Barely does a generation get started than marketers ask: what do we call it for advertising purposes?
There seems to be a new nickname gaining traction for the hyper-diverse, tech-savvy post-millennial cohort that will soon start spilling into adulthood: the grimly descriptive “homeland generation.”
The moniker, a reference to the fact that its members grew up in the shadow of 9/11, was first established through an online naming contest in 2006 hosted by Neil Howe and William Strauss, two of the foremost thinkers on generational trends. But it didn’t hold much weight until the White House communications team lent the label some credence last year by using it in a report.
That, of course, also made it the butt of many jokes and a healthy dose of ridicule, courtesy of the Twittersphere.
But experts who have coined competing designations for the cohort aren’t quite ready to roll over and accept it as an official label. Depending on who you ask, this age group is called the plurals, the iGeneration, Generation Z or, the unimaginative placeholder term, post-millennials.
Cheryl Russell, a prominent demographer who writes a blog called Demo Memo, said she’s not a fan of the “Homelander” term.
“It’s a little militaristic for my taste,” Russell told Mashable. “It sounds like something out of World War II.”
Of course, Russell is not exactly unbiased — she claims to have originated the nickname iGeneration in 2009 and continues to use it in the various publications put out by New Strategist Press, where she is editorial director.
Homelanders — do we use ‘homies,’ for short? — comprise an age group that begins with those born somewhere between the mid-1990s and the mid-2000s and spans through the present day.
They are the most racially and ethnically diverse generation in history, and, at 19% of the U.S. population, they constitute a slightly smaller slice than millennials, who make up about 29%, according to a Goldman Sachs research report that uses a 2001 birthdate cutoff.
As a whole, the ‘homeland’ generation is also markedly less affluent than those before it, having grown up with a recession and a housing crisis looming over the economy, according to Russell. That also has to do with the fact that minorities constitute a larger portion of the generation than ever before.
For marketers, that means it will be a must to have a diverse staff from a variety of backgrounds to mirror the homelanders, Russell said.
People tend to think of the character of this generation as being “super millennials” — just like the generation before them but with more pronounced characteristics — but that’s not quite correct, says Sharalyn Orr, a marketing consultant who specializes in generational trends at research firm Frank N. Magid Associates.
(Orr’s firm coined the term “plurals” for the generation as a nod to the diversity — and stands by it).
Whereas millennials are dewey-eyed optimists ready to take on the world, homelanders are more grounded in reality, she said. Part of that is because millennials were raised by idealistic baby-boomers, eager to be their friend, while homelanders were raised by pragmatic Gen Xers who weren’t afraid of tough love.
“[Baby boomer parents] would tell them, ‘You could do and be anything you want. The world is your oyster,'” Orr said. “[Gen] Xer parents are trying to ground them in reality, like, ‘Okay you probably can’t do anything you want, let’s take the things that you do want to do and let’s work at it and get better at it.'”
Homelanders live and breathe technology — they are the first to have ever grown up with social media accounts and smartphones from a very young age, and they start creating their own “personal brands” during these formative years.
“Think about this quantifiable lifestyle, it’s all they’ve ever known,” Orr said. “ You post a funny picture on Instagram and you know exactly how funny you are. You’re 47 likes and 4 comments funny.“
They have a very clear vision of what they want from a product or service, Orr said, and marketers will need to constantly interact with them and involve them in a conversation in order to keep up with them.