Get To Know Trophies, On-Lines, and Generation App

Technology and the recession are significant disrupters dividing the millennial generation.  In fact, Rebecca Lindland, founder and consultant,, separates millennials into two groups; and while millennials are generally considered to have been born between 1999 and 1981, she also blurs that line.

Rebecca spoke to a group of auto dealers at a recent auto show I attended, wearing my other hat—that of auto journalist.  I’m always fascinated at the similarities between the automotive and home building industries, particularly when it comes to demographics and buying habits.  For example, Rebecca pointed out that car buyers are concerned about affordability; more shoppers are being pushed to used inventory.  She said consumers are doing more research online and visiting fewer dealers in person.  Does any of this sound familiar?

And here’s an interesting note—61 percent of buyers who recently purchased or leased a vehicle said that the most recent purchase experience was the same or worse.  Could we, too, be guilty of putting all of our focus on the effort to entice them online, but trailing far behind in simplifying the in-person processes and experiences?  On the list of most frustrating annoyances:  filling out paperwork/contracts, negotiating price, dealing with a salesperson, searching inventory, valuing their trade-in, and applying for financing.  Hmmm….

So what did Rebecca have to say about those minds that we are all trying to understand and get inside of? She starts by defining “The Trophy Generation” born between 1978 and 1988.  The oldest among this group was eight years old when the internet became available to the public.  Trophies were hugely impacted by 9-11 and the 2008 Great Recession, which hit when they were 20 to 30 years old.  As parents, Trophies seem to be more like their parents–the Boomers; their children are included in major life decisions.


  • Were coddled, pampered and protected by “helicopter parents”
  • Seek experience rather than possessions (live for the moment)
  • Are image-conscious, motivated and optimistic
  • Expect instant gratification
  • Embrace diversity
  • Are not responsible for failures (everybody gets a trophy!)
  • Are environmentally conscious
  • Are tech savvy

When it comes to vehicles, they won’t wait for premium, Rebecca said.  They seek an “aspirational” brand but are open to brand resurgence and new brands. They value “in-your-face” statement-making design and technology.  In their teens and young adult years, Trophys wanted premium Hummers and Audis.  Today, they still want Audi, and have added Tesla and Land Rover to their list of favorite brands.   Delivery and service experiences are critical to loyalty; the vehicle must be “responsible for itself.”

young generations home buyers

Home builder read on the Trophy Generation:

  • Focus on the sale and delivery experience
  • Staging and merchandising are important; sell the life experience
  • They’ll look for killer home designs with all the high-tech bells and whistles—things that impress, things that make life more convenient. (Life is not supposed to be difficult!)
  • Easy maintenance is a must; they’ll expect someone to remind them about it and do it for them.  (Sell or refer maintenance services.)
  • Wow the kids; remember, they’re part of the decision-making process
  • Build your brand

What Rebecca calls the “Online Generation” was born between 1989 and 1999.  While they share many characteristics of the Trophy Generation, the post-recession years occurring during their young adulthood had a more lasting effect on them.  Many grew up in affluence that was abruptly halted by the Great Recession and its aftermath.  They are confident yet cautious, with an eye towards authenticity and willing to put off a full-time career for life experiences and stamps in their passport.  Their most valued possessions are in the cloud.

The Online Generation is rather agnostic towards vehicles and are the first generation that is not defined by car ownership.  Technology is their ticket to freedom; Uber and Lyft are a way of life.  They are quick to adopt shared mobility models and ready to embrace autonomous vehicle technology, with Tesla reigning supreme as their favorite brand.

Builder take on the Online Generation:

  • If you’re not online in your marketing, get ready to retire.  Don’t rest on your brand longevity, either.  The new guy has an equal chance.
  • Remember that buying a house isn’t at the top of their list of priorities; sell the investment upside/resale value.  These are not emotional buyers.
  • Don’t try to push them toward the highest end or most amenities—they will fear getting in over their heads or having to limit their travel.
  • If they don’t have children, don’t assume that’s their dream.
  • Don’t expect for them to buy today’s mainstream housing product; for one, they may not want a garage.
  • They may embrace mid-century modern, because this generation spent more time with their grandparents, Rebecca said.

What’s Next?

Like the Onlines, Generation App (aka Gen Z) born after 1999 have parents that are a combination of Baby Boomers that waited to start families until later, and Gen Xers. While Boomers treat kids like friends and indulge their every whim, Gen X are more strict and traditional parents, so this makes it difficult to put generalities on this generation.  It’s this generation that is causing the most disruption and angst for marketers because their mindsets are diverse, splintered by the broad age range of their parents and influenced by technology that is now adopted in months and years instead of years and decades.  Generation App have no recollection of life before smart phones, 9-11, internet, social media, iPad or Uber/Lyft.  Imagine that Steve Jobs is a historical figure to them—the oldest in this group as 12 when he died in 2011.

What will we build for them?  Possibly, it will just be a structure with outside walls and a roof.  We’ll just give them a 3D headset that allows them to “live” inside rooms they design in augmented reality!

Rebecca Lindland’s demographics expertise and Beverly Smirnis’ veteran home building industry experience are a powerful combination!  Contact us about training your sales and design teams to understand and anticipate the buying habits of today’s and tomorrow’s homebuyers by emailing

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