Can’t Categorize Millennials? It Might Be Better Not to Try!

In a recent New York Times article titled “Trying to Pin Down the Mosaic of Millennial Tastes,” writer Sarah Lyall explores the ways that media companies are hedging their bets on the millennial market and feverishly targeting the wide swath of people born between 1977 and 1995.

Lyall brings up the prevailing cliché that older people tend “to lump millennials together as basically a huge, mysterious group of entitled young people on their phones all the time.” Through anecdotes via people-on-the-street interviews with members of this oft unfairly mocked-in-the-media population, she arrives at a notion I’ve long had about the generation—well, every generation for that matter.

You just can’t make gross generalizations about who people really are.

While it may be true that Millennials have grown up in an age of instant gratification—one in which social media and companies such as Amazon, NetFlix, Twitter and Apple shape the cultural milieu—it’s not accurate to call the entire generation “entitled.” Although some people may perceive our current gotta-have-it-now state as a new technological and social paradigm, it’s important for us all to remember that immediacy is simply Millennials’ normal, and this is increasingly true for all generations.

What I’ve found in the Millennials with whom I work is a real drive to perform well and with unprecedented speed and accuracy, as the technological tools of the modern workforce have been second nature for them their whole lives. I’ve also observed in many of my colleagues an outward desire for social justice and diversity, and a willingness to engage these issues openly. They’re by-and-large passionate people who believe in their work and in their ability to foster change, and some of them are remarkable with their own ideas and in their own individuality.

Content companies that aim to sell their products are naturally working to capture this sizeable market. There are some 79.8 million Millennials in the U.S. alone, after all! But I think it’s important for us to never forget that in attempts to broadly understand any group, we risk misunderstanding truths, nuances and inner workings of the individuals who actually compose it. That’s why it may be best to target our messages based on people’s specific interests—regardless of age—so we can reach interest groups where they actually are on their journeys.

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