My generation is a lot of things. We have a lot of great traits: we’re tech-savvy, we’re mobile, we’re driven (albeit in a different way than the other generations), and we’re always trying to be better. We’re also viewed very negatively by “them.” They say we have a high sense of entitlement without having earned it and have no attention span, but that’s for a different post. We tackle work differently too.
The 9 to 5 work schedule is crumbling because of technology. Smartphones are keeping us connected and able to answer emails all day and night, but they’re also allowing us to access our Facebook and Twitter accounts while we’re “working” (a lot of companies are very worried about this). We can stay connected to both worlds all day very easily. More than any previous generation, we’re seeing a merger of professional and personal life.
In the past, it was easier to keep work at work. If you were someone like Don Draper (Mad Men is back on July 25th!), you didn’t bring work home and definitely didn’t have the wife and kids on your mind at work. You’d go to work, flip on the “work mode” switch in your brain, and get working (admittedly, “work mode” in Mad Men sounds pretty great). Then, you’d come home (or the home of a mistress, or a bar, in Draper’s case) and flip that switch off. Now, we’re never completely “off” and never completely “on,” which is restructuring how we spend our time. So the real question is this: How do we separate work and our personal lives? Here are a few ideas.
A little less than a year ago, Miracle Whip came out with new ads, targeted at consumers my age (somewhere around 18-24, I would guess). The ad campaign proclaimed “Don’t be so Mayo,” that Miracle Whip was as rebellious as we were, that it somehow could tap into our generation and provide us with kickass mayo-substitute that wasn’t so bland. The ad was lampooned on the Colbert Report, which gave it a great amount of earned media, and even ran advertisements calling Stephen Colbert out (the ads were placed during his broadcast). While they’ve since gone on to place their new product in a Lady Gaga video, “Telephone” (which I think is a much better way to reach our generation), I think Miracle Whip missed the message.
Gen Y grew up being bombarded with advertising. We know that we’re often being lied to, and we’re getting a little pissed off about it. We’re jaded and cynical about advertising, and irony is a second-language to us (if there aren’t enough ironic mustaches and three-wolf-moon shirts in your neighborhood, there soon will be).
Kotex has a campaign that I think is more effective at reaching us than Miracle Whip was, all because it understands Gen Y. I have no idea what women expect out of ads for feminine hygiene products, and I don’t know whether its sales are going to increase or decrease. I could care less about what product Kotex is selling, but their UbyKotex campaign is, in my opinion, done very well and tailored perfectly to our generation.
The ads (other one here) make fun of every tampon commercial. The imagery, the dancing girls, the white pants….they’re all lampooned here. Instead of reinforcing these old clichés, these ads make fun of them. Kotex as a brand admits to its own previous lack of authenticity. This straight-talk transparency is something our disillusioned generation respects.
Domino’s also understands this desire for authenticity and, most of all, transparency. The brand did something that shocked most people; it said it’s pizza sucked. Ads showed real footage of focus groups where the participants were unhappy with the pizza, and then listed the reasons why (taste, etc). Then, Domino’s said it would redesign its recipe to make its pizzas better. That’s about as transparent as a brand can get. Until this summer, that is.
Most recently, Domino’s decided to admit that its pizza advertisements were false. That their pizzas pretty much went through a “makeup” process in order to look pretty for the ads. They claim that they’ll start advertising pizza the way it is, straight out of the oven. That’s transparent, and according to sources Domino’s sales are skyrocketing because of it. Other brands might want to take note.
Companies that want to sell something to us are going to have to begin talking like us. This does NOT mean using our slang; there’s nothing worse than a brand that throws in a “shizzle” or “LOL” into a message just because they want to appear authentic. Use our tone. We’re a generation that grew up on the Simpsons, Conan, and Seinfeld. We’re used to sardonic humor, satire, and meta-comedy. We know how to make fun of ourselves, and we expect that a brand should be able to do the same. So, the takeaway for brands here is that if you want to sell something to us, don’t dumb the message down, and don’t forget who you’re communicating to. We’ll listen, but only if you get the tone right. Either give us the straight facts or make it funny, but do not assume we’re dumb one-way recipients of your message.
“Generation Y.” “The Millennial Generation.”
That’s us. It’s who we’ve been branded as by whoever decides what generations are titled. The text generation. The twittering masses. Whatever we are, people want to define us, and sell to us. Those Miracle Whip ads (mayonnaise is HARDCORE) were made to get us to buy it. Everyone seems to have their opinion on us, so let’s at least try to bust up some misconceptions.
The word we all use for people who get something that they don’t deserve. Apparently we’re entitled because we believe in big salaries, big job titles, big lives. And you know what, they’re right. We DO feel like we deserve all of that. But who can blame us? We’re the ones who are paying an incredible amount of money for the same knowledge our parents got at a fraction of the price. We need a big salary because their generation made student loans a HUGE hurdle in our twenty-something lives. We’ll be paying our school loans off at the same time as our mortgages. So maybe we do deserve that salary. Why else do we feel so entitled? We’re the “good job for trying!” generation that “earned” a trophy for being in last place, just because we participated. If you congratulate every kid for just being a part of something, we’re going to want to be rewarded just for being there. Blame’s on you, old fogies.
Nine to Five
Does anyone work those hours anymore? They don’t make sense these days, and maybe we’re just the first people to pick up on this fact. In a globalized world, there is no nine-to-five. There is only working and not working. The last thing any of us wants to do is be stuck in rush hour, listening to some crappy morning or night DJ, to go into a meeting to accomplish something that could be done just as easily through Skype or AIM.
There’s probably some truth to the idea that we’re just not as smart as our generational predecessors, without using that darned “web thing.” They probably know every state capital, who was Secretary of State in 1956, and how to quickly and painlessly do any long division we throw at them, but maybe that’s irrelevant. We have technology, suckas. I bet we can find any of that information out just as quickly using google, wikipedia, or a calculator. So, unless we’ve crashed our plane onto a remote island and need to figure out who was the Chief of Staff under Hoover, I think we’ll be alright.
So, that’s part of who we are. We’re different, but we’ll survive.
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