Can we as an industry agree to ban the term millennials?

Millennials, millennials, millennials... I would suggest that the word is said so often it has lost all meaning, but I don't think it ever had a legitimate meaning in the first place.

It’s embarrassing. What if other industries hear us using it? They’ll think we’re really stupid and won’t want to hang out with us anymore. We already get enough stick for bastardising the words leverage, solutions and holistic.

Millennials, millennials, millennials… I would suggest that the word is said so often it has lost all meaning, but I don’t think it ever had a legitimate meaning in the first place. According to different sources, the definition of millennials is described variously as:

  • The demographic following Generation X, who achieved adulthood roughly between the late 1990s and early 2000s.
  • The Pew Research Center has defined adult millennials as being between 18 to 33 years old, however the youngest Millennials are still in their teens with “no chronological end point set for them yet.”
  • Authors William Strauss and Neil Howe have used 1982 as a starting birth year for millennials and 2004 as the last birth year.

Which means that right now in 2015 you could be described as a millennial if you’re between the ages of 11 to 32 years-old.

Although in my lesser moments I probably do use the internet in a similar manner to an 11 year-old, you can understand the absurdity of trying to assign similar behaviours across such a vast age-range.

As much as I’d love to carry on fulminating in this rather formless manner, I’ll break down exactly why we should stop using it using some bullet points and some research…

  • It’s even more ridiculous when you consider how much data we now have access to on visitors and customers and their behaviour. Data is at the very centre of creating a personalised, customer-focused experience, So why, with so much intelligence, would we need to refer to such widely sweeping demographics?
  • Depending on the definition, it’s anyone born between 1980 and 2000 – that’s a lot of people with different interests and backgrounds to throw into one basket. It’s far too broad and goes against everything we should be doing when it comes to digital marketing. Treating people like individuals with their own personality not some giant nebulous mass.
  • It assumes that anyone in the age bracket is digitally savvy, more so than older generations. Well that’s not necessarily the case, research highlighted in this consumer search behaviour report suggests that people who have grown-up only knowing the digital world aren’t necessarily savvier than other digital users, in fact if anything they’re lazier and less likely to understand the complexity behind search. Millennials don’t have the experience of using search engines as older people have, who have grown up with its most basic form and used it through all of its algorithm changes. If a millennial can’t find the result they’re searching for, they assume it’s the fault of the search engine, rather than adapting their query to help find a desired result.
  • It assumes that anyone with a smartphone, a laptop and a keen sense of where to get free WiFi is basically the same person.
  • Do not assume a millennial is better at digital than anyone else, but at the same time, don’t assume that millennials are these naïve, mobile-obsessed fawns that media will have you believe. Younger people have the capacity for online burn-out and wish to escape to a log cabin in the mountains as much as anyone else.
  • Which brings me to millennial representation…

group of friends meeting in the city center

  • Ha ha ha, look at their happy smiling benign faces, mainly hidden behind phones… The term millennial has given birth to some of the worst stock photography ever commissioned.

three friends taking photos with a smartphone

And one more for luck…

Young guy in the skate park

  • Every time I hear the word millennials I invariably hear the Robbie Williams song ‘Millennium’. This is an unforgivable crime. I’d even prefer ‘Will 2K’ by Will Smith, the second best end of the century themed pop song to be released prior to 2000.

No, you’re reaching for an argument now!

Okay I’ll end it there. To summarise: millennials – it’s a stupid word. Stop using it.

Next week: wearables!


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