What exactly is a “Millennial”?

As a species, Human Beings love to put one another into boxes. From sexual orientation, gender, even to marital status. If we can make a list in order for it just to be ticked off, all the better. Government officials and Big Business use the tick-box-system to gather information about us, so when you answered Jedi as your preferred religion for a laugh at the last National Census, you better believe those Lightsaber training pamphlets posted through your door is no coincident.

No, because what everyone is after is data.

Data gathering is the primary tool associated with marketing, who in-turn use informational data to sell products to key demographics such as Generation Y, better known to you and me as Millennials. The key to marketing is to know your audience and to achieve this, business’ put the general populace into demographics primarily divided down age-lines. You remember your mum or dad – maybe even your grandparents – using the term Generation-X and Baby Boomers? Well, those terms relate to the demographic to which they belong respectively, with the term of Millennial most commonly referring to a cohort of people born in the early 1980’s up to the early 2000’s.

Although the exact age-range is blurred at best, the preconception of traits and attributes relating to Millennials continue to prevail for good and for bad. One of the biggest traits that older industry experts perpetuate is the idea that Millennials are a demographic of narcissists with a pre-ascribed sense of entitlement. This idea of Generation Me was coined by Psychologist Jean Twenge in her 2006 book of the same name, where she proposed that Millennials have “always been taught that our thoughts and feelings are important.” And that looking up to Media produce figures is secondary as “it’s more important to look up to yourself.”


This example is reflective of our modern social media where anyone can become an overnight sensation through Instagram, Twitter and YouTube alike. Rather than working a dead end 9-to-5 job instead, Millennials are seeking fulfilment through artistic expression and immediate work satisfaction with “the archaic top-down leadership model” that once worked for the Gen-X generation before them proving ineffectual with the value system that Millennials cherish. A study published at the Florida International University showed that rather than being a hindrance to an effective workplace Millennials’ show an “appetite for engagement and appreciation for new values, such as technology, along with their ideals and identity, [making] them less resistant to change.” Showing that a generation of narcissists may, in fact, have inherited a number of hard working traits from their Gen-X parents when dealing with productivity in the world place.

This thirst for knowledge and a capacity for learning new things is where Millennials will prove their worth in the future as they join the workforce and become accomplished within their chosen field. A sentiment that I’m sure every generation hopes to achieve but seems fortitudinous for Millennials given that they are the most educated generation according to data collected by the PEW Research Center. In the States 63% of Millennials valued higher education with 19% of that number having already graduated, leaving the remaining 44% planning on graduating from university in the future. In a society that values education in order to get footing on the career ladder to higher paying jobs, it seems logical for Millennials to go down that route and have a strong educational basis in their back pocket.

This ‘Give-it-a-Go’ attitude is by far the most looked-down-upon trait from the generations before us but it is an aspect of a joint-generational-persona that continues to push our society forward. Data from MillennialMarketing.com shows that this generation is 2.5 times more likely to be an early adopter of technology with 56% of us reporting that we are amongst the first to try out new technology above other generations. As a slice of society, we are also more connected than ever with social media playing an important role in our daily lives with 46% of Millennials reportedly admitting to having 200 plus friends on Facebook. As opposed to the 19% of non-Millennials that do not.

With an obvious propensity for technological savviness – hardly surprising giving that the internet has been a permanent fixture during our formative years – Millennials are also known as content creators and users with 46% of the generation posting original photo and videos that they have created. Showing a willingness to be an active participant within the world rather than passively sitting back.

This is also reflected in how much Millennials are travelling the globe in search of new experiences with 69% of the young generation admitting to craving adventure. Inside America alone, 75% of the Millennial cohorts desire to travel abroad with 79% also admitting to wanting to visit all 50 states. Doubt even President Trump can attest to that.

Narcissus & Instagram

As a Millennial myself I find the association between narcissism and self-importance a jarring prospect. Then again I would, wouldn’t I? But in reality, Millennial’s are far more concern with how their actions affect the world than ever before. As mentioned, the typical Millennial is far more interested in expressing one’s actual self than any monetary gain but the fact of the matter is that when it comes to spending money, for us quality is king. In a study conducted by American Express and Psychologist Emma Kenny in 2016, they found that of Millennials polled 62% shopped for a preferred brand when compared to 54% of the wider population. When paired with data that over 50% of Millennial shoppers will make a purchase from a company that supports a cause we see a trend of brand loyalty from Millennials when companies value more than their bottom line. Our loyalty for supporting causes we care for are also reflected in the 37% of those Millennials willing to pay that little bit more for a product or service if the proceeds go to charity.

The reality of what a Millennial is will be constant loggerheads with the recycled facade of what other generations believe. It’s important to understand that the Millennial Tag is foremost used to describe a larger generational group rather than a specific person or persons. So with any broad sweeping generalisation certain traits and attributes – both good and bad – will not apply to everyone.

The fact that we are also not the first young generation to take criticism of our elders is vital in taking the banner of Millennial and wearing it with pride. Generation-X before us faced their fair share of nomenclatures from the “MTV Generation” to “slackers” and yet now we receive the same aspersions from them. I’m not suggesting that we should or that we won’t take that stance with the Generation Z’s to come. But just like the Gen-Xers proved themselves before us our future is still for the making.