Today’s guest post is by Peppercommer Chris Piedmont.
Pick up a newspaper, tune into NPR (or Rush Limbaugh if you’re feeling adventurous), or turn on CNN. Chances are, at some point during the broadcast, there will probably be some mention of the Millennial generation. As we continue to come of age and are recognized as the future of the country, the focus of many has turned from Baby Boomers to us. Most articles or mentions of Millennials are negative and if you believe these thoughts, then you’d think the future of our workforce and country is a bleak one. Full disclosure, I contributed to this when I implored my fellow Millennials to “wake up” and get involved in the political process. Are we really any different than past generations?
Born in 1992, I am a true Millennial. In fact, I’m what RepMan would refer to as an “eBaby”- those who don’t know what life is like without technology at their fingertips. Looking back, I realized that my age group is one of, if not the first, to truly grow up immersed in this changed, technological world. At school, we had computers in every classroom and practiced our coursework using educational games. We watched tape players become CD players and then iPods. VHS tapes became DVDs and then Blue-Rays. TVs got thinner. Some of us got cell phones in elementary school (my parents held out until high school). Middle school was ruled by MySpace; high school by Facebook; and college by Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr, and reddit. We know nothing but this world. But, is that really a fault as some would have you think?
Last week, I was doing research for a client when I saw a trending article come across the bottom of my screen and the Forbes article “Millennials: Entitled or Enlightened?” immediately drew me in. In this thoughtful article, Brian Havig tackles the idea that Millenials are entitled and whether, if we are, it’s truly a bad thing.
He begins by describing an encounter at a restaurant where he left after receiving terrible service. On the way out, he voiced his concerns to the manager and was told that he was “acting entitled” by expecting decent service. What shocked me, was that Havig then embraces this label of entitlement and points out the reasons it can be a good thing. For example, “entitled people expect things, and when they don’t get them, they take action…and that action leads to getting better service at restaurants, but also changing cultural customs, the laws of a country, and the companies we buy from.”
Millennials are NOT a bunch of spoiled children. We’ve grown up in a world, much as Havig points out, that our every opinion (whether insightful or not) has been heard and we are now making those opinions known to the brands we are loyal to. That instant feedback we so willingly give presents an immense opportunity to every brand and organization out there, because we provide a real-time look at what your ACTUAL customer experience is, not what you hope it is.
At Peppercomm, we are audience focused and strive to listen, above all else. Listen, and you’ll know what’s going on with your brand’s perception. Listen, and you’ll be able to handle client concerns instantly before they become bigger problems. Listen to the eBabies, the Millennials, Generation X, the Baby Boomers, and every other section of your audience. Listen, and you will learn.
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Well put, Chris. Stereotyping is human nature; we have to do it to some degree to make sense of the world. However, these artificial categorizations which help us make sense of things in a broad view eventually become like Frankenstein’s creature. We forgot we made them, and they start to rule us. So, when companies start saying, “We have to do X to reach Millennials,” etc., I worry that they’ve fallen victim of believing their own myth. Marketers do this all the time with segmentation profiles…How do we reach the soccer mom, etc.?, when there may not actually be anyone who fits the extreme version of that profile in existence.
Sam, thanks for the comment and I couldn’t agree more. I’d take your point one step further to say that stereotypes and generalizations in general serve no purpose. You cannot realistically assume that the thoughts, feelings, and actions of members of any demographic are the same among all members.
I can’t help but think that much time would be saved if we, as a society, instead focused on individual’s merits and accomplishments rather than broad generalizations and stereotypes. Of course, that’s a rather lofty dream since we’re all guilty of using stereotypes whether we realize it or not.
You make an interesting point here, Chris. One of our hypotheses with the Spreadable Media book is that even having the expectation that you can publish your opinion about something causes you to potentially act as audience in a more active way…to know you even have recourse to join in dialogue if need be. For people raised in an era when those means of two-way dialogue were much harder, that ability to take action might not always be quite as apparent. But I think that it’s changing how people much older than Millennials are also now responding to brands.
In a larger sense, though, I think the question you are trying to wrestle with is one that speaks to frustrations I have with hyperbole about generational stereotypes…Anytime a sentence starts with “Gen Xers believe that…” I tend to quit paying attention. I just think we take too seriously the idea that people’s primary sense of affiliation or determining characteristic is what manufactured age segmentation they fall into.
Thanks for sharing, Sarah. I found the infographic hit the nail on the head. Although I’m lacking in the tattoo department (and plan to be for the forseeable future), it really sums up the feelings I know a lot of Millennials have.
I completely agree, and so does Matt Bors, author of a hilarious cartoon on CNN.com today: http://www.cnn.com/2013/07/09/opinion/bors-millenial-comic-strip/index.html?hpt=hp_c3