Understanding 'Generation Jones' and other mini-generation gaps

There are many mini-generation gaps that don't fit neatly into Baby Boomer or Generation Y values.

They were the Baby Boomers who didn't make it to Woodstock -- because it would have taken them way past their bedtimes.

While much has been made about the heritage of the Baby Boomers, who fomented the hippie counterculture and burned down draft boards, there is actually a larger segment of this cohort -- their younger siblings -- who more or less missed the 1960s and came of age in the following decade.

And they even have a strange name, these later baby boomers, born between the years 1954 and 1965 -- "Generation Jones." I recently came across a reference to Generation Jones as part of a recent IBM survey on consumer attitudes, and found the differences between them and Baby Boomers compelling.

Jonathan Pontell, who coined the term for this 53 million-member-strong generational segment, describes this generation as stuck "between Woodstock and Lollapalooza." They didn't buy into or were too young to understand the Baby Boomer tantrums; yet they were a tad to old to join the Gen-Xers in the mosh pits. Pontell describes their heritage:

So who are we? We are practical idealists, forged in the fires of social upheaval while too young to play a part. The name "Generation Jones" derives from a number of sources, including our historical anonymity, the 'keeping up with the Joneses' competition of our populous birth years, and sensibilities coupling the mainstream with ironic cool. But above all, the name borrows from the slang term 'jonesin'' that we as teens popularized to broadly convey any intense craving."

President Obama and Michelle Obama are members of Generation Jones. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke is also a member. So is Sarah Palin and Simon Cowell.

Marketing Guru Jim Welch (longtime head of marketing for Hallmark Cards) says members of this generation  have different memories of events associated with baby boomers. But this is a prime group for business to target. They are "still longing for fulfillment," he says.  "They are individuals that are much more open to influence at this point in their lives.  They are very open to change, and considering change. They are much more open to being persuadable, and open to being persuadable to trying new things."

At the younger end of the scale, even Generation Y doesn't fit so neatly into a single definition or value set.  Brad Stone, writing in the New York Times, says "the ever-accelerating pace of technological change may be minting a series of mini-generation gaps, with each group of children uniquely influenced by the tech tools available in their formative stages of development."

For example, today's pre-school children think nothing of playing computer games and even fiddling with smartphones. Teenagers are fully immersed in social networking and text messaging. 20-somethings are more inclined to still be using email. The younger they are, the more likely they are multitaskers -- typing messages into Facebook, text messaging, and watching television all at the same time.

The pace of technology is shaping generational perceptions at a rapid pace, as cited by Lee Rainie, director of the Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life Project:

“People two, three or four years apart are having completely different experiences with technology. College students scratch their heads at what their high school siblings are doing, and they scratch their heads at their younger siblings. It has sped up generational differences.”

The youngest component of this generation may not even really know what printed newspapers are, and, as Stone puts it, "will believe the Kindle is the same as a book."

And, he adds, "they will all think their parents are hopelessly out of touch." Well, at least some things never change.

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com