Now that the house is quiet, and Daisy has settled into a routine, I can get back to the business communications research that I love. I must admit, too, that I spend a teensy bit of time on Pinterest. It’s research as well, in its own way–I think there is a tremendous amount to be learned on that particular site about how people communicate in the visual sense.
I believe Baby Boomers’ sense of imagery in general came from text, and from oral presentations–engaging the senses in a very different way than the millennials expect, and that marketeers are trying so hard to understand. The exception, of course, being movies and television. Movies and TV to us were ephemeral things. See a movie once, or twice, or twenty times if you could afford it, but you couldn’t take them home. You had to bow to the network schedule if you wanted to watch a TV show. Those born between 1980 and 2000 don’t remember life without the VCR/DVD player. Most don’t remember life without the Internet. They see movies (and YouTube videos, by extension) as containing images that you watch many times if you love them, pause wherever you choose to dig deeper into the image, and allow the words and images to come together in ways that we boomers gained from books. To us, okay, to me, the image I create in my mind while reading is so much more comprehensive, and totally different than the often one-dimensional images created in a movie or TV show. The book is almost always better to a boomer, and so many of the next generation don’t have the basis to agree or disagree with that statement.
To millennials, my children included, the movie is always better. Viral videos intrigue them. They don’t have to imagine the image, it’s right there for them, and their attention is captured in a very different way. They speak in memes–“Where’s the Beef,” was at its peak in 1984. To them, brands are part of their identity, not in a bad way. Just different. As already noted, I’m a boomer–and I have finally begun to believe that I will never truly understand how they think. I resist brands. I won’t even wear a t-shirt with writing or pictures on it in public. I resist commercials–the DVR was invented for me. I won’t watch a commercial if I can avoid it. My kids don’t understand that, either. They find entertainment value in the commercials as well as the program.
Pardon the metaphor, but understanding how a millennial thinks is like a person who is sane trying to understand how someone who is insane arrives at a conclusion. By definition, we cannot. We can see glimpses, but we don’t get what they want or who they are in any comprehensive way. Thus our shock and pain as the insane perpetrate ghastly crimes against society–and we beat ourselves up for not anticipating it. We cannot, because we cannot comprehend their actions or what drives them. And we cannot put up fences to protect everything.
Luckily, the millennials aren’t categorically insane. They are just us 2.0. Remember, our parents threw their hands up on why boys grew their hair long, and rock and roll’s booty-shaking beats intrigued us, while frightening them. Our generation, with discretionary income to burn, was the first that was marketed to differently than our parents. The millennials are moving in their own ways to exactly that same headspace, and marketers are struggling–and the stakes now are in the billions of dollars. Our children live their lives out loud, first on MySpace, now on Facebook and Twitter. I cannot tell you how many times I have said quietly to my children–don’t fight your relationships out on a public site. Don’t put your work woes up on Facebook. But their definition of community is different in ways we just don’t understand.
What’s even more intriguing to me is that the generation born from 2000 to 2020 are going to freak their parents out as well, in ways we cannot foresee. What will this environmentally conscious, imagery-oriented, live-out-loud, branded set of our descendants shake their heads at 20 years from now? And as grandparents live longer and longer lives, how will we interact with that generation?
The image above may be a canard–while it’s not my circus, my monkeys are running the joint, and I’m going to love watching what happens next.