September here at Smoking Gun towers has been all about how brands can better market to millennials. We hosted a specialist event on the subject, have dedicated several blog posts to this area and still have more to say.
Those who attended our morning workshop, The Millennial Mindset, will have picked up on one key concept. The whole idea of millennials is something of a zeitgeist, and by that we mean impossible to summarise, representing a huge and wildly varied cross section of society.
Nevertheless, as we have said before there are some consistencies that can be identified when looking at this section of the population broadly. Ethics being one, and one of the most prominent at that.
If you’ve ever heard the term ‘snowflake generation’ then you’ll probably understand what we mean. Millennials are regularly accused of being over-sensitive and virtuous to a point of fault. This is incredibly unfair, though, and largely the result of a failure to understand the huge cultural shifts that have taken place in the last 30 years.
Equality is a totem
If we consider the social landscape of the UK in the 1980s compared to now one idea will always rise to the surface. While there may be major failings in terms of equality, there is a widespread understanding that these failings exist— from sexuality to economic prosperity, ethnicity and religion.
Our world has a long way to go before it can claim to be a level playing field, but conditions have improved dramatically because people are conscious of injustices.
A great example of just how different attitudes now are can be found in the flurry of articles focussed on millennials revisiting iconic entertainment products of the 1990s. Gross-out coming-of-age comedy American Pie, and its sequels, are a case in point.
Taking to Twitter, reactions from the millennial generation were largely outrage and dismay at the franchise’s overt sexism. A similar response occurred when streaming service Netflix added the hit comedy series Friends to its database.
Misogyny, sexism and homophobia were seen to be rife in the episodes, from Chandler’s ongoing negativity towards his cross-dressing father, to jokes at the expense of Ross’ ex-wife, Carol, and her lesbian partner, Susan, and assumptions that a male nanny must be gay.
To market to millennials you need to grasp why this is
What brands can and should take from this is not that millennials are fragile and ridiculously sensitive, but rather they are aware of the repercussions prejudice rhetoric has.
Using sweeping statements, again, many millennials have grown up in situations where homosexuality is accepted, nationality has given way to global citizenship, and differences can be openly celebrated.
With this in mind, if we really want to market to millennials successfully, and genuinely reach this demographic, it’s vital that we are equally aware of the ways messages and concepts can affect people— negatively and positively. It’s not about walking on eggshells, instead it’s a progressive stance that can help society continue to move forward, not backwards.