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Why Should the Millennial Mindset Matter?

Hessie Jones of ARCOMPANY writes for Huffington Post Canada and is a regular contributor to SocialFish. 

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I hear it everyday: countless peers talking about The Millennial Mindset it as if were a ‘thing’ – a prevailing view that transcends generations.

When I started recruiting for The GenX Think Tank, some were hesitant to join because they could not necessarily identify themselves as GenX. I questioned whether the Millennial Mindset was a myth. Since we try to debunk stereotypes at ARCOMPANY, I needed to understand how individuals perceived themselves within this ‘looming’ label and whether it properly defined who they were.

I put this question up on Facebook one day with the intention of really getting to the heart of the definition from many different perspectives.

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The response I received was overwhelming:

There were some that didn’t deny their GenX label:

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There were those GenXers who responded to the use of labels… labels that have gone beyond the definition based solely on the year they were born:

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Does environment dictate mindset?

For Mila and Karima, their experiences and personal outlook were not in sync with the traits that GenX has been stereotyped with.  Whether it be technology adoption, culture or geography, the generalized traits make people, in general, uncomfortable with being put into a neat box.

Here’s the thing: we’ve ALL had to live through the pitfalls of this economy–Boomers, GenX and Millennials. Is the Mindset of which everyone speaks truly generational or it is a by-product of the environmental cards that were dealt to everyone?

Labeling and stereotypes that media and others have used to illustrate homogeneity within generations may miss other important influences like geography, media exposure,  or access to the internet. Every generation is changing as they age. Experience will determine their outlook and how they change.  Not all Boomers can retire due to the economy. Similarly, GenX is hustling, but so are Millennials. Research shows that Millennials want to live unencumbered also because of their experience with instability. The environment has made entrepreneurs of all of us.

Whether it’s Nature (what they know) vs. Nurture (where it’s more of an adaptiveness to the environment), the one thing that sticks out for me goes beyond just the environment. Everyone reacts to the environment in different ways; some adapt better than others.  The degree of adaptiveness can range from survival to fully embracing the opportunity. It’s the latter that separates everyone from the rest.  To illustrate:

I live in a household where my kids (both GenZ) have fully embraced technology. My partner and I, on the other hand, are at opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to preferences for how we communicate: cellphone vs. landline, texting vs. calling/ how we consume the news (newspaper vs. online)/and the extent to which we socialize online (always vs never). 

But this is just one aspect. Technology and social, which has mandated an increased corporate transparency, also impacts overall societal views. It’s the reason for the rise in social good and stronger political awareness.

The Millennial Mindset Definition

Pew Research put out its own survey, How Millennial Are you? that seeks to define traits of this generation:

  • Media consumption online vs. offline
  • Views on marriage
  • Use phones vs. landlines
  • Frequency of text messaging
  • Existence of social accounts
  • Political views
  • Propensity for social or political change

Their findings from 2010 state this show GenY is

….confident, self-expressive, liberal, upbeat and open to change….they embrace multiple modes of self-expression.

They are more ethnically and racially diverse than older adults. They’re less religious, less likely to have served in the military….but they are more upbeat than their elders about their own economic futures as well as about the overall state of the nation.

Whether as a by-product of protective parents, the age of terrorism or a media culture that focuses on dangers, they cast a wary eye on human nature. Two-thirds say “you can’t be too careful” when dealing with people. Yet they are less skeptical than their elders of government.

As a Millennial, Brian Fanzo is, likewise, uncomfortable with labels: Here he writes: “What is the Millennial Mindset?“?

When I hear things like Millennials are lazy, impatient, like tattoos, job hoppers, too focused on self-expression, outspoken… I think… I know plenty of people born before 1980 that match this description! … when I hear things like Millennials are tech savvy, socially aware, care about community, want to make a difference, loyal, optimistic about the future… I think… I know plenty of people born before 1980 that match this description!

I also know Millennials who work in an environment with firewalls that limit access to social platforms and free communication platforms like Skype or Slack. This limited exposure impacts the extent to which they adopt technology, let alone become more technology aware. So there are those within this generation that do NOT conform to this very definition of Millennial Mindset.

Does that mean Marketers target a Mindset… NOT a generation?

Jure Klepic, a research and marketing professional, who specializes in consumer and cultural insights, puts it this way:

Term “Millennial” has morphed into the “Millennial Mindset” or even more broadly, “Consumer Mindset for the Modern Brand,” because their influence on purchase decisions is so vast that people of all ages are starting to act, shop and buy like Millennials. So we are all Millennials…

Being current or modern is ALWAYS cool. What helps is that the one generation that will dominate the workforce in less than a decade becomes the focus for many marketers. Ross Quintana said this nicely,

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So now it’s clear that values, culture, upbringing are nuanced and impact how any one individual consumes information and purchases. So for Marketers, who have traditionally targeted particular groups based on demographics, geography, ethnicity, perhaps they need to think differently. Age should not be the differentiator. That’s why this matters. Clearly the generational stereotypes are just that.

We will continue to explore this topic as we seek to define what it means across generations. Stay tuned.

photo credit: Tru-Access via (license)

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