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Why Overreliance on Generational Frameworks Can Be Dangerous for Your Business

There is nothing like special terminology to give a framework a boost. One of the most popular frameworks is related to age groups. The classification begins with Generation Z, the youngest of the groups – babies who were often mollified by being given mums mobile phone to distract them. These are followed by Millennials (sometimes known as Generation Y) who also grew up holding phones and laptops. Then there is Generation X who grew up at the end of the Cold War and with the emergence of popular culture. At the top of the pyramid are the Baby Boomers, born after the Second World War and gradually falling off the cliff.

These group classifications are the invention of advertising agencies who like to recognise behaviours and characteristics that they can target. We are suckers for the labels. We love descriptions such as Baby Boomers or Generation Z. Certainly these monikers make it easy for us to locate a group that is being discussed in a targeting meeting - but what a load of baloney. Since human beings have occupied the planet there has always been a difference between young and old groups. It is the cycle of life. Young people think and behave differently to those with grey hair because they are physically and mentally different. Young people can run downstairs and up mountains without aches and pains in their knees. They are more fearless than their parents because they have less experience and enjoy a different cocktail of dopamine, serotonin, adrenaline and cortisol. It has always been thus.

What is dangerous is the suggestion that there are characteristics about these groups that get bandied about to the point that we begin to believe them. I mean, are Baby Boomers really greedy economic rapists and are Millennials really snowflake narcissists? More likely the Boomers fell lucky in being able to enjoy a period of economic boom that led to house price inflation. And yes, they may have different political philosophies which happens to all older groups who acquire traditional values and conservative beliefs. And yes, they may be not quite as technologically savvy as younger groups, but it would be a big mistake to ignore them if you are in the business of selling iPhones and computers.


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