Watch This: “Millennials Don’t Exist” and We Should Stop Pandering to Them

March 24, 2016
Millennial hipster skateboarder just wants to Snapchat all day

Hashtag, Over It

Adam Conover is, like me, an older Millennial. Also like me, he is preeeetttty much done with hearing about our ‘generation.’ I wrote about this last summer, and little has changed since then. Being hammered with messages about what Millennials want and what we’re like is annoying, but worse, it’s so, so boring at this point. We want lots of different things! We’re not all like one thing!

You can’t summarize it into a five step process to help keep your #brand relevant in the Snapchat age.*

One place where Adam and I stop having things in common is that he has a television show, and I do not (yet…?). It’s called Adam Ruins Everything, and it’s relatively popular with the “youngs.” So of course that means he got asked to speak about what Millennials want and how to appeal to them. The video below is the result of that request.

I really enjoyed it because it synthesizes a lot of what I find annoying about the pandering that is so common in conversations about Millennials, and I want to encourage people to watch it. It’s especially good if a) you’re willing to listen to something about Millennials that doesn’t come from someone thirty years older than them, or b) you’re a Millennial yourself and want to laugh at the olds.

Millennial Urbanism

As someone who both writes about and works on issues related to urbanism, it’s impossible to avoid hearing over and over what Millennials want in terms of housing and lifestyles. Supposedly, we want tons of amenities in nice apartments (not houses) in cool, trendy places. We’re not that into cars, and we don’t want to have babies until we’re older, among other things.

All of these observations are probably broadly true enough. But the people responding to these trends tend to miss the point, and it’s the one Adam makes at the end of his presentation. If you want to appeal to Millennials, don’t try to do that. Try to make something you would like, and there’s a decent chance young people will like it, too.

It might not be quite that simple in terms of urbanism, but the principle stands. Young people basically want the same things as all people have always wanted. They want to live good lives. How that manifests evolves over time, but at no point have people thought, “you know, I’m really shooting for a crummy existence here.” For people working in land use, development, urban planning and so on, you’ll do much better thinking about how Millennials define “a good life” rather than thinking “we should put a hot tub on the roof deck because that’s what kids want.”


*You know what we don’t want though? Totally open office concepts with no quiet, private space to work anywhere. Stop saying we want this, corporate real estate people. You want to save money on space. That is all.

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