Move over, Generation X--it's time to make way for a new breed of boomer children. Even prudent marketers are zeroing in for a closer look at the "Net Generation"--the youngest clad in diapers, the oldest aged 20.
"There are now, in the U.S. alone, 81 million N-Geners," says Don Tapscott, author of Growing Up Digital: The Rise of the Net Generation (McGraw-Hill). "What makes them a historic force for social transformation is not just their demographic muscle but that they're growing up during a communication revolution."
That revolution was fed by the Internet, says Tapscott, which transformed the early notion of computers as information management tools into the major communication mediums of today. The advent of cyberspace has, in turn, changed the way today's kids think as well as how they behave as consumers. When marketing to the Net generation, remember they prefer to shape the world around them. Give them options and don't force them to commit to anything.
Though we've attempted to define the Net generation, the lines defining the beginning and end of the Baby Boom are possibly the only ones that enjoy a general consensus. Since then, not only the labels but the years involved have blurred. Nonetheless, here are some of the more popular labels circulating today:
- Baby Boom: 1946 to 1964
- Baby Bust, also known as Gen X: 1965 to 1977
- Net Generation: According to Tapscott, this spans 1977 to 1997.
- Echo Boom: Though many claim the Echo Boom started in 1977, it truly began booming in 1988, when nearly 4 million children were born in the United States.