What do you think of when you hear the term “Millennials?” Chances are, you think this is an idiom used to classify those snot-nosed brats who don’t appreciate the culture and hardships that molded the self-proclaimed “golden age” products of Gen X. Those thoughtless, inconsiderate, privileged, selfie-stick-using a-holes who can’t seem to move out of their parent’s house due to a crippling amount of participation ribbons in their youth. After reading an article on Ad Age about the different microcosms of Gen Y derivatives, my same-aged Millennial cohort and I decided to sound off about our “findings.”
Though this article is geared toward brands who intend to market to our specific demographic, what I’m perplexed by mostly is the odd subset labeling and population percentage this clearly Gen X+ organization (Carat) bequeathed to us. Aside from that, I appreciate the fact that the article reinforced there is no one-true Millennial description. We’re not incompetent, teat-suckling parasites looking for a handout.
We are all subject to the economy/social climate that both Boomers and Gen X have curated for us. We can be tech savvy. We can be early adapters. We can be private. We can be overshare-ers. We can be poor—but these things are true for every generation. I am ambitious like a “Lifeprenuer” but I also love story-driven brands like a “BetaBlazer.” So don’t market AT me, like I’m a free-will credit card. Market meaningful products that work for every station in life.
Michelle Lynn, the creator of the idea of four sub-genres of Millennials, prefaces her findings with the following quote:
“The whole reason I’m doing [the study] is so these people are recognized as individual people, not one big generation… People want to feel like they’re recognized and their needs are being met.”
Sure. People want to feel recognized and like “individual people,” so let’s put them into four super-generic groups. This study doesn’t want to recognize individuals, as they so loftily claim, but to further make limiting and unrealistic stereotypes on a generation that ranges from people aged 15 to 34—one age that’s adapting to high school and maybe just got braces off, another who could conceivably have multiple children, a spouse, a full-time job, and aging parents who need financial help.
The idea of marketing to people getting their learners permits and those taking out small business loans and saving for retirement is asinine to start. Creating these four not-age-related segmentations only further convolutes an already enigmatic generation for marketers.
Take, for example, the “Alter-Natives” described in the article. “Skewing younger,” tending to be “more privacy-aware online,” and tending to “live at home with parents” and “use older gadgets.” Sure, most 15-year-olds live with their parents. They probably use older gadgets because Mom and Dad won’t buy them a new phone until after the contract runs out, even if they dropped the last one in the toilet. And of course they’re more privacy-aware: parental controls still block Cinemax on their home TV.
Admittedly, the sketchy AF AOL chatrooms the mid-and-older aged Millennials scoped out made the whole generation a bit more conscious of the ramifications of digital exhibitionism. You’re welcome, teens.
BetaBlazers, according to the rigorous castes that have been thrust upon us, are 16% of the demographics and “read high-brow and niche publications,” are “a little more exclusive,” and are all “about story-driven brands.” Sure, ok. But again, how does one market to multiple niche points-of-view within a sub-genre within a larger generation within a population as a whole? Among the four “types” I could belong to, this is probably the one that fits the best. However, I’m probably less driven by a story-driven brand… in fact, I’m more likely to think that’s hokey and inauthentic, if done clumsily.
It is a common experience for those of my generation to be watching something on their phone, TV, or computer, and say, “Ew, stop advertising at me.” We hate it. Make an ad that appeals to a “cause,” there will probably be 10 articles the day after it premiers refuting the company’s claims, tying the parent company to some humanitarian disaster, and two movements started to boycott hypocrisy. Make advertising entertaining, and we’ll watch. We won’t forget it’s an ad, so don’t try to mask it. We are a self-aware generation, TV kids grown up into smart-phone adults. We were so over-saturated by media in our youths that some rebel against it, and most of us view all of it with a Gen-Y-sized grain of salt.
The divisions this study made in a wide-reaching demographic seem pretty nonsensical to me. The world is changing, and a generation of people who were overexposed to media in their youths accept it differently than older adults. We’re still going through normal life events, just in a slightly different world.