It's Not About The Snacks: Millennials Are More Complex Than That

The millennial generation is now the largest generation with the greatest combined purchasing power in history, which makes this demographic a force to be reckoned with — and important to understand. At a recent industry conference, numerous panels and conversations were focused on cracking the code to millennials and advertising products and services to them. Multiple executives named workplace snacks, lax work environments, casual dress codes and social media-driven projects as the winning factors to convincing millennials to choose a company and join a workplace. 

While we all love a snack every now and again, the perception of millennials is seriously misguided. Society as a whole tries to define what millennials are, but there are millions of millennials who are breaking the stereotypical mold. 

Take Kyle Dake for example. He is a 2014 Cornell graduate who shattered NCAA wrestling records by becoming the first athlete to win four national titles in four different weight classes. Or Karim Abouelnaga, who founded the nonprofit Practice Makes Perfect while still in college, which matches academically struggling elementary and middle schools with high-achieving peer mentors from the same high-need communities. Or Erin Schrode, who at 25 years old is running to be the youngest woman ever elected to Congress out of California’s Second Congressional District. 



These people are millennials. These people are changing the world. And there are millions more like them. 

Even our employees challenge the definition of millennials and the stereotypes that go along with being between 18 and 33 years old. One of us snapchats, at least once, often more than once, a day — whether posting a funny pun photo or a changing hairstyle. Another is an active Facebook user posting photos and liking friends and family’s posts that populate the News Feed. One of us likes to multitask and juggle multiple projects at a time, while listening to music and texting, in the middle of completing tasks. The other prefers to sit in a quiet space and complete projects in order of importance, crossing them off of a checklist. 

The multitasking, digital-favoring, Snapchat user is Brian, who is a 39-year-old executive vice president, and has two daughters under the age of 10. Brian is a member of Generation X. The focused, traditionally organized, Facebook fan is Haley, a 22-year-old recent college graduate, and communications coordinator. She’s the millennial in this example. 

What we enumerate in this basic example of two employees goes against the perception of millennials as instant social media cravers with short attention spans and the need for immediate gratification and narcissism.  

Comedian Adam Conover said, “Millennials are always on their phones and it's running their lives, but you know who is also on their phones? Moms and Dads and also some dogs ... everyone is on their phone all the time... Social media is just more media ... it just happens to be a new one that old people find frightening.”

Conover’s right. Millennials have grown up with cellphones and social media. They are digital natives. But that doesn’t mean being connected is exclusively a millennial trait. Take a ride on a New York City subway and you will see 10 year olds with their own iPhone, alongside their grandparents who are using one as well.

In every industry, as you look to market to millennials, it is imperative to remember that there are segments in every market and that for each member that exhibits the traits of a generation, there is another who is quite the opposite. In the sports media industry, there are tons of brands, professional leagues, teams and more that are reaching out to this demographic. With a combined purchasing power of $2.45 trillion worldwide, we have to remember that millennials are complex, have grown up with technology and that we have to meet them on the platforms that they are using with content that engages them.

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