July 14, 2021
It’s me, that 20-something:
The oldest millennial was born in 1981. The youngest Gen Z’er was born in 2012. I was born in 1997—perfectly in the middle. Too young to be considered a millennial and too old to be considered Gen Z… however, I’ve become a blend of both generations: a “Gen-Zennial,” if you will.
Soon, I will turn 24. Approaching my mid-twenties, I am currently in full identity search—surprising, I’m sure. I have been doing a lot of reflecting and learning, post-grad life. Who am I? Where do I fit in? Is this… what I am supposed to be doing with my life? Even to the extent…where I am literally departing from CBX and will be hopping on a one-way flight to Costa Rica to volunteer at a surf camp. Yes, that is real. No, I don’t know how to surf. Hopefully, they’ll teach me!
When I look around at my 20-something “Zennial” peers, we are all in such different stages and chapters of our lives. Some are getting engaged, having children, and paying mortgages. Some are living at home with Mom, restlessly using dating apps, and hanging out at Cowboy Jack’s on the weekends. We’re a beautiful mix of figuring it out and not having a clue. An absolute dream for marketers. Not!
On the cusp:
Lack of identity is not a new issue for kids in their twenties (so I’m told.) However, I remained curious as to whether this feeling aligned with a member of an in-between generation. Apparently, this concept is widely used among sociologists. Before Zennials, there was Xennials, those born between Gen X and millennials. Back even further, before Xennials, there was Generation Jones, those born between baby boomers and Gen X. We are one of the micro-generations born in the years at the end of one generation and the beginning of another, who share a multitude of qualities from both.
Stacy Hintermeister, VP of Marketing & Growth at CBX, is from Generation Jones or, as she refers to it, “Cusp, Xers.” She remembers how in her twenties she so longed to not be viewed as a Gen X’er, especially by her professional counterparts… as she strove to be taken seriously by her older boomer peers. However, as time went on, her mindset changed. “Now, I am proud to be a part of Gen-X. As you get older, you find that you fall into the characteristics of your true generation.” Maybe back in the day, Stacy was just too cool for Nirvana and punk-rock. 🙂
Even though this idea of micro-generations has been discussed in the past, there still is not much out there about Zennials. So, I decided to get the conversation going. I posted a survey on my social media, prompting those born around the years 1992–1999 to answer a few questions. Approximately 50 respondents came through, which gave me a stronger sense of how we “Zennials” might be feeling, confirming Stacy’s thoughts were not unique.
One respondent who was born in 2000 claimed their values were more aligned with millennials, while another respondent who was born in 1994 claimed to align more with Gen Z, despite, technically speaking, being the opposite… and they weren’t the only ones like this. Out of these results, another intriguing find was that, when asked what generation they are a part of, 31.4% said that it changes based on where they are and who they are with. It’s clear that Zennials are quite fluid in how they identify themselves between the two generations. This could make it tricky for brands and marketers to nail us down in a creative brief.
Meeting in the middle:
Much like my fellow CBX Zennial Madi Rinaldi, I am considered a part of Generation Z. However, I too was influenced by my older millennial siblings and experienced millennial culture. Madi notes in her blog how, being intertwined with both generations, we are in a special position— it’s true; however, it is a confusing position as a consumer. Media and marketers have split Gen Z’ers and Millennials into separate entities, generations existing on their own. For those who fall into both camps, like myself—we are left wondering: Where do we belong? What category do we fall into? As if these questions aren’t already a part of my daily repertoire.
But seriously, how do we solve this? Just like any consumer, the Gen-Zennials want to feel represented and seen. They want to know the brands they trust and purchase, understand them. In my survey, I asked respondents to list brands that they feel accurately target them. Here’s what I gathered and what brands I believe marketers should be paying attention to:
Well, this one is just obvious. People in their twenties drink. Just like seltzers, drinking is somewhat new to us. It’s an experience—“Good, Clean, Fun,” as White Claw claims. They seem to have led the charge in this category, but many brands hopped on the trend—Bon Viv, High Noon, Truly, to name a few. Seltzers are colorful and come in a variety of different flavors. Anyone is allowed to enjoy them. As long as you’re 21-plus, of course.
Active & lifestyle wear—
Nike, Lululemon, Outdoor Voices, Patagonia, Aerie… the list could go on of what was mentioned in the survey. Not only do these brands champion real people and real bodies, many of them actively stand for social causes. They are unafraid to push boundaries while staying rooted in their values.
Service at your fingertips—
From Uber and Doordash to streaming services such as Spotify and Netflix… we Zennials have enough going on (refer to my quarter-life crisis mentioned in paragraph 2). Please make our lives easier. Curated playlists, individualized recommendations, food at my door with a click of button… enough said.
Brands have a new opportunity to tap into this micro-generation. It is their responsibility to get to know the link between millennials and Generation Z if they want to fully understand either of them. The more effort your brand puts into us, the more value we become to your brand. I believe this is only the beginning of the conversation, yet it is upon us. We 20-something Gen-Zennials will not get lost in the mix—we are your recent graduates, youngest co-workers, newest innovators, future leaders, and forever consumers. We will help write the history of your brands—if you let us.