I was quite chuffed with myself and the response my inaugural Millennial Matters post received when it ran last Sunday. The title obviously had an impact, and it led to a decent number of shares. When I posted it to Facebook I reached out to a brilliant young Millennial friend of mine, Kiernan McGinnis, and asked for his feedback. He gave it, in spades:
As an introduction to your new series, “Millennial Matters,” I think this post successfully raises a number of substantial (while extremely generalized) notions about those of us born post Nixon. I don’t necessarily agree with everything you say here, but then again, you don’t really say that much. I look forward to seeing how this sequence continues, but I have one major concern.
I know that you are trying to be objective here, and reach an audience of potential clients who need to up their Generation Y marketing, but reading this article made me feel like you were observing me in a cage. And, if I was a random passerby on the interwebs who happened upon this particular article, I would not trust your credibility to be making any of the claims that you make. As I know you, I know this is untrue.
Instead of Apple IIE Amy, with an out-of-control perm, sitting in some tacky computer lab, wearing parachute pants, and learning about DOS code, I want to see “Millennial Wannabe” Amy telling me how much she loves Chipotle and sharing her Pins regarding the best way to construct an organic herb garden out of used pallets. I want you to speak in the voice of one of us, not one of them.
In fact, rather than just talking about how different we are — why we care about corporate responsibility — crowdsourcing — changing the world — tell me why…
Your parents were Baby Boomers. Sociologically, how did your generation lash back, and why? Thinking in this way, explain to me “hipsters,” microbreweries, social media, etc…
I know that you are particularly fluent in the language of the internet, but until you can ground Millennial behaviors with concrete X behaviors, what you are saying is going directly over your targeted clienteles’ heads.
i find it annoying when ppl try to tell others how we millennials are… and it’s usually wrong.
Ego deflated instantaneously. Totally deserving.
Kiernan was RIGHT, I was talking about instead of thinking LIKE ‘them.’ And, as much as I admire ‘this generation,’ they take me out of my comfort zone and I really have to push myself to do what Kiernan suggested and be like them. Recently I started using Snap Chat and was forced to interact with teens because most of my friends aren’t on the platform. I found myself running back to the safe familiarity of Facebook and my Gen Xer friends.
I actually tried to convince myself that it was ok to KNOW what platforms Millennials were on, and just have a Community Manger engage with ‘them’ on those platforms. With Kiernan’s retort I had to admit to myself that THAT just wouldn’t cut it; I’d never be able to have empathy and really understand what moves the younger generation if I just took a professorial stance and viewed them from afar.
Being a Millennial, When You Aren’t
I totally understand what Kiernan was on about, but this thought kept coming back to me: I’m not one of them. I’m not a Millennial, and although I am technology receptive and an admirer of Gen Y, can I really get myself to a point where I can think and behave like them? Kiernan thinks so, and I think he’s right, but in order to do so I, as well as other marketers who hope to connect with Gen Y, need to step down from our pulpits or dissection tables and really live and breath social and the internet the way they do.
How do I get there?
Well, first I had to think harder about where my generation, Gen X, stands, as it is astraddle the Boomers and Millennials, and never really forceful about much other than its own skepticism. The conversation on that matter continued:
Kiernan: I would have to say that mostly, Generation X has embraced the concessions made by their parents at the end of the 60’s. There was a time when the Boomers were very similar to modern Millennials where they vied for intense change, but as they grew up, they ended up embracing the system that they fought so hard against.
How do we ‘think and act like them?’
So this is all I can think about. My foray into Snap Chat, and Whispers, and to some degree Instagram, has left me feeling old. I don’t generally feel old. But then I think back to how I recoiled from Facebook and Twitter initially – this odd new way of finding and being found by old high school friends and anyone who had the desire to reach us made me feel naked and vulnerable. Until I adjusted…
And that is what I’ve had to do with these new mediums, particularly Whispers because I SO detest the anonymity that it allows… a feeling born from all of the social media bashings I’ve witnessed. But I’ve had to force myself to GET into the conversation and work it until it started to feel normal… like the muscle memory a great athlete understands.
The only way to think and be like Millinnials is to ape their social platform use, but more importantly, to stop looking at them in their ‘cage.’ To stop seeing them as an enigma and/or a monolith that thinks and behaves exactly the same as the next Millennial, and talk to them as individuals. Over and over again. Loads and loads of them. On their platforms… meeting the customer where they’re at and not simply sitting back and judging their behavior from afar.
It’s the age old problem of a generational divide, and the answer is quite simple – just walk over to their side and TALK to them.
VP of Content & Strategy at ArCompany. She has an extensive background in Sales, and focuses on generational marketing and content. With Hessie Jones she founded ArCompany’s Millnnnial, GenX and Boomer Think Tanks and writes and speaks on those topics from an insights/strategy perspective.