Gen Y Truisms I’m Freaking Sick And Tired Of Hearing

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Groucho Marx once said:

“I’ve read so much about the dangers of smoking, that I’ve decided to give up reading.”

That’s how I feel about Gen Yers. I gotta stop reading about them. It’s driving me nuts.

First off, most of the commentary, at this point, is redundant. I haven’t read or seen anything really new about Gen Y in at least a year now.

Second, some of it is such meaningless, platitudinal bullshit that it drives me up a wall.

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I’ll give you some examples, but before I do, let me apologize to those I’m quoting and citing. It does pain me (slightly) to think that the people I’m criticizing for perpetuating Gen Y bullshit are people I like and respect. But don’t worry. I’ll get over it.

While there are many of these truisms to draw from, I found a whole pile of them in one particular article on The Cooperative Trust’s blog.

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The first pile of Gen Y BS I’ll highlight is this one (and I know you’ve heard this a million times before):

“Gen Y doesn’t want to be marketed to, they want to be communicated WITH.” 

Oh for chrissakes, really? Gen Y doesn’t want to be marketed to? I suppose the author thinks that Boomers and Gen Xers DO want to be marketed to, and that Seniors are just too old and senile to even notice marketing. NOBODY wants to be marketed to, NOBODY wants to be talked down to, NOBODY wants to be disrespected.

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Here’s another misguided statement, regarding the communication of messages to Gen Yers:

“If you have a fifty year old relaying the message, I can assure you it is falling on deaf ears.”

Nonsense. By this false logic, only members of a particular generation could possibly communicate with that generation. Good luck to Fisher-Price as they try to hire 3 year-old marketing people.

I hope I didn’t offend the author of the article, but since I’m a “fifty year old”, I imagine my criticism fell on deaf ears and he didn’t hear it.

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The third offending statement was this one:

“As we prepare for 20% of [credit union] CEOs to retire in the next five years, we’d be best served to start grooming young talent now. Make them an active part of strategic planning and decision making. Why not make a commitment to finding a board member under 35 in the next year…”

The board of directors — in any organization, not just credit unions — is to ensure the prosperity of the entity. It’s NOT a body designed to be a representative sample of the membership base, or (even worse) the desired membership base.

I would bet that most credit union CEOs are tactful enough to say that they would welcome the voice of Gen Y on their board of directors, blah, blah, blah.

But the reality is this: CU CEOs need directors who can help make critical business decisions — not people who can “talk the language” of their target market.

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If you thought that was enough BS for one article, you were wrong. Here’s another one:

“We have a pool of talent with insight into what Gen Y wants and needs from a primary financial institution…”

This is closely related to the “if 50-year-olds relay the message…” comment from above, but it’s not the same thing. This statement presumes that ONE Gen Yer knows what OTHER Gen Yers want and need.

In the business, we call this bully-button research. It’s a terrible basis on which to make important business decisions.

I recently completed a consumer study about how consumers manage their financial lives, and in analyzing the results, looked closely at Gen Yers. I found many differences in attitudes and behaviors regarding financial services between Gen Yers born between 1978 and 1986, and those born between 1987 and 1994. So how can one 29-year-old credit union marketer (or board member) presume to know what “Gen Y wants and needs”? Answer: S/he can’t.

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Bottom line: I imagine that some of you reading this will think “I hate these generational stereotypes, regardless of the generation they apply to.”

But I’ve got to tell you, from doing consumer research in this space for the past 15 years, there are generational differences, in aggregate. Of course, not all members of a generation fit the stereotype or persona, and that any one member of a generation won’t fit the mold on every attribute. Understood and accepted. But there are behavioral and attitudinal trends that are statistically different the generations. 

What’s driving me nuts is that much of the “conversation” about Gen Yers isn’t really designed to uncover and discuss insights into how Gen Yers might be different from older consumers and how marketing or management efforts should be designed or changed.

Instead, much of the commentary is little more than a rehashing of meaningless platitudes designed to further a viewpoint that holds that Gen Yers should be given more attention, and more management and leadership responsibility.

The problem with this is two-fold: 1) Meaningless platitudes are poor supporting evidence for any viewpoint, and 2) Arguing that you should change management and leadership approaches because of a changing customer base is a non-sequitur.

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