MTV Chooses New Name for Post-Millennial Generation

Christine Birkner
Marketing News Weekly
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Key Takeaways
What? Marketing experts are still searching for a label for the generation after millennials.

So what? MTV and Red Peak Youth surveyed post-millennials aged 14 and younger, asking them to pick a name for their generation. Survey participants chose the name "the founders."

Now what? If the name "founders" sticks, consider using it or derivatives in naming new products and services.

MTV and Red Peak Youth surveyed post-millennials to pick a new name for the generation: the founders. 

Dec. 7, 2015

Marketing experts still are searching for the perfect label for the generation after millennials, those born after 2000. They’ve been referred to as Gen Z, ‘Gen 9/11,’ the Net generation, and the boomlet generation. Through a new research effort, MTV and Red Peak Youth, the youth-focused unit of New York-based branding agency Red Peak Branding, surveyed more than 1,000 post-Millennials aged 14 and younger in the U.S., asking them to pick a name for their generation. Survey participants chose the name the founders.


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Marketing News Weekly caught up with Jane Gould, MTV’s senior vice president of consumer insights and research, and Alison Hillhouse, vice president of insights innovation for MTV, to discuss the survey and how marketers can craft messages that resonate with the founders generation.

Q: MTV conducted this survey because its researchers found that the generation after millennials doesn’t feel like millennials, but the Gen Z label doesn’t fit them, either. How did the survey participants eventually choose the “founders” moniker? Why do you think it won out over some of MTV’s other choices: the navigators, the regenerators, the builders, or the bridge generation?

AH: We hosted a ton of creative, qualitative focus groups in New York, and we also held them virtually. We asked people what they thought about themselves and who they thought their generation was. We did a ton of naming exercises where they came up with names. Five hundred names came out of these groups, and we constantly heard a theme emerge: ‘We’re founding something. We’re the founders.’ … These guys feel like they’re founding a new world, one that’s more open and diverse. They’re the most diverse generation ever; minorities will outnumber whites. They’re the generation that’s bringing the old world into the new technologically fluid world. They were born with an iPad in their hand.

JG: It also speaks to the stability that they’re all craving. They’ve been born into a world of chaos, and founders reflects that stability they’re looking to bring as they move forward.

Q: Per MTV’s research, each generation has defining characteristics: Gen X rejected societal norms; millennials disrupted a society where the rules no longer made sense to them; and founders are building a new society in the wake of disruption. How do founders differ from generations before them? What are their defining characteristics?

JG: Every generation has their own triggers and reactions to familiar life stages. Founders will have the same life stages as every generation before them, but they will react differently. Gen X was straight-up rebellion: Nobody cares about me; I’m here to look after myself because nobody else will. Millennials were such a wanted generation; they were the beginning of the ‘Baby on Board’ stickers; they were cared for. Gen X was, like, ‘Screw the man,’ but founders have been born into this place of a disrupted world, a disrupted level of the economy and what social norms are. Everything has shifted. They’re reacting to that chaos already, and taking a path of, ‘I can’t expect that the world will take care of us. It’s us taking care of the world.’ They’re following the millennials, a very loud generation. The way to make yourself heard after a loud generation is often to be quietly effective.

Q: How can marketers target the founders? What types of messages will resonate with this generation?

JG: They’re still young, but what’s very clear is that they’re strong and articulate and very much looking to be surrounded by messaging and imagery. Marketers have to use more powerful visual imagery for this younger generation than for millennials.

AH: The idea of customization and choice is going to become even stronger with the founders than it is for millennials. You have two-year-old founders who are swiping between YouTube videos. If they don’t want to watch one, they’re choosing another. They’re growing up, from age two, in a world where their experiences are customized to them. They’re going to expect a level of customization from marketers that I don’t think we can imagine at this point.

Q: MTV has seen its ratings decline over the past few years. How is MTV targeting this new generation? Is it incorporating some of the data from this survey or its other research?

JG: MTV has always been a place and space for youth culture to shine. We stepped into this survey because we saw that this younger generation was being given labels that weren’t right for them. [This research] allows us to be ahead of the game. They’re not in our demographic yet, but it’s important for us that we know how to welcome them into our space. Welcoming this generation is a huge part of our strategy moving forward.


Author Bio:

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Christine Birkner
Christine Birkner is the features editor for the AMA. E-mail her at cbirkner@ama.org and follow her on Twitter @ChristineBirkne.
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