Part 3 of a multi-part series on Millennials

I was going to lay off of this series for a week; here at ArCompany we’ve been thinking a lot about how marketers see and think about Millennials, and how important it is that we ‘get it right.’ We earnestly believe that this massive generation is changing so much about the way we think, purchase, and use technology, and that they’ve only just begun.

After the push back I received from Millennials on that initial post we decided that we were going to do something different; instead of analyzing Gen Y from afar, we’re going to engage them here at ArCompany on a regular basis; we are forming our own Millennial Think Tank. We’re in the process of interviewing and lining up members; by next week we should have our first online meeting in some form. Stay tuned – it will be interesting. With all of that, I thought I’d let this series sit idle for a Sunday.

Until my very wise, curmudgeon-y, older GenX friend Mike Pollack poked me one too many times. You see, outside of the circle of marketing friends I have, my ‘other’ friends get a bit weary of what they perceive as my Millennial Worship. Mike likes to take regular shots at what he has called the ‘do nothing generation,’ and I regularly tell him how wrong he is.

Mike isn’t alone on this issue – the disparaging names I often hear about Millennials go something like this:

  • The Look at Me Generation
  • The Everyone Gets a Trophy Generation
  • The Entitled Generation

My exact inspiration for this blog was this vapid post about “Generation Validation” by Annie Daly on Elle. I don’t know Annie Daly, but from what I gather from her Linked In profile she is an older Millennial and freelances for People, Cosmopolitan and other lifestyle magazines. I don’t blame Daly for her Millennial bashing post;it is currently one of the hot things to do, and hell, get published if you can when you’re freelancing.

However, I would pose some very specific questions for anyone nodding their head in agreement to Daly’s post:

What is so very different about the need for validation written about in the post?

You’re telling me that you don’t know lots of people of all ages who dress up and want to be told they look good?

And how many workplace comedians have you known who tell the joke expecting congratulations on their comedic brilliance? I don’t believe Millennials have cornered the market on this specific trait.

My Boomer friend Mel Horn summed up my point perfectly with his response:

We were accused of much the same thing.

The Damage of Disparaging

As Mel pointed out so succinctly, it has long been en vogue to disparage the younger generations, and Millennials’ size and impact makes them an even more enjoyable target for some. On another Facebook conversation my colleague and friend Ryan Cox weighed in with perfect sense:

My $0.02…the ‘entitlement generation’ isn’t mine, it’s the current generation in “power” where both the government (big govt) and the rich (top 1%) seem to be the most ‘entitled’ of all.

I truly believe a hard reset of both common sense, responsibilities and expectations is what is needed. If big government oversight and top 1% power continue down the path we’re trending, there will not be an America (as we know it in terms of prestige and power) to be the govt. or top 1% of. (and I firmly believe that)

That is exactly why I think the sport of damning needs to be taken far more seriously now: Boomers and to some degree Gen X-ers have dug Millennials an unfathomable hole in regards to debt, societal ills, and the environment. It may be fun to rag on what makes them different than us, but to pretend that somehow they have it easier than we did is totally delusional. We better hope like hell that the naysayers aren’t right, because the Millennial generation is in many ways our last, best hope.

Why Hope Outweighs My Pessimism

I didn’t start out a lover of Millennials; a few years back I probably echoed many of the disparaging thoughts I now regularly reject about Gen Y. The reason for my change in outlook is very valid: it comes from my everyday experiences. I am blessed that I work in the social media/tech/online world where the opportunity to work and interact with smart young people is part of my everyday work life.

Not only has my Social Justice series provided me with insight into just how entrepreneurial and socially responsible many Millennials are, I get to watch people like Daniel Hebert and DJ Thistle over at Steamfeed, stepping up the quality of online business publications.  I watch as Millennial thinker Daniel Newman turns the idea of the ‘do nothing’ label on its head, he’s so busy creating so much great stuff. Susan Silver, blogger and community manager extraordinaire, is another daily reason that I refuse to believe the negative hype about Gen Y.

I am also inspired because this generation is more civic minded than any in recent memory; they volunteer regularly at high rates. They vote. They start companies instead of waiting around for a job that won’t come. They hold brands accountable because getting the cheapest product available is not usually the highest issue to impact their purchasing decisions.

Of course in that last paragraph I made a lot of sweeping generalizations; Millennials are not a monolith. There are 80 million of them! That means that of course there are lazy navel gazers amongst them, just like there have been for every generation. I think back to Thoreau’s Walden and think: how many older folks thought of him that way when he took off on his reclusive excursion?

So, like I said in my last post, I’ve decided that the way to really ‘get’ Gen Y is to talk to them on a regular basis. Lots of them, as if they are actually real people. By next week we should have our Millennial Think Tank together, and it will give you the opportunity to ask real questions of real Millennials without the veil of  “journalism” standing in the way.

photo credit: bluewinx15(BACK) via photopin cc