It’s probably no surprise that “after the millennials” has been one of my key search terms for a while. I first started researching this generation in their infancy in the early 2000s, at a time when very little had yet been written about them. Covering this topic felt very much like entering a land where no man or woman has ever been.
Then a few years ago relevant search criteria started to yield other results than just “Let’s go after the millennials!”, which of course has a different semantic meaning. I suddenly started to see a slight growth in published material on the topic of the next generation.
Only recently have web searches on the post-millennial generation variety started to yield significantly more results.
One reason for this growth is that younger millennials are now often thought of as ‘post-millennials’. It used to be that millennials would stretch into the early 2000s, but now post-millennials are more often thought of as kids born in the 1990s. Why millennials now are “shedding members” to generation Z is a bit puzzling, but I think it has something to do with buzzwords. You see, the millennial-label is getting a bit tired, so if the younger crowd can be jammed into a new, exciting cohort, internet content farms will stay busy. Full disclosure: I am clearly guilty of using generational labels interchangeably myself. But while generational research is not a hard science, the tendency to fudge these boundaries does pose some measuring problems. I have written about generational cut-offs here and you can see my generational timeline here. It is interesting to notice that younger millennials (or generation Z) do differ on important distinctions from older millennials, but I think it’s important we try to be clear which generation we are talking about. Of course in real life there will be no jagged boundaries, but if you compare ‘young millennials’ with ‘generation Z’ you will end us comparing the same cohort with itself.
Then there is this peculiar obsession of finding a name for them. Almost every blog post or thought piece on the topic of generation Z includes a paragraph or two about the absence of an “official name”, which very often leads the writer to make a name suggestion. But why the hurry? Kids often grow up to hate their name anyway, so why can’t we just let them name themselves when the time is right? Yes, I know that the name smith who wins the search engine turf wars will win the gold pot and a whole kingdom. But seriously, who cares? So far I’ve noticed at least a dozen name suggestions for post-millennials, and only one got recognized by Google Trend’s algorithms. This is one reason for why our site is doing so well with most search engines. People typically won’t search for an obscure name concocted at somebody’s co-working space. And after researching this cohort since they were first born, I have yet to see research on post-millennials that digs deep enough or far enough into the future to really capture their essence. So it will be virtually impossible to preemptively find a name that really sticks.
After the Millennials’ raison d’être is to find that essence. This is why our research never ends with a single market research survey or report, but is an ongoing process. While we are starting to grasp the post-millennial uniqueness and the disruptive changes they will have to deal with in their lifetime, we still haven’t made a formal attempt to name them. The youngest generation will emerge on their own terms and baptize themselves. We can study their mores and habits, but they won’t be passively named by their predecessors. In the meantime, feel free to use as many nicknames as you wish. Just don’t expect it to stick.