January 28, 2014

Everything You Need To Know About Millennials

Okay, I'm serious.

Everyone in the advertising and marketing industry listen to me. If I have to sit through one more presentation or read one more study about millennials I'm gonna send a guy out to kill each and every one of you. I mean this.

Every single bullshit marketing study about millennials ever conducted comes to the exact same conclusion, but is afraid to say it out loud: 

They are nasty little bed-wetters with no money.

Okay? Got it?

Someday their parents will die and they'll inherent some money and they'll be worth talking to. Until then, they'll be living eight-to-an-apartment, drinking Kale smoothies, uploading billions of narcissistic selfies, and pissing away their money on pink fucking headphones.

Before you waste your time and money trying to sell something useful to these jerk-offs, I suggest you call Mr. Obama and ask him how his health care plan is going.

Millennials are like humanity's QR code -- they're everywhere and they're useless.

The only important thing you have to know about them is that there's a double "l" and a double "n."

Got it?

I know your idiot boss is probably all over you about "what's our millennial strategy?" And you are probably stuck twice a week in Powerpoint hell listening to consultants or researchers or, god help us, planners running their gas pipes about these people.

But if I find you publishing studies or having conferences or, god help us, holding webinars, I'm sending a guy with a baseball bat.

Final warning.


Alastaire Allday said...

OK, I follow you because I agree with most of the things I read here. But this time I think you're calling it wrong.

Millennials may be a pain in the ass. But their parents' generation put them there.

They put them "eight to an apartment" by causing a property boom that made even renting alone unaffordable, let alone ever buying a home and settling down.

They put them there by causing an economic crisis that meant there were no entry level jobs for their generation, except the ones where you have to work for free, forever, in the hope of being one of the lucky ones that gets a job.

Want to work for free? You'll need your parents help for that - so only the children of the rich can get good jobs.

We sold these kids student loans promising a university education would give them good jobs and security in the future. We sold them a debt-laden lie.

And so we created a culture of dependence. A culture of indifference. A culture that says "why participate, why contribute, why work?"

And we bombarded them with advertising. Buy this, do that, be this, be that. Little wonder they're so shallow. Heck, the _only selling point_ of the Apple 5C is that it comes in a series of shiny colours. What kind of message is that?

It's an easy choice. Eternal debt repayments, no jobs or job security (freelancing if you're lucky), no home ownership (and consequently vastly reduced ability to start a family, to grow up), a society that concentrates wealth and power in the hands of the rich... so they chose a life of idleness, of being "useless". Hard work no longer brings the rewards it used to, so why work? We abandoned them.

They're not the generation that's biting the hand that feeds them. We are. Because we need them to grow up and become consumers _and_ producers like us.

We've created a generation that only knows how to consume (because that's all advertising taught them) -- but has less and less resources to consume -- because we forgot to give them the ability to be functioning members of society.

And if they grow up never contributing fully to society, causing the stagnation or even collapse of the economy, it won't be them to blame, it will have been us, for failing them.

Perry said...

I think you're missing the point. The point is about who's got the money. Focus your advertising on where the money is. And it's certainly not with the millenials. The rest is a philosophical discussion, I'm not saying your points aren't valid, but in my opinion they are not linked to advertising.

Alastaire Allday said...

I think you're missing _my_ point.

Millennials have no money. Correct.

But our policies have created a generation that doesn't participate or contribute. It's not laziness on the part of millennials. It's a case of them being locked out of society.

Advertising -- and society in general -- relies on people to have jobs and produce in order that they consume.

We've created a generation that doesn't produce, that won't buy houses or start families or grow up -- in short, won't every truly become "consumers" except in the shallowest of senses ("pink headphones" as Bob puts it). And in the long run, that's biting the hand that feeds us, both within the industry and as a society as a whole.

To hook people on a brand, you hook them young. We ignore young people at our peril.

But to link back to Bob's point specifically, his theory is that: "[Millennials] are nasty little bed-wetters with no money."

He got the "no money" part right -- but I don't think that's their fault. It's ours for creating a lost generation.

Bob is attempting to shift the blame on their generation for being lazy and shallow and narcissistic. My reply is that it's our fault for making them that way.

Steve Madden said...

Alastaire - I read Bob's piece several times but can't find the part where, as you contend, Bob is shifting blame, placing blame or even mentioning blame. His point is that focusing your ad dollars on marketiing to millennials at this point is a for the most part a waste of effort and ad budget - unless you sell pink headphones. For a discussion of blame, well, watch the State of the Union address tonight.

adshoc said...

I won't defend Millennials' collective character. You are free to say, "follow the money" and point away from an entire demographic, but don't forget two things:

1. Millennials who do actually end up being useful and having jobs feel surprised and liberated when they have any disposable income of their own at all. Suddenly their student loans are paid and there's *gasp* still money in their bank accounts. What ever will they do with it? They won't buy many cars, but check their Amazon history.

