Top image by Sam Klein via Flickr. Bottom image by Terry Weddleton via Flickr.

Above, a fan records a Girl Talk concert. Below, a crowd takes in the music at Woodstock, 1969. Top image by Sam Klein via Flickr. Bottom image by Terry Weddleton via Flickr.

When talking about Millennials, I like to warn people not to bucket. I warn them and then go right ahead and do it. I bucket. It’s easy. It’s convenient. It’s fun. And it makes about as much sense as asking, “What’s your sign?”

A generation is defined by its value-shaping experiences as anchored by the media and ceremony of the times. Each generation comes with a new set of aspirations and expectations and, right off the bat, this makes the Millennials different.

The signature experience of the Millennial cohort is that they were the first generation to be born in a digital world. Some put the breakpoint at 1975, some at 1980, but the date is less important than the fact.

When the world went digital, information and discovery exploded. Suddenly, everything seemed possible.

Great expectations

Growing up in this reality has given Millennials huge expectations but not always the motivation needed to realize them. On the job, 40 percent of Millennials say they think they should be promoted every two years regardless of their performance. Deal with that, boss!

The Millennial mantra goes something like this: “My way. Right away. Why pay?” Why should Millennials feel any different? They were raised in the age of free, instantaneous access to just about everything – music, television, news.

The good news is that Millennials are team players. They love to be a part of a team and they love to work as a team.

Millennials played on lots of teams while at school. But they often played games where there were no losers, only winners. So business executives must learn how to build teams of Millennials that will work and work well in the real world.

Millennials expect direct communication with top execs. They think their opinions are valuable and they want to be able to share their opinions at will.

The Millennial employee expects work to be fun, hours to be flexible. Not to worry, they probably don’t expect to be working for you tomorrow.

There is little or no Millennial loyalty to either the boss or the organization; a 2010 Intrepid Study found that Millennials will have an average of seven jobs by age 26.

Unlike Boomers, who wrapped their entire lives around the corporate logo, Millennials will at best allow an opportunity to earn their loyalty.

Millennials and media

All that said, marketing to Millennials isn’t complicated as long as you keep these three ideas in mind:

  1. 1. Millennials may use media differently. You aren’t likely to reach them with newspaper inserts but you can attract them with online coupons.
  2. 2. Be more than just willing to customize. Make customization a feature of your product line. Even the non-Millennial Harley Davidson brand has this one figured out. They offer countless ways to turn your Softail into a customized rolling work of art.
  3. 3. Be aware that the buying decision is likely to be a collaborative event. Millennials are the original team players and that carries into the shopping experience. Their BFF may not be physically present but so long as there is a wireless connection, you are likely to be selling to more than one person.

Millennials can be fun, smart, and, in the right hands, they can become part of turned-on teams capable of doing anything.

Maybe it’s time for us Boomers to step aside and let Millennials have their shot at making the world a better place.