It’s all about the Millenials

Depending on who you listen to or what you read, the importance of the Millennial generation can’t have escaped you. Generation Y, Generation Me, the Peter Pan generation, call them what you will, they have undoubtedly gained a huge amount of coverage (further enhanced by Simon Sinek’s recent viral interview). As the largest generation in history, you can understand the interest in Millennials as Consumers. Their £ value is significant to any organisation who plans to survive or grow their business. 

But I have to question how helpful the categorisation really is, and how relevant it feels to many of those labelled in this way.

It is fair to say that those born between 1980 and 2000 are tech-savvy, social media natives, for whom mobile is King. But for many, that is where the commonality with the label “Millennial” stops. They might dream of being socially driven and staying true to their values and believes, but this can be pretty challenging in a reality where they have no financial safety net, they probably live at home with their parents and have little hope of buying their own home any time soon. Almost 50% of millennials in the US are either unemployed or over-qualified for the job they are in. All of which leads to feelings of despondency, low self-worth and little believe that things can improve. A far-cry from the “optimistic, we’re all in it together” descriptors of a Millennial.

Sure, they have more “stuff” than their parents had, they are more likely to work in service rather than a labour-intensive job and had far better odds of gaining a higher education. But after completing that education, they have huge debts to contend with and many end up in a minimum wage job, earning less than their parents did at their age. In the US, 1 in 5 millennials is living in poverty as opposed to 1 in 8 in 1980 (everydayfeminism.com) and two thirds have long -term debt. They are often described as “Adventure seekers” who love travel, and whilst this might be true for the middle-class, well-educated of the generation, for a huge swathe, this is an unattainable reality as they contend with historical debt and trying to save for a house, wedding, and children – things their parents took for granted.

Often referred to as the “Me, Me, Me generation” and classed as selfish, they were raised by their parents to believe they could achieve anything, work hard and they could be anything, and thus own anything that they wanted. However, the backlash between the Boomer generation and the Millennials was palpable during Brexit, when Millennials tried to exercise their rights to what they wanted and vote for a collaborative EU. This was one occasion where the “Me, Me, Me generation” certainly didn’t get what they wanted and the Millennial tag must have seemed pretty far from the truth.

Generation Y are not only the largest generation in history, they are the most diverse – by race, sexual orientation, interests, education, wealth, and many other factors. And whilst the sheer size of this group makes them significantly important as both consumers and in the world of business, to categorise them and label them as all the same is unhelpful and possibly even dangerous, especially when that label doesn’t resonate with so many them. Organisations would do well to look beyond the labelling and get to know their customers, understanding the reality many of this generation are living and feeling, and their differences and uniqueness if they want to target them successfully.