Research Publication Title

The Social Construction of Generations: On the dubious value of the generational model in marketing and public discourse

Major

Sociology

Faculty Mentor(s)

Dr. Bradley Koch; Dr. Stephanie McClure

Keywords

Sociology, Millennials, Generations, Marketing, Social Constructs, Qualitative Research

Abstract

Over the past century, the mention of the terms “generation” and “Millennial” have increased significantly. A number of news sources and current articles are using “Millennial” to reference the birth cohort of those born starting in the early-1980s and ending around the mid-1990s to early-2000s. When “Millennial” is placed in a headline, it is done so to trigger a set of characteristics and behaviors that are said to be linked to all young adults. Recently, many marketing companies are concerned with what they are calling “Centennials.” Centennials is said to be a subset of the Millennial generation addressing those who are born after 1997. In the context of an internship with an international marketing firm, I completed secondary research on the labeled characteristics for “Millennials” and “Centennials,” a series of interviews were conducted with each of these groups. The results of the primary research, collected from a convenience sample, did not align with the secondary research and led the study to look at how the social construction of the term “generations” creates a false perception in society that leads individuals who are grouped and labeled to feel alienated.

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The Social Construction of Generations: On the dubious value of the generational model in marketing and public discourse

Over the past century, the mention of the terms “generation” and “Millennial” have increased significantly. A number of news sources and current articles are using “Millennial” to reference the birth cohort of those born starting in the early-1980s and ending around the mid-1990s to early-2000s. When “Millennial” is placed in a headline, it is done so to trigger a set of characteristics and behaviors that are said to be linked to all young adults. Recently, many marketing companies are concerned with what they are calling “Centennials.” Centennials is said to be a subset of the Millennial generation addressing those who are born after 1997. In the context of an internship with an international marketing firm, I completed secondary research on the labeled characteristics for “Millennials” and “Centennials,” a series of interviews were conducted with each of these groups. The results of the primary research, collected from a convenience sample, did not align with the secondary research and led the study to look at how the social construction of the term “generations” creates a false perception in society that leads individuals who are grouped and labeled to feel alienated.