An infographic linking the value types of race, age, gender, geography, ethnicity, education, orientation, & income.

It’ll Be Okay, Boomer

How Values-based Intersectionality Can Move Us Beyond Generational Divides

I was among the roughly 3.6 million people who were born in the U.S. in 1980. According to most generational scholars, this would put me at the tail end of Generation X (1965-1980). But do I really belong in the same category as people who had already voted in five presidential elections before I was even able to (legally) drink a beer? And I’m not alone. One Pew Research Center Study showed that 42% of Gen-Xers did not identify as such while the vast majority (60%) of Millennials resisted the label.

As marketers, we can do better than relying on just demographics for categorizing humans.  Enter Values-based Intersectionality.

Intersectionality research can be a bit of a loaded term, as it was coined to bring attention to the struggles that women of color faced in a white-male-dominated workplace. But from a pure analytics perspective, the goal of Intersectionality research is to understand the combined influence two or more variables have on a particular outcome. Values-based Intersectionality takes this a step further as we apply our Zenzi Values Wheel to those variables. The outcome is a much richer, more nuanced understanding of your audience. As an example, we surveyed 625 U.S. residents with equal representation across four generations—Gen Z, Millennial, Gen X, and Boomer—and looked at their relative social media usage. Looking closer at a platform like Instagram, we see 81% of Gen Z use IG at least once a week, while only 39% of Boomers did the same.

INSTAGRAM % Use by Generation

81% 74% 62% 39%

When we applied our Values scale to those same respondents, we found that heavy IG users tended to fall within the “Pleasure Seeker spoke of our Zenzi Values Wheel. Where it gets cool is when you start to look at where these two things intersect:

The graph above shows how different generations’ usage of IG changes depending on their Value type. This particular case zooms in on those who identify as Pleasure Seekers. Where you see a big variance is among Millennials. A high Pleasure Seeking Millennial has the same IG usage as Gen Z but a low Pleasure Seeking Millennial has the same IG usage as Gen X. In these cases, the person’s Value type was a much stronger indicator of how they would behave than their generational status; in fact, their Value type allowed them to cut across multiple generations.

When coupled with Values-based behaviors, Intersectionality research has the power to show us that we are more than just our age, gender, or ethnicity. Being a “Millennial” or “Gen-Xer” doesn’t define us. The values we share can connect us to people we may have thought we had little in common with. As marketers, this information leads us to a more nuanced understanding of who we should be connecting with and how we should be talking to them.

-Damien LaManna, Executive Vice President, Managing Director