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What Exactly are Millennials? And Who Is Gen Z?

28 June 2017
A group of young people at a festival | Neon

Millennials, eh? It’s all avocado toast, Instagram filters and Netflix. Yeah? Well, no not really. Millennials, and their younger siblings Gen Z are a diverse group who defy expectation. So how can brands truly understand them?

Okay, let’s talk about generation demographics. As marketers, we can’t help but label every possible cohort – “oh, 1984? There’s a name for that, George Orwell.” But the likelihood that your boss, who in every marketing meeting exclaims “but we have to connect with the millennials!”, is in fact accurately describing the correct generation is about as likely as I – a 1996 baby – ever getting on the property ladder (this is because, as a young person, I am spending too much money on smashed avocado on toast.)

The truth is, there is a lot of disagreement about generational segmentation. “Generation Z is from 1996 onwards,” claims the top result on Google searches, but is confident this apocalyptic-sounding group hail from 1995 onwards. Like most things in marketing, it isn’t quite set in stone. If you’re a young person like myself, you’re probably rolling your eyes right now at the prospect of another out-of-touch article written by someone who still maintains the ideology that we’re all lazy, naive, too-cool-for-school youngsters. This article isn’t that though.

Truly trying to decipher the key differences between the close-knit millennials and Generation Z groups came about with the publication of our esports guide – Field of View: Understanding Your esports Audience. esports fans and participants are a diverse bunch, and not predominantly male millennials, as most people may expect. There is a much more granular view of esports demographics that we had to uncover, and simply grouping all young people and stamping them with the millennial title just wouldn’t cut it – so here’s what we actually know, sort of…

The Basics

“Let’s start at the very beginning, a very good place to start…” sings Fräulein Maria in The Sound of Music, a 1965 musical the smashed the box-office 30 years before Generation Z arrived in the big wide world. If you turn to Wikipedia to tell you all about millennials and Generation Z, you’re going to see plenty of those doubtful “disambiguous” brackets surrounding the numbers. So here’s the important thing – everything anyone has ever told you about Millennials or Gen Z has to be taken with a pinch of salt.

Typically the term millennials – also known as Generation Y, to make matters more confusing – refers broadly to those born between the early 1980s up until the mid-1990s, though some researchers go as far to say as being born in the early 2000s qualifies you as a Millennial. Millennials are the generation following on from Generation X, and are typically dubbed as being digital natives because of early access to communications, media and digital technologies.

Now, life isn’t an extensive game of The Sims, unfortunately, so aspects, traits and ideologies aren’t decided by your birth year – however, millennials are noted for being considerably more liberal, confident and achieving. This increase in social liberal views, as well as higher overall support for classical liberal policies than preceding generations, has led to some tensions between millennials and their predecessors – particularly on political matters such as Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union.

Generation Z, the demographic group after the Millennials, bear many similarities in common with their disruptive predecessors. Though there is no precise date for when Generation Z starts or ends; the mid-1990s to early 2000s is generally used as the starting birth year. The most significant thing about this generation is the internet. Yup, that’s right, instead of passing me a pacifier, my mother was handing me my first taste of Internet Explorer.

Just go ahead and call us the iGeneration – oh wait, you do, thanks to MC Lars – as Apple’s first iPod was revealed in 2001, not long after Generation Z was ditching the diapers for Atomic Kitten and Shaggy on repeat. A 2014 study saw Generation Z self-identify as being loyal, open-minded and responsible, traits perhaps influenced by and carried over from the millennials.

The Statistics

Let’s get down to the nitty-gritty. How often have you come across a 20-something that doesn’t own a smartphone? Sure, you might not see them on their iPhones, but 70% of 18-34 year olds use smartphones in the bathroom, which might explain that. Statista found that the highest number of Facebook users was found among 25-34 year olds, of which 5.2 million are women, and 5.5 million men. As a rule of thumb, the older the age group, the lower the number of social media users.

The combination of broad exposure to social media and inherently liberal views has also resulted in a hyper-awareness of social responsibility. 70% of Millennials are confident they would voice their opinions to a company about its social responsibility efforts; either positively or negatively. With 81% of Millennials checking Twitter at least once per day, social media provides unfathomable power and responsibility to young people. If your business trips up on a social media campaign or ad, you’ll sure as hell know about it thanks to younger generations.

Sure, older generations might sneer at our extensive use of social media and smartphones, but with the internet being our second language, we can tackle social injustice just one Tweet at a time.


Okay, so the “facts” on Generation Z and Millennials and be a little iffy, but what we can conclude is that teenagers, right through to 30-somethings, hold more power and potential in their smartphones than ever before. To reach their level, you have to be disruptive, confident and brave across digital, or alternatively, have a multitude of dog images at your disposal.

Adaptable and diverse can be used to explain the digital industry, but can also be applied to Millennials and Gen Z, as in an ever-expanding digital world, these natives harness and contribute to issues that would otherwise be untouchable. Well, that, or Instagram their avocado on toast…

With even Wikipedia doubting itself, the presumptions about millennials and Generation Z are still up-for-debate. What do you think? What are your thoughts? Tweet us @createdbyneon.

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