Who Comes After the Millennials?: A Case for ‘Gen 9/11’

Ann A. Fishman
Marketing Insights
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Key Takeaways
  • The name given to a new generation should reflect an important element unique to it alone. 
  • Historic events that occur during its formative years determine that generation’s values, attitudes and lifestyles.
  • Members of Gen 9/11 experienced the fallout from both the war in Afghanistan and the war in Iraq.

So much is made over the millennials (born from 1982 to 2000) that marketers are confused about naming the next generation. So far, experts have referred to it as Gen Z, the centennial generation, the boomlet generation, the Net generation, the homeland generation, the selfie generation, and the iGen generation. 

The name given to a new generation should reflect an important element unique to it alone. In the book Generations, authors Neil Howe and William Strauss wrote about the G.I. generation (born from 1901 to 1924), the silent generation (born from 1925 to 1942), and the boomer generation (born from 1943 to 1960). The silent generation was so named because it was wedged between two powerful generations and was often overlooked. 

The name Generation X (born from 1961 to 1981) was a term popularized in Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture, a novel by Douglas Coupland. It stuck because X is the symbol for the unknown, and Gen Xers were so different from baby boomers and, therefore, an unknown factor. The millennial generation (born from 1982 to 2000) was relevantly named by Howe and Strauss.  

If a name for a newly formed generation often reflects an event critical to its formation, it seems logical to me to call America’s newest, youngest generation Gen 9/11. All children born after Sept. 11, 2001, will experience a world totally different from all generations that preceded it.   

Historic events that occur during its formative years determine that generation’s values, attitudes and lifestyles. While everyone in a generation is not necessarily alike, people whose formative years were spent during the Great Depression are probably thrifty. People whose formative years were during Vietnam and the Nixon era probably tend to question authority.

After the horrific events of Sept. 11, children were treated differently. Unique characteristics emerged, forged by these events and others that occurred during this new generation’s formative years. Members of Gen 9/11 experienced the fallout from both the war in Afghanistan and the war in Iraq. This new generation experiences overprotection because of the threat of terrorism. They are overprotected at school because of Columbine-type incidences, and they are overprotected at home because of kidnappings and AMBER Alerts. 

Gen 9/11 is treated unlike any other generation. They are followed by global tracking devices in their smartphones. They use encoded credit cards that let their parents know where they are spending money and what they are spending it on. Gen 9/11 will never know what it’s like to walk through an airport without seeing or experiencing an elaborate security inspection. Children who are overprotected to this extent tend to avoid risk, which means, as adults, that they will become a generation of conformists, sort of a modern-day version of the silent generation.

With all these factors to deal with, marketing to Gen 9/11 is a different beast altogether. Brands will have to appeal to three generations: overprotective parents, highly involved grandparents and the unique, young Gen 9/11 consumers, themselves. 

So what’s in a name? In this case, the name Generation 9/11 provides insight into the hearts and minds of America’s youngest, newest generation.


This article was originally published in the August 2015 issue of the Marketing Insights e-newsletter​.


Author Bio:

 
Ann A. Fishman
Ann Arnof Fishman is president of New York-based Generational Targeted Marketing and the author of Marketing to the Millennial Woman.
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Displaying 2 Comments
Melissa Fama - Flis
August 10, 2015

Excellent article. We were just wondering yesterday what the youngest generation will be or is named. I completely agree with the overprotective parents and the highly involved grandparents.

Renato Couto
August 12, 2015

Since they are so young I think it's hard to tell, but it might be a very biased generation

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