Predicting market trends is an incredibly difficult science. These prognostications can make the difference between happy shareholders and a change in executive management. This is why companies spend hundreds of millions of dollars on advertisements designed to absorb as much of your disposable income as possible. Millennials present one of the biggest opportunities for advertising in recent memory. But the tantalizing aspect of marketing to millennials is its exact undoing: We’re not one large chunk of people that all enjoy the same thing.
Millennials are defined as being born in the 1980s or 1990s. Just take a second to imagine how gaping that chasm is. It’s bigger than the difference between dressing like Eddie Murphy in “Raw” and dressing like Kurt Cobain in his prime. These two groups of people do not want all the same things. If we are to take the definition of “millennial” literally, two people born in 1980 and 1999 are in the same generation. One of those people probably has a couple of kids and a stable career. The other is a seventeen or eighteen year-old college freshman who is still trying to figure out what she wants to do with her life.
All of this is to say that “millennials” can’t really “do” any one thing, properly speaking. We’ve all seen the articles claiming to know what industries millennials are propping up or killing. Everything from restaurants to golf to home ownership, we’ve seen it all. But this is the exact problem with treating millennials as a monolith. Some of us are running companies. Others of us are fighting with our college roommates. We’re not all the same. I’m certainly not advocating for sub-generations (although that may be more inevitable than optional at this point), but something has to give.
Rather, we need to wake up to the fact that being a millennial means different things to different people. To some of us, it automatically connotes social awkwardness and quirkiness (no self-reference intended!). But others think it means moving past the sins of our predecessors and carving out our own niche in this changing world. Just remember, “millennials” are not killing anything. We can’t all be seduced with one glitzy ad designed to titillate our singular sensibility. Each of us possesses our own power, and the only thing we will all do is use it as we please.