2. For the cashless remainder, I bring up the example of Nintendo Power magazine. Nintendo Power knew that its target demo, shit kids even younger than Millennials, was largely penniless (and thus couldn't buy the videogaming magazine's subscriptions, much less a gaming console or games) but they were not powerless. The magazine put perforated slips into the end of their magazine. Kids ripped them out and fanatically stuffed them everyplace their parents would ever see them. I shouldn't need to tell you the general outcome. Don't forget to sell to buyers through users.

Otherwise, you're going to wake up someday with kale and pink headphones dominating your market share in every category.

Alastaire Allday said...

Err, you don't see the venom in describing an entire generation as "nasty little bedwetters..." waiting "for their parents to die..." "narcissistic"... "jerk-offs..."?

These are powerful words. While I'm a big fan of this blog, it's the arrogance of Bob's generation ("these people aren't worth talking to") as well as infantilising them (who's selling them the pink headphones?) that keeps an entire generation marginalized and prevents them from being consumers.

There's a chicken and egg argument going on - but surely our purpose as marketers is to create demand. Demand, however, isn't simply created through marketing to rich old people. It's created by sowing the seeds in the future, whether that's by targeting millennials now or by actually helping these kids become contributing members of society. Calling them narcissistic jerk-offs, as Bob has in this post, is arrogant and counter-productive.

Tony Mariani said...

Bob I can get my hands on some Louisville sluggers

Tony Mariani said...

Alastaire..time to give your argument a rest. You have clearly missed the point of the post and somehow have locked in that its the old farts that are responsible for millennials being the way they are instead of, "quit advertising to those with no money"! The woe is me stuff is getting boring. People chose to be the way the are.

Alastaire Allday said...

I haven't missed the point. I'm making one.

I know all too well what Bob was saying. I'm more interested in how he chose to say it.

If he had just said "millennials have no money and therefore I choose to ignore them" he'd have a point you could take or leave.

It's his dismissive and childish three paragraph description of millennials as "narcissistic jerk-offs" obsessed with "pink headphones" that really displayed how out of touch he is with what's really going on in that age bracket.

Sorry for arguing a point that's contrary to received opinion (isn't that the point of this blog?), but I believe there's value in marketing to millennials, both as influencers of their parents and as consumers themselves.

Bob's choice of words indicates precisely why this generation are as they are -- because they've been written off by their parents' generation. Treat them like adults and they may start behaving like them...

Jim said...

Yet it is a fairly apt description because the plight of generation Y (why me) is not purely economic but also cultural. Often the commentary is as if baby boomers had it easy.

As if they didn't have to leave home and rent a house before they could buy one, or work dull jobs, or moon light for cash. It was a passage to adult hood. To show their independence that you not longer wanted to live at home at any cost.

I agree economic conditions are woeful. But it is not just economics that account for their narcissism.

Today it seems as if millennials have a sense of entitlement. Where's our game consols, where's our house, holiday and easy life?

As a gen Xer my baby boom parent would have scoffed if I put up begging letters around the house or if I wanted to live at home much past 20 years old.

Generation Y have begun to conceive of themselves as victims of an illusory, more prosperous past, to the point where even renting a box-room in a mould-ridden house-share in Manor House is a sacrifice too far.

That's what I and many others did. We made do living in squaller, on crap food or skipping lunch the days running up to pay day, bunking public transport and even working two jobs. That would be inconceivable today wouldn't it? Probably be seen as neglect. But we wanted our independence and to be adults.

Instead they choose to stay at home and free-load because the bank of Mum and Dad will change their beds and so they can spend their disposable income on pink head phones.

Cecil B. DeMille said...

The more "segmenting" we do, the further we get from advertising to people. Actual people. "Millennials" comprises a great big target. You may as well say "60 Million Zebras" or "The Population of Sweden."

All these "segments" are useless. The people in them, well, that depends on how much money they have and how well they respond to advertising.

Alastaire Allday said...

You make a very valid point. I also despair sometimes... On occasion I get asked by people in their teens or early 20s "how do I get to be a [fairly ordinary midweight] copywriter like you" and the answer is "you work at it, very hard, for a number of years" and their response has been "oh, that sounds too much like hard work..." So yes, I agree.

But equally so, what's the point of renting a box-room in Manor House if the average house price is 500k and rising 10% a year? You'll never own a home, so why not stay at your parents'? What's the point in doing two years of unpaid internships (at your parents' expense) in the slim hope of bagging a paid job you'll probably only be at for 6 months to a year anyway? Why not just get a dead end job and earn the bare minimum wage and stay at home and smoke weed and play xbox? We're creating a generation that won't contribute and therefore won't consume.

I don't disagree with you that millennials are sometimes lazy, arrogant, stupid, narcissistic... but my opinion (feel free to disagree!) is the fault lies mostly in the way we raised them... and the way we're treating them now. Which is why I get so upset when I read blog posts like these.

Justin Harter said...

I'd like to point out that I'm a millennial. I bought my first house when I was 20, I've been freelancing since I was 15, and I'm running a successful web and marketing design company called SuperPixel (www.superpixel.co).

The kids are alright.

Tony Mariani said...

