Some of you may know that Jacobs Media is knee-deep in a fascinating project on behalf of the Public Radio Program Directors and a group of engaged public radio stations. The Millennial Research Project is an ambitious, multi-phase, qualitative research study designed to go inside the minds and hearts of Millennials.
Even though our study is at about the halfway point, we’ve spent already spent a considerable amount of time with Millennials across the country who enjoy public radio – and we’ve done a lot of listening to them. Along the way, we've learned a great deal about this large, fascinating, and influential group – often contradicting some of the conclusions you read about everyday in marketing journals and quantitative research studies.
So, when I ran across Caroline Beaton’s column in Huffington Post this week, it resonated. “Six Millennials Myths That Need To Finally Die” ends up being pretty much as described. But it’s also a plea from a wizened and weary member of this generation to those of us in the media and marketing worlds that loosely translates to “Enough already.” The stereotypes, misconceptions, and overall media coverage of Millennials conveniently and often incorrectly pigeon-holes these young consumers.
Here are Caroline’s six myths with some commentary, followed by a few Millennial myths of our own.
1. We can’t live without our parents.
Her article cites a Pew study that shows that three-fourths of 25-29s are already out of the house, while nearly nine in ten 30-34s have flown the coop. Now the majority of 18-25 year-olds are still at home, and part of the reason why is that living in a dormitory counts as “living at home.”
I don’t know about you, but I was still milking off my parents during much of my 18-25 year-old phase. And I can only speak for my two twentysomething kids – both of whom are living on their own. And by the way, they have NO desire to move back home with mom and dad.
2. We’re unemployed.
Caroline notes that while Millennials are twice as likely to be out of work as the rest of the population, we’re talking about a lot of college-aged people when you dig deeper into the math. If you isolate 25-35 year-olds, you learn that only 5.2% are out of work – right near the nationwide unemployment average of just under 5%.
Again, my sample of two shows gainful employment – and in their chosen fields. And I’m proud to tell you they’ve snared their jobs on their own.
Millennials – especially those on the older end of that spectrum – came out of school just as the Great Recession was in full bloom. Not only were they faced with a horrible job market, many came out of college saddled with onerous student loan debt. No generation in the last 80 years has endured this level of hardship and speed bumps in an American job market.
3. We’re lazy.
As the myth goes, Millennials have a sense of entitlement, and aren’t willing to do what it takes to nail down great jobs, promotions, and higher salaries. Carolinequotes an Ernst & Young study that refutes this claim, especially among Millennials in management positions. She references other studies that indicate Generation Y often works during vacations, while a majority say they’re willing to work long hours and on weekends in order to achieve their goals.
My kids both have a strong work ethic. You might write that off to them being offspring of very hardworking parents, but I also see their friends who work in the same industries. And there’s an awful lot of effort and sweat being expended in their respective workplaces.
I also have a little “research study” going on down the hall called jācapps – our mobile app development company, largely populated by Detroit-area Millennials (photo above right). I see them consistently working long hours – often on their own time – getting in early, staying late when necessary, and very committed to the goals of the company. It’s been heartening to see just how “into” our mission they truly are.
4. We’re having rampant sex and won’t marry.
I’ll let Caroline do the heavy lifting here. She found a couple of research studies that suggest that while Millennials tend to put off marriage, they still value the institution. As for the rampant sex part, I'm not asking any questions of anyone.
5. We’re “the most entrepreneurial generation ever.”
We read a lot of articles about twentysomethings who are serial startup entrepreneurs, making millions from a viral app, a hot messaging service, or disposable razors. But for everyone else in Generation Y, Caroline has data that suggest there’s actually been a fall-off in business startups among these young Americans. There’s probably a much greater incidence of Millennials doing multiple jobs, or as she puts it, “side hustles” – a way to make extra money doing something they’re passionate about.
6. We all want to work from home.
Another myth busted. Caroline has research that actually shows a preference for a corporate setting over a home office. And I can see that at jācapps. They’ve created their own sense of camaraderie, creating their own themed events, along with outside activities that instill a sense of unity and fun. But it all starts right here in our offices in Bingham Farms, Michigan.
Now allow me to add my handful of other myths about Millennials that are in need of a little analysis through the eyes of a Baby Boomer:
7. They’re not loyal to organizations.
The myth says Millennials are famous for job-jumping, and the rap is that they’re loyal to no institutions, much less their employers. But my experience – both here at jācapps and at myriad stations we consult – is that if you respect them, listen to them, and provide them avenues for advancement and growth – they’ll stay with you for years. Radio is a business where moving from job to job has become the norm. But it’s safe to say that among Millennials in radio, they are no more likely to change jobs than anyone else.
8. They don’t listen to the radio.
You’ve seen the Nielsen reach numbers at around the 90% level, but then there’s the more gnarly TSL data that shows erosion among 18-24s and 25-34s. While it's true they are more engaged in new media consumption, our research suggests they may be listening to radio stations in many different ways – streams, podcasts, and of course, via mobile devices. As we know too well, the ratings services simply cannot keep up with a generation of voracious media consumers who are device agnostic, and have learned the fine art of listening to what they want, when and where they want it. Are they listening to less radio or are they spreading their usage across different devices, platforms, and distribution outlets? Probably a little of both, but radio is still very much in the game for many of them.
9. They won’t pay good money for stupid stuff.
Actually, this isn’t a myth – it may, in fact, be very true. Millennials are at the top of the heap when it comes to subscribing to Netflix and Spotify – and for a good reason. Many are cable TV “cord cutters – or never subscribed in the first place. They wisely figured out a long time ago that it’s insane to pay lots of money every month for 300 channels of junk, when you only watch – at most – 10 of them. That’s why they pick and choose their content more carefully. In that regard, they often profile as wise and more practical than the rest of us. It’s also the same reason why fewer waste their hard-earned money on satellite radio.
10. They hate blog posts like this.
Again, not a myth. It’s true. No generation likes to be lumped together and discussed, parsed, and analyzed like cattle. There very distinct age and lifestyle groups within the years marketers define as the Millennial group. In fact, they are as different and hard to label as we were, whether you are an Xer or a Boomer.
As the latter, I remember all too well how the Greatest Generation stereotyped us. And they were just as wrong-headed about it. Not all kids who were born in the late 40's, 50's, and early 60's turned out to be hippies. Some went into the army, some never smoked weed, and many didn’t “drop out” or run away to “go find themselves.”
But we were grouped together in much the same way that analysts and marketers generationally stereotype Millennials.
The next time you hear someone raving about “those entitled Millennials,” remind them about the foolhardiness of generational grouping, and how it can obscure a true understanding of trends, cultures, and….people.
Not to mention putting more distance between yourself, your company, and truly critically important members of your organization and your workforce.
Myths are so often just that….myths. And they need busting.
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