Talkin’ Bout My Generation

30 Jan

Every week I see a handful of articles offering up the newest “insight” on Millennials. “7 Tricks for Marketing to Millennials.” “How to Keep Millennial Employees Happy.” “What Millennials Care About for Food.”

I read most of the articles I see. Partly because I am a brand strategist, and need to know as much as I can about important targets my clients want to reach. Partly because I am inherently curious, and love pulling apart differences. And partly because I’m a Millennial myself – and, well, it’s entertaining to see generalizations about my generation.

The takeaways on Millennials can get rather contradictory. Trophy kids, or people out to change the world? Entitled, or empowered? Lazy, or let down by older Americans who created a troubling economy? Most sources seem to agree that we like stories in our marketing, experiences over objects, and seek fulfillment from every bit of our lives.

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A handy chart from The Atlantic (http://goo.gl/NU3Nmj)

I love picking apart data to understand the why and the how. When I read many of these articles, the insights feel off. I think some of these authors are so excited to share a click-worthy article, they forget to crouch their insights in context. Conclusions about generations are really best done longitudinally: showing shifts in behaviors and values over time, as different generations pass the same age mark. Otherwise, what you’re seeing is more of a snapshot about a particular generation at 1 point in time. That works just fine for most marketing purposes: e.g. knowing that Millennials would rather buy experiences is very helpful for a wedding registry company targeting Millennial couples. But when it comes to making conclusions about the generation as a whole, it’s misleading to do so within the context of a simple study that doesn’t control for life-stage, societal shift, etc. Many of the “trends” I read seem more about life-stage than generation. Others mark a general societal shift: people getting married later, easier access to international travel, etc.

There’s one other big difference with Millennials that really stands out to me. This is essentially the first generation that’s been subject to rapid-fire, widespread inspection by the Internet masses. Over the past several years we’ve seen a marked shift in the way “news” and “content” are produced and disseminated. We have more content than ever before- some of it amazing, some of it terrible. Everyday we see 10 more articles about Millennials… because we can. It’s possible there were just as many studies commissioned about Gen X or Boomers, but most people never saw them. A larger proportion of information gets spread around today. There’s a lower filter on what is published, there’s a lower bar for what counts as “news” and the need for content and clicks leads to hyperbolic headlines and a constant race to find something new.

We’re bombarded by news about Millennials in a way that’s evolving with our media landscape. But if you’re sick of hearing about Millennials, don’t worry – Gen Z is up next, and they’re already starting to steal headlines away from my sometimes loved, sometimes hated generation.

 

 

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6 Responses to “Talkin’ Bout My Generation”

  1. Robert Kirkendall February 1, 2016 at 11:00 PM #

    From my perspective as an X’er the big difference for Millennials is technology. More technology creating more more media and more ways to access such media. When I look back on the days of only three networks and having to wait until summer reruns to see a show you missed, it seems so quaint.

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    • Felicia Baskin February 2, 2016 at 7:51 AM #

      Completely agree. Our entire media landscape has shifted over the years. It’s funny to think about how hard I used to try to be home at the right time for the right show.

      Technology has become such a big part of our lives that it’s easy to forget when we didn’t have it. Sometimes I have to remind myself that I didn’t have home Internet until I was 13. Millennials are embracing technology to change cultural norms, but Gen Z after me are the true digital natives who are likely going to stun us with all the ways technology is ingrained into their ways of living, doing and thinking.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Robert Kirkendall February 2, 2016 at 2:44 PM #

        It’ll be really interesting to see what the Z’s accomplish, the generation born on the other side if the digital divide.
        When I was a child, one of my great grandmothers was still alive. She was born in 1888 in Arkansas, and when I think of the world she grew up in compared to where the world is going now, it astounds me.
        Hopefully the Z’s won’t turn us X’ers into Soylent Green 😃

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      • Felicia Baskin February 2, 2016 at 4:14 PM #

        Gosh, that must have been so interesting to speak to your grandma about the changes she’d noticed. I love the Beloit Mindset list- it shows key shifts in freshmen mindsets over time based on their birth year. I think you’ll like it too! https://culturecookies.wordpress.com/tag/mindset-list/

        Liked by 1 person

      • Robert Kirkendall February 3, 2016 at 10:01 PM #

        Yes, very good. And that link to the post with the 25 Things brought back a lot of memories. I used to bus tables in high school/college, back when they still had smoking sections. Now I’m pretty sure California is going to start jailing smokers. 😀

        Liked by 1 person

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  1. The Annual Report (vol. 4) | Culture Cookies - January 16, 2017

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