X, Y, Z … A?


Dub them Y-nots or Alphas, one thing is certain: My son’s generation comes with finely-tuned chocolate cookie detection ability.

If you adopt an alphabetized naming system, think twice before starting with X. You will run out of letters in no time.

Having gone through X, Y, and Z, marketers are wondering what to call the rising generation of preschool- and elementary school-age children. Fortune remains agnostic as to what the name will be. Futurist Mark McCrindle blogged that submissions in response to a survey included “… the Regeneration, Generation Hope, Generation New Age, the Saviours, Generation Y-not and the New Generation.”

Much as I like the idea of calling my kids “Y-Nots,” what seems to be gaining favor and will likely prevail is a suggestion that we circle back to the letter A with “Generation Alpha.” This may be due in large part to the fact that McCrindle, who does not want for media exposure, has championed it in a big way.

I bring up McCrindle with hesitation. There is some question as to how much to rely on his claims. ABC Media Watch looked into him and emerged not altogether reassured:

… the media have been happily running this stuff for years, without apparently ever bothering to question its claims. It’s just typical of the dross that fills our TV, radio and newspaper every day.

But all the media coverage gives McCrindle Research the publicity to attract private, paying clients. And it gives Mark McCrindle a high profile on the lucrative public speaking circuit.

Either way, McCrindle’s term of choice seems to be edging out competing ones. Publications that have embraced “Alphas” and credit McCrindle for it include Forbes, Business Insider, The New York Times, and Business.com.

An Advertising Age piece by Sysomos chief strategy officer David Berkowitz treats the adoption of “Alphas” as a fait accompli, albeit without reference to McCrindle. Perhaps prematurely, since by his definition the oldest Alphas will start elementary school next year, Berkowitz predicted “13 Things to Know About the Alpha Generation.” He goes out somewhat on a limb with a couple of specifics, like Alphas will “hate sharing the economy” and love “full-fat, organic dairy,” but most of his predictions are broad and, therefore, safe: I challenge you to name any population to whom you couldn’t retrofit “They don’t play by the rules” or “They break free of any boundaries.” Guaranteed not to fail is “They are very mobile, except when they’re stationary.” Can’t argue with that.

The possible absurdity of predicting Alphas’s behaviors this early is summed up in a pragmatic question that Alex Williams of The New York Times put to McCrindle in an interview conducted by email:

Is it jumping the gun to try to define a group of people who are barely past the age of watching ‘Barney & Friends’?

Instead of answering, McCrindle raved about Alphas in terms of projected numbers:

There are more than 2.5 million Gen Alphas born globally every week. When they have all been born (2025), they will number almost two billion. They start school next year and will be the most formally educated generation ever, the most technology supplied generation ever, and globally the wealthiest generation ever.

Maybe so. But then, maybe we should give Alphas a little more time to grow up before committing dollars to anyone’s predictions.

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