Debunking the Millennial Myth


Ah, the coveted millennial. Employers want to hire them. Business wants to sell to them.

Those within the millennial age bracket – generally defined as currently being between the ages of 18 and 33 – represent the largest generation on earth, by some estimates comprising roughly a third of humanity.

As employees, some of the stereotypes that color the perception of millennials are that they want workplace flexibility, care very strongly about a company’s impact on the community and environment, and that they demand transparency.

But who doesn’t want those things? Who would turn down the opportunity to have a flexible schedule? Who’s thrilled by the idea of working for a company that makes no effort to use its power to affect others’ well being? Who wants to spend their limited and valuable time contributing to an organization that shrouds its activities and culture in mystery?< Probably no one, regardless of generation. There’s a conception that millennials distrust big business – perhaps a symptom of having so much access to information – but based on a 2014 Pew study that speaks to millennial marketing, millennials and their elders share an equally favorable view of corporations.

Because millennials represent such a huge fraction of the population, it’s only natural that marketing to this group effectively is a priority for businesses. But because there are so many millennials, it’s also important to recognize that they are not all one and the same.

In fact, millennials are the most racially diverse group of American – with approximately 42 percent being non-white, a number that’s doubled since the Baby Boomer generation was the same age. The number of millennials born in a foreign country is estimated to be at 15 percent – the highest it’s been since the 20 percent peak in 1910, during the country’s last great immigration wave. There is no singular face representative of the millennial generation.

And while millennials are often credited with the increased attention to corporate social responsibility efforts and the shift in wanting to support locally-produced items and goods – they’re actually less likely than previous generations to claim the environmentalist label. The aforementioned Pew study found that “in 1999, when Gen Xers were under age 35, roughly four-in-ten (39%) embraced this self-description. Today, only about a third of Millennials (32%) say the word ‘environmentalist’ describes them very well.”

In a world that’s increasingly enhanced by and dependent on technology, millennials are the first generation to be raised with the Internet and social media – and they know how to use it.

Millennials are more likely to engage with your brand via social media – for better, and especially for worse. But according to research conducted by HubSpot, a developer of inbound marketing software, 95% of millennials expect a company to have a Facebook page – compared to 87% of Gen X’ers and 70% of 45-to-60 year-old. In short, everyone’s “doing” social media. And your marketing efforts should take that into account – regardless of the demographic you are attempting to attract.

The point is that millennials aren’t some mystic demographic no one understands –the “millennial mindset” represents the shifting norm of customer expectation.

If you’re looking for corporate role models of brands that millennials report as being especially effective at utilizing technology – via apps, mobile messaging and social media – look to the usual suspects, Apple and Amazon, as well as Starbucks, Whole Foods, and Victoria’s secret.

Instead of using a blanket approach in an attempt to appeal to millennials – a very broad range of individuals – maybe it would be wiser to target demographics based on some more traditional marketing segments – such as interests, needs, and lifestyles. Focusing on deeper characteristics and attributes of your target demographic – their needs and how you solve them – will lead to better marketing ideation and connectivity with your audience. You might even attract millennials along the way.