Xennials, a label for the unlabeled generation

Ever felt like you have been wrongly labeled ‘Millennial’? Well, chances are you are in fact a Xennial. Since the early days, marketers have had the urge to label people, especially when it comes to describing consumer cohorts born and living around the same time. Based on your age, you will be placed in a generation bucket labeled baby boomer, Generation X, Millennial, Generation Z or any other generation cohort descriptor. And although you dislike receiving a generation tag, reading about your membership cohort will often trigger a recognizable, shared ‘aha’ feeling. Well, at least for most of us…

Some just simply feel stuck in between generations, like those born in the late seventies or early eighties. Although a theoretical framework will place them in the Generation X or Millennial bucket respectively, these ‘forgotten middle children’ share neither Gen Y’s optimism nor Gen X’s pessimism. They could be considered as a separate kind, a micro-generation. And guess what… they now also have their own label: meet the Xennials.

“The idea is there’s this micro or in between generation between the Gen X group – who we think of as the depressed flannelette-shirt-wearing, grunge-listening children that came after the baby boomers and the Millennials – who get described as optimistic, tech-savvy and maybe a little bit too sure of themselves and too confident,” explains Dan Woodman, a Xennial Associate Professor of Sociology from The University of Melbourne in an interview with Mamamia.

Messenger Sign-up screen

‘Hi, A here … is B home by any chance? Can they come to the phone?’ Does this small scenario nostalgically familiar? Well then, chances are you are a Xennial. Xennials grew up in times when they first had to talk to their friend’s parents before getting their actual friend on the phone when calling their landline. Meet-ups with friends were scheduled in advance, and they just had to be there; no last-minute SMS or WhatsApp message when being late, or wanting to meet up elsewhere.

While their youth was in a sense simple, not having to worry about Facebook likes or Instagram perfect pictures, they did experience the big technological shift during their twenties. They were right within the tech (r)evolution, with the arrival of the first personal computer within the home, which was then replaced with laptops, and they saw how landlines made room for cellphones and, later on, even smartphones.

The clicking and whooshing sound of a modem connecting to the internet is a familiar, nostalgic tone for Xennials that brings them back to the chatting days on ICQ and MSN. Terms like ‘ASL’ (i.e., Age, Sex and Location) are part of their chat dictionary; and if you ask them for their first email address, they will probably hit you with a few embarrassing nicknames linked to Hotmail extensions.

New ICQ for Windows

They might not be as tech-savvy as their younger Millennial counterparts, but they are unique because they grew up right when the offline and online worlds met.

So, if you ever felt misunderstood as a Millennial, know that from now on you’ve got a new label! And if you are missing those ICQ days, no worries – the chat platform does still exist, with an updated version available for all your devices.

Want to explore how your brand can connect with Millennials and Gen Z? Discover what our research toolbox and expert power can do for your brand!

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