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Smart Hippies with iPhones

Millennials. Just a bunch of avocado toast eatin’, money wastin’, Instragram usin’, text messagin’ snowflakes with their heads in the clouds. Right?

Well. Depends who you ask.

WTF Is a Millennial?

A walking contradiction.

Millennials are the same as you—yet entirely different.

We are the most powerful generation to walk the earth—yet also the most powerless.

We consume content and evaluate brands the exact same way you do—yet we process that information differently because of the environment we grew up in.

And, as we read in Chris Weissman’s recent article 5 Things Boomers Share with Millennials, we’re also a bit more reflective of who boomers used to be than you might think.

As a millennial, the word millennial has always seemed condescending and just plain weird to me. It’s kind of like you don’t know how to label us, so you just gave us this word that is supposed to, what, represent more than 87 million people? Right. So, as a “millennial,” I used to get a bit annoyed when I’d hear it used. Not offended—because you know, us millennials are supposed to be very sensitive—but just a little disappointed in humanity.

But take a scroll through LinkedIn or stop by the office water cooler and I guarantee you’ll find someone talking about millennials as if they know all about them. Folks who aren’t millennials love to talk about millennials—it’s like we’re this new alien species and everyone is just mind blown trying to figure out how to communicate with us. As one of just a few millennials at my office, I see this play out every day.

And I’d argue that the act of labeling us as millennials instead of just viewing us as young adults actually makes it harder for boomers or Gen Xers to understand who we really are.

Consider This

Boomers and Gen Xers invented the culture and the devices that have changed the way we live. That is true.

But they also enacted draconian drug laws and prison sentencing guidelines that led the U.S. (“land of the free”) to incarcerate more people than any other country in the world, created an opioid crisis that has destroyed small town America and killed thousands of people, built an environment of deregulation that has led to the single largest economic collapse in the last fifty years, allowed pollution to get so out of hand that the earth is actually choking to death, and destabilized an entire Mideast region and put us in a perpetual state of war that has literally been going on for our entire lives.

All we did was live through it all.

Think I’m being hyperbolic? Well, you’d be crazy to think that everything I just listed above doesn’t affect the way millennials consume content, evaluate brands, decide where to spend money, and choose whom to trust.

3 Ideas That Are Essential for Understanding Those Darn Millennials

1: Trust

Millennials care about trust. We watched our parents lose their jobs, houses, and life savings because they trusted a banking system that was built on greed (run by their colleagues). As we go out into the world and begin to buy houses, cars, and more we evaluate the trust factor more than anything else. Being on social media (and being good at it) places your brands content in a medium that I trust. Social media surrounds your brand with content that I consume when my guard is down, when I’m relaxing or when I’m generally in a happy place.

Furthermore, everything that showcases your brand must clearly communicate what you do, why you do it, and how you do it. Don’t play any games with me, Mr. Corporation. Millennials are too savvy, too jaded, and have too many options for brands to not be fully transparent.

Lie to me once and you’re dead to me.

2: Truth

Some industries are just plain boring. I know it, you know it, we all know it. So don’t lie about it.

If you’re trying to stretch the truth and make your brand something it’s not—just stop. Millennials might be glued to their phones all the time, sure. But if that means we’re glued to a device that gives you access to us at all times, it also means we have access to you at all times, as well as all the world’s information and reviews of you and your work. Get it?

So be authentic in your messaging. Be intentional in the way you position yourself. Figure out what matters to me as a human being and incorporate that intro your value proposition.

3: Love

By which I mean the opposite of evil. 

So, look, just don’t be evil. Is that so hard to ask? We literally watch Netflix all the time. Do you know what’s on Netflix? Hundreds of documentaries exposing corporate greed, political corruption, and environmental disasters. We trust what we see on screen (whether that’s good or bad is a whole different topic).

This causes us to hold the brands we interact with to the higher standards than ever before. We care about the environment, care about those who are less fortunate than us, and care that the companies we choose to give our money to aren’t royally screwing over the planet and other people.

Folks lament the millennial generation as being too sensitive. We’re all snowflakes, handle with care, etc. Yeah yeah—false. It’s really not that complicated. Just stop being evil and we’re Gucci.

The Takeaway

The moral of the story? Millennials aren’t that complicated. We’re just smart hippies with iPhones.

It’s time for the rest of the world to stop looking at us like aliens, recognize that we’re here to stay, and position themselves accordingly. If you don’t you better watch out—we have a knack for killing off brands that don’t meet our needs.

Do you have any interesting stories about marketing to millennials? Connect with me on LinkedIn or follow CEO Dave Sutton @toprightpartner. Or, if you want to go deep on connecting with millennials, grab a copy of Dave’s newest book, Marketing, Interrupted.

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