By Greg Stene
We may be witnessing the absurdly quick end to the Millennial Generation.
This coming Monday, September 29th may take care of it all.
- we had the advertising world getting a handle on the Millennials at a huge cost and professional upheaval of all it once held true
- we had the world of employment turning itself upside down to accommodate the Millennials’ justified lack of employer-loyalty, work performance on their own terms, and the quick-shift from employer-to-employer they represented
- there was the idea of friendships made in social groups being more important than those made at work
- the world of casual friends on social networks was good enough for a lot of people
- the form of independence from the Millennial stereotype so carefully crafted as the youngsters refused to accept the limitations of the stereotype and grew beyond it every two years or so, keeping marketers from ever really understanding them
- and the confidence in themselves and the future, that some older people around them never quite got used to …
It all ends over this short weekend.
Two things came up this Thursday night, the 25th.
First, the apparent coming agreement on the massive $700,000,000,000 bailout has been tossed up on the rocks of uncertainty (sounds like a place where it rains a lot) in a mess of a president, two contenders, two political parties, a power struggle and just way too much to bother with here.
So, the money markets become even more unstable, even more unsure of the future. You begin to kiss off investment money into companies and their expansion because money is far too valuable to invest in anything remotely risky, and nearly any company’s survival these days is a real risk.
You begin to kiss off jobs, since companies can’t expand without investment and loans. You begin to kiss off sales since people are afraid to spend money because they’re afraid of losing their job and their homes.
Second thing, announced relatively late this Thursday evening. Washington Mutual (WaMu) failed … the United States’ largest bank failure ever … “the biggest bank failure in history,” according to the New York Times. Regulators rushed in, took over, and sold the whole damned thing off to J.P. Morgan Chase.
This biggest bank failure ever. Tonight. In this country.
And in this crisis of confidence, the Millennials died.
They likely didn’t know it. But their independence on the job and their lack of loyalty to a job just went four-feet-up. Jobs will become scarce, and the competition for them will become real. To have and to hold, will become the dictum. And relationships forged in mere months on the job will be far more important than lifelong social friendships because the people you know on the job will help you stay on the job.
Money once spent on fun will become as hoarded as fresh water in a hurricane’s aftermath.
The belief that you could grow to become a leader where you worked was quashed, replaced by the need to quash those around you to keep your job. There will be little time to think of advancement.
Owning a home was once an independent dream accomplished on your own. Owning a home since this weekend means inheriting it.
What does all this have to do with advertising?
We advertisers thought we owned the Millennials for a good decade or more. We had them stereotyped, we believed we had them figured out and we thought we were just steps away from having them ready to buy into the world we had prepared. And we had spent ungodly amounts of money in ourselves, learning everything about this perfect-storm target generation so we could communicate with them on a meaningful level.
But all that’s been blown to hell now. They are not the people we got ourselves ready for. As of this weekend, they are not the wealthy generation we had thought they would be. The jobs are gone, their parents need their money to keep the house and buy gas, and they don’t share that money with the kids anymore.
We, in advertising, in the short time of a weekend, lost our good friends the Millennials, and they were turned into another generation we have yet to find the right name for.
But we probably have half of the name of our new period in time figured out. It will have a descriptor word or two in front of the actual word. It will have the ring of, The Great … or something like that.
Whatever we front-end it with, it will end with the word we had thought we’d left behind. We will call it The … Depression. The one that killed the Millennials.