Do you suggest we continue to coddle this group? Isn't that what got us where we are with millennials? That is if I understand your point!

Alastaire Allday said...

If and when I have kids of my own they will be getting a lot of "tough love"... I don't think we should be coddling today's youth, but I certainly don't think we should be dismissing them using cliched statements like calling them selfie obsessed narcissists, either.

Millennials are a good indicator of where we're heading next... when Facebook first came out, I never thought anybody over the age of 25 would use it. Now my parents use it more than me. As an adult, I'm too old for Snapchat and its ilk, but as a marketer, you can bet I'm paying attention to it.

I have a huge amount of respect for this blog and Bob's opinions, but I think he's called it wrong here. When I talk to 20 year olds, I find them to be highly politicised and intelligent... (albeit selfie obsessed). They're our future and we ignore them at their peril...

Payitforward said...

"Millennials will never solve their problem that they never created"

Tragically, you're comment is RIGHT on the money, considering money is on the right.

These kids are a headache in almost all endeavors, whether you try to get to them work, try to get them to "overthrow the government" (good luck getting them to take off their Halloween costumes first), or even just talk to them in a conversation (they are far more interested in talking to themselves.)

And yes, I am a Millie too.

Charlotte said...

Gee, Allastaire, you certainly have an ax to grind and plenty of blame to place. However, I agree, it's crappy out there, not only for millenials, but for every age group.

If I’m correct, Bob is pointing out that Advertisers/Marketers are targeting a demographic that is in a really shitty place. Weak employment, and all the havoc that causes.

They don’t have the disposable income for a new Lexus. You have
clearly made that case.

So Bob asks, why are advertisers always targeting that age group who clearly can’t afford a Lexus? Because ad people are delusional and
just don’t pay attention to reality (my words).

As someone who has been in advertising for-ever, a boomer and with
children who are millenials, your point is well taken.

In the final analysis, your position is actually quite close to Bob’s: Why are ads directed to a demographic who is underemployed due to a rotten economy?

One thing I think Bob got wrong is the deal about the kale smoothies. They’re expensive – not in a millenial’s budget – but I’m sure
within reach of an art director’s budget.

Stephen Eichenbaum said...

send a millennial suicide bomber instead. pay him upon completion of the job.

Caitlin said...

As a millennial, I take issue with this post. True, a lot of my contemporaries are whiny little diaper babies, but so are a lot of *your* contemporaries, Bob. By assigning all of us ages 20-35 as "nasty little bed-wetters with no money," you are assuring yourself a future filled with unemptied bedpans in a substandard assisted living center.

That being said, the smarter millennials realize that our peer group is not the demographic companies should be marketing to, it's the older generations. The majority of us don't have the spending power that our parents and grandparents do, so companies are wasting their time trying to sell us BMWs and Rolexes. They should wait ten or fifteen years and then try, because by then, God willing, we will have caught up to all of you old fogies.

bob hoffman said...

See this http://adcontrarian.blogspot.com/2014/01/reheating-leftovers.html

EllyFoster said...

Ouch. What a joy it is to read another venom-filled article about millennials. How original. I understand and agree with a lot of the criticism of my generation but when the dialogue becomes so toxic you have to wonder who it's benefiting-certainly not the generation it's aimed at. Anyway, your central argument that the ad industry is deluded and should stop hawking products at people who can't afford them is bang on. Clearly your language is borne of frustration which is fair enough on that point. As an aside, re-visit how Gen X was written about in the press when they were coming of age 15 years ago and you'll find a lot of it is a carbon copy of what's been said about Gen Y now. Perception is a wonderful thing.

Nathan U said...

I may be an exception to this rule: I am 27, created a business at 23 after graduating with a BA in social science, bought a home at 26, currently making about 36k a year working for a non-profit. I was grew up profoundly impoverished. I have 4 siblings under me in which certainty lack guidance in life, and as Alastaire alluded to, the economic downfall did not help them in regards to decision making. And instead of focusing on whining about the 8 to the apartment, companies should capitalize on THAT--they now have more money to spend on themselves by virtue of living with others and businesses not exploiting 'selfy' epidemic is the issue, not the consumers. Build/adapt your business to the consumers, not to the business.

Nathan U said...

I may be an exception to this rule: I am 27, created a business at 23
and sold it 3 years later after graduating with a BA in social science,
bought a home at 26, currently making about 36k a year working for a
non-profit. I was grew up profoundly impoverished (maybe this has something to do with it?). I have 4 siblings
under me in which certainty lack guidance in life, and as Alastaire
alluded to, t,he economic downfall did not help them in regards to
decision making. And instead of focusing on whining about the "8 to the
apartment", companies should capitalize on THAT--they now have more money
to spend on themselves by virtue of living with others and businesses
not exploiting 'selfy' epidemic is the issue, not the consumers.
Case in point: these millennials now RENT furniture etc.-- why not have more companies rent to furnish college dorms and "8 peep apt"?! Build/adapt your business to the consumers, not to the business. That is where your erroneous, flawed opinion lacks strong evidence. I understand your point, albeit not accurate.