Was Important To Generation Millennium? Within our research we also wanted to see how Generation Millennium had adjusted to the work environment. Spanning an age range of approximately 11-28 years old, the teens and young adults in the first decade of the 21st century were gradually making up the next wave of employees hitting the workplace. Not to be caught by any surprises, the employers had to learn Millenniums’ organizational characteristics. The young workforce was motivated and goal-oriented. They overwhelmingly recognized the value of education, and they were intently focused on achieving personal goals (Generation Y Information, 2007). Employers had to strive to create a work environment that took advantage of this high-achievement mentality by presenting employees with plenty of challenges, goals, and measurable evaluation criteria. However, in process of creating such environment an employer had to regularly reinforce the objectives and provide frequent positive feedback—the whip and cookie method exploited by the Boomers, yet it was magnified ten-fold by videogame habits of Millenniums. That is, clear expectations, reinforcement, and high score/next round (positive feedback) are the attributes of any videogame. We found Millenniums to be the most technologically savvy generation among the Boomers and Gen X’ers. Having grown up at the center of the high-speed, high-tech revolution, technology was just a utilitarian part of their lives. Their employers had to stay on the cutting edge to ensure that these workers had the technology tools necessary to do their jobs right. One of the surest ways to lose Millenniums was to expect them to perform with outdated, obsolescent computers and other technology equipment (Generation Y Information, 2007). On the other hand, we found that many Millenniums entered workforce considerably later then any previous generation. We explain this statistical phenomenon by the group’s lagging far behind Gen X’ers with regards to social skills, self-assertion, and a sense of social responsibility. E-mail and instant messaging had severely lessened social interaction to the point where some of Millenniums were more comfortable talking to friends from behind a computer screen than on the phone or in person (Staseff, 2007). Consequently, the prominent social burden had been placed on the education system. Whereas most members of Gen X were working full-time by the age of 18, it was not uncommon for Millenniums to be in school until they were 25-30 years of age. As a result, true adulthood and return on societal investment had been delayed by more than seven years! Products and Businesses For and From Millenniums. Because the members of each generation are distinctive in their attitudes and consumer behavior, we found the evidence exposing the old marketers’ studying of the many groups that made up the marketplace and had developed generational marketing programs for them (Kerin, 2006). This triggered our curiosity, and we looked at marketing and product trends of this "Nintendo Generation"—the antiquated game that scored big in 1990s. Millenniums were the most media savvy, educated, pop-culture saturated, and wired population to have ever walked the earth in the 20th and beginning of the 21st centuries. They were also the largest trend-setting population since the Boomers. Generation Millennium exerted influence on music, sports, computers, videogames, and especially cell phones (Meskauskas, 2003). Numerous records indicated this cohort viewed wireless communication as a lifeline to friends and family and has been the first to use text messaging, cell phone games, and built-in cameras. They had mastered PlayStation 3 and called Xbox 360 their “best friend”. In 2007 this was also the group that included 21-year-olds—the beginning of adult responsibilities and many new consumer activities. Interestingly enough, we had seen the evidence of attempted sub-grouping in this generation—the term millennials was used, with inconsistent definitions, to refer to younger members of Generation Millennium and sometimes to Americans born since 1994 (Meskauskas, J. (2003).
Having researched all of the above, we had studied businesses that came out of or catered to the Millenniums. Surface computing, which we still use today, was one of the best 21st century inventions in consumer applications realm. The technology was developed and introduced by Gen X’ers, but it was squarely aimed at Millenniums’ consumption. The iPhone was called “coolest of its time”, while the world was still waiting for full Mobility TV, alternate energy sources, hydrogen-powered ground-and-sea vehicles, and the whole range of prepared food items. Speaking of the latter, we came to a fascinating realization that the food groups we enjoy today—grown and engineered—had been propelled by marketing of established businesses of the Millenniums. The key drivers of the 21st century of the prepared food products did not come as a surprise to us. Millenniums marketed these products to future generations by studying change in three classic benefits of prepared food products, namely convenience, nutrition, and taste (Fusaro, 1996). Luckily for us, the 21-3 generation, Millenniums had produced and marketed food products without sacrifice in taste and nutrition, yet they were conveniently grouped, prepared, and required virtually no time to put on the table of our busy families. Early in the 21st century companies like SnackWell's, the Nabisco megabrand that included a lot of kid-snack products, had largely targeted the more health-conscious adult market. However, later on the company’s subdivision Nabisco Biscuit Co. tapped the Millennium kids market specifically. They saw their three key markets as wellness, indulgence, and children (Fusaro, 1996). As a result, Millenniums’ take-out places, serving packaged, prepared yet nutritional and tasty “just like mom” food, were proliferating in 2010s at a much faster rate than ubiquitous Chinese eateries. Conclusion
In the end, what did we learn about the Millenniums—the most intriguing to us generational cohort of the past? Their time was only the beginning of a major societal transformation, the implications of which we are just beginning to appreciate. This was a tech-savvy generation that knew how to multitask, work in teams, change jobs on the fly, and party hardy. Furthermore, they were barely interested in politics, had a poor understanding of history, and an almost fanatical attachment to celebrity status and pop-culture (Kryzanek, 2005). On the other hand, this group is also courteous, conscientious, and driven to succeed. Financial success and luxury is their primary career objective, making them no different than their parents in this regard. The best specimen of Generation Millennium also taught us how to be productive in teams and how to look for answers in collaboration. As Millenniums’ views were affecting the consecutive generations, we understood that the impetuous seeds of societal transformation were planted by the Millenniums in their tech-revolution’s embracement. Nonetheless, we know now—it is not the technology per se, it is the social implications thereof—the human dimension of technology application.
Oh, and lastly, thank you Millennium Generation for not building the monstrous, glass-enclosed, pink pyramid shrine to Paris Hilton in the middle of Los Angeles. (We have found architectural drawings of the plan). We think the Ieoh Ming Pei’s 1989 unique architecture (DAAA, 2000), which still adorns grand entrance to Louvre Museum, is of a much more audacious spirit, aesthetic value, and a homage to the world’s renowned and timeless Giza landmarks. References
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