Today I have decided to stop reading about the behaviours of millennials.
I recently went to a conference on marketing to this supposed sector which had a series of speakers with power point presentations showing how 18-34 year olds were spending their money and how brands needed to understand this in order to capture the very newest of consumer characteristics.
Millennials bought "experiences" rather than things, they live in the moment rather than plan for the future. They don't want to work for large scale organisations and sit in a cubicle for the next 20 or 30 years, they want to associate with brands that align with their values, their purpose.
The speakers, who represented huge brands for I'm sure huge fees, were all over 40. I imagine they were all on Facebook, some on Instagram, a few less on Twitter and none on Snapchat. Virtually everything I read or see in videos about millennials is by people who aren't them.
Could we rely on men to tell us about what women want from a tampon? Could we rely on the able-bodied to design the perfect wheelchair? I imagine that this is precisely what product development over the decades has actually done – design things for people who aren't involved in the process until it's ready to go to market.
In the past few decades customer engagement has taken the form of focus groups and sales tracks of people we largely don't understand or know and seek to find ways of breaking that down. The difference with millennial marketing is that most people do more than not understand them; they actually disapprove of them.
The words "narcissistic", "lazy", "selfish" and having a "sense of entitlement" splatter across the miles of media coverage of the subject. When Time magazine did a cover story of a young woman sitting on the floor taking a selfie with the heading "The Me, Me, Me Generation", I thought it was all well and good for a journalist to write un-verifiable twaddle like this but what does it tell us other than the author doesn't understand his subject matter?
Supposed academics like Simon Sinek, whose views on business ("Start With Why" – duh!) are largely hot air and whose views of millennials ("I blame their parents") only serve one good purpose, which is to get millions of views of him on YouTube and selling huge numbers of his books.
All of this makes for one simple conclusion – the people writing, talking, consulting on this subject are making very good livings for themselves talking tat. How many of these alleged experts have tried to walk in the shoes of the people they claim expertise over? How many of them have worked out that young people buy experiences over things because they can't afford the things
That student loans, which we didn't suffer the hangover from because we did live in a period of entitlement through grants, leave people crippled. And to make matters worse, this is the first generation to be earning less than their parents. And how many of these people have ever created a brand or a business of their own?
As my friends at Good Business pointed out this week in their excellent weekly newsletter, "everyone is an individual... unless you are a millennial", marketeers and "expert commentators" are lining their pockets and good luck to them. But pity the business creating a new brand that sucks up all this dubious advice.
This week I turn 20 years too late to be a millennial and I'm in the process of creating a new restaurant which isn't deliberately targeted at this group, but which I'm guessing might appeal to some people in that age bracket, so I'm curious as to whether they will like what we are planning to do.
When 20-30 years olds open restaurants with no reservations, no notion of starters and main courses but just small plates, no prospect of a coffee at the end because they need the table back to service the long queues, they are creating environments for people like them, just as Steve Jobs did with his iPod and other creations. They couldn't care less if fuddy-duddies disapprove.
So I won't be doing anything like that for the next restaurant as it isn't authentic to me and would leave me beholden to more of a marketing myth than a mission and a movement that I am a part of.
In the land of the blind, the one-eyed is king. A more contemporary proverb could now be adopted by brand creators, rather than commentators or consultants, to wake up and smell the flat white coffee and simply treat every customer with respect and be honest in what we create and how we communicate it.