Add Xennials to the list of things Millennials killed.
Millennials have been accused of destroying everything Americans hold dear and sacred (just ask a Boomer), but the term “Millennial,” itself, is a bit of a catchall phrase for anyone under 40 who’s old enough to be in the workforce. And while an 18 to 20 year range is the typical definition of a generation, the oldest Millennials (born, approximately, in the early 80s/late 70s) have encountered unique cultural experiences (hint: that whole internet thing) that make them a bit of a niche demographic, one that’s not quite Gen X and not exactly Millennial, either.
Meet the Xennial generation.
Also known as the Oregon Trail generation, First Wave Millennials and the Lucky Ones, Xennials are a demographic of people who have largely been shoved into one of the two dominate generations that bookend this micro-generation.
Really, though, it’s not a big deal — it only affects 25 million people. That’s all. So what if a group of individuals four times the population of New York City doesn’t connect with their ascribed generation, especially those lumped together with the Millennials, America’s favorite punching bag?
It’s nothing personal — we get it. But, in fairness, it is a bit onerous to be inaccurately affiliated with a generation that’s been accused of ruining, you know, everything, including homeownership, wine corks and Thanksgiving turkeys (to name a few). Thanks for nothing, you avocado-toast-eating, participation-trophy-winning, job-hopping narcissists!
(We kid, of course. We’ve got your back, Millennials.)
So where do Xennials diverge?
It’s not just that Xennials haven’t been accounted for as a larger generation, but by dubbing this demographic as being members of Gen-X or the Millennials, it creates a blindspot for the weird life experiences the oldest Millennials encountered, ones that are incredibly specific to people who were born within a 5 to 7-year window.
For Xennials, it’s as if they’ve split their time in two vastly different eras and acquitted themselves nicely in each. Their early years were low-tech and their later years were high-tech. The average Xennial spent their youth untethered from computers, smartphones and the internet. But, by their late teens and early 20s, they were facebooking and emailing from wireless hotspots. Computers, likewise, weren’t classroom mainstays, but when they became available, usually by the time Xennials were in college or late high school, this micro-generation quickly adapted to them (often faster than their teachers).
Same with phones. As mopey tweens, Xennials were constrained by phone cords, anchoring them to the wall (Mom! I’m on the phone!). Sure, cellphones existed, but they were the size of a brick and for emergency use only. Social media wasn’t a thing yet, either. And then — boom — it became a big thing, real fast. And Xennials were early adopters of both smart phones and social media, but also familiar with the world that existed before all of that digital noise.
So what’s the opportunity?
Like most large swaths of people, there’s never an all or none marketing approach, but recent trends show that there is definitely a Xennial sweet spot. Here are few trends that suggest Xennials are a force within the market:
Get back to the basics.
In their early years, Xennials enjoyed a little more freedom; there was no social media or excessive screens, technology wasn’t as all-consuming as it is today, and the post-9/11 helicopter parenting style had yet to take hold. Xennials grew up in a less connected world beneath street lights and in backyards. So how does that translate to ad campaigns? The #OptOutside campaign from REI, for example, promotes disconnecting and exploring over relentless screen time. The idea of unplugging appeals to Xennials for two reasons: 1. They grew up in an unplugged world; and 2. Many Xennials now spend an obscene amount of time staring at screens for work and appreciate the sentiment behind disengaging from technology.
Take a page out of the Stranger Things playbook.
No we’re not suggesting cameos from the demogorgon (unless… no! Terrible idea). We do, however, recommend provoking a sense of nostalgia. The Netflix show went full-blown 1980s pop culture and people ate it up! Also, look at the recent popularity of vinyl, high-waisted jeans, Stephen King’s "It,” denim and fanny packs (maybe not yet with the fanny packs?). Let’s just say there’s definitely an audience for some throwback, retro-vintage campaigns and products.
Promote healthy lifestyles.
Seems like a bit of a no-brainer, but there is a whole wellness movement and Xennials — unlike Millennials who spend all their money on avocado toast, apparently — have more disposable income to invest in self-care. And health and wellness goes along with the whole nature-based, unplugged movement that appeals to a generation of people who have been in the workforce for a solid decade now. But, keep in mind, Xennials did retain (healthy or not) some of that Gen X cynicism, so they’re probably not gonna buy just any old snake oil. You hear that, Gwyneth Paltrow?
Xennials gonna xennial
While we shouldn’t expect the full adoption of the term or the complete recognition of the Xennial Generation, it is worthwhile to look at this micro-generation and the seismic cultural and technological shift that took place right in the middle of their adolescence. It’s easy to see why this demographic of people might view terms like “Gen X” and “Millennial” as misnomers… because they don’t apply, entirely. And, really, doesn’t any target audience just want to feel understood? But, conversely, it’s easy to see why the generations before them will say: “You want a trophy for that, too, snowflake? You think you’re so special, don’t you?”
We think you are special, Xennials. Clearly, other marketeers do as well.
Need help identifying and strategizing for a specific audience or demographic? We can help, so just give us a shout! We have our flip phones ready… or just reach us here.
Check out these related blog posts:
5 Ways Monopoly for Millennials Missed the Mark
Let’s Cool It On Those Damn Millennials
5 Ways Niche Audience Personas Will Transform Your Content