At the dawn of the third millennium, there aroseth a new generation of consumers, called Millennials, and the great and mighty brands looked upon this generation and did lust after their spending power greatly. But the ways of the Millennials were strange to the brands, who despaired of winning their favor. Then there aroseth in the land many false prophets, who said unto the brands, "Giveth unto us a large retainer, plus travel expenses, that we may deliver these Millennials unto you, for their strange ways are known only to us." In this way many were deceived, and despair filled the land, except among those whose retainers purchased ski vacations in Banff.
As a Gen-Xer, I'm a little jealous that marketing gurus never burned so many mental calories trying to figure me out. But the ones who did invariably pointed out that Gen-Xers had grown up in a media-saturated culture, had become immune to the siren song of traditional advertising, and demanded that brands treat them with authenticity. Does that sound like some other generation you know? Ironically, we've made the Millennials seem so distinctive because digital media has enlarged our echo chamber, so we can devote a lot more space to analyzing a generation of consumers whose chief characteristic is, well, their immersion in digital media.
But Millennials' status as "digital natives" -- a generation that never knew the dark and disconnected pre-internet era -- does give them a legitimate whiff of the exotic. They process information differently, socialize differently, and they alone will be able to play movies in their minds with the next retooling of Netflix. Also, the fact that they have grown up largely unexposed to commercial jingles frees up large portions of their brains for higher-order reasoning, like figuring out where to purchase the most sustainably made hemp messenger bag. I, on the other hand, dither my way through middle age being able to recite, in order, the ingredients of a Big Mac while never again being able to eat one, lest my arteries stop sending blood to my brain.
So how do we separate fact from hype when marketing to Millennials? As a digital marketer whose company, People to People Ambassador Programs, markets to and creates educational travel experiences for the younger end of the Millennial spectrum, this question is of surpassing interest to me. So I thought I'd undertake yet another of my "de-hypification" rituals and pass on what I've learned about the many pervasive myths surrounding these digital wunderkind.
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