4It's Life Stages, Not Ages: The Generation Myth and the Power of Personalization

3-D diagram showing the outline of a human figure.

The first step to being more human in our marketing and strategic communications efforts is to realize when we're making unhelpful assumptions about our customers. One of these is the myth that people are best defined by what generation they belong to. Generations are an invention of demographers and have been eagerly adopted by journalists as an easy news peg to reach for in the rush for explanations.

But the explanations for human behavior, even mass behavior, are more nuanced than what year or decade we were born in.

A great deal of ink has been spilled recently about people born between 1981 and 1997, so‐called millennials.

In truth, millennials aren't that different from other generations, aside from having higher student debt than their elders and growing up with smartphones, and it's a critical error to think of them as a homogenous, distinct group that we've never seen before.

Where did all these preconceived notions come from? Who decided that millennials are lazy, entitled, noncommittal and easily sidetracked by technology, or that baby boomers are technophobes who are set in their ways and don't care about future generations and just want to retire?

Years ago, psychologists believed that only bigoted people used stereotypes. But over time studies of unconscious bias revealed the truth ...

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