The Kids Are Alright: How Creativity Appeals to Millennials
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The Kids Are Alright: How Creativity Appeals to Millennials

It’s evident that millennials are the topic of many debates these years. While The New Yorker has labelled millennials as fierce opponents of sexism and bigotry. Time branded them the “Me, Me, Me Generation,” pointing to adolescent girls pining for stardom, lazy college graduates dwelling in their parents’ basement, and a climbing number of narcissistic personality disorder cases seen in twenty-somethings.

When it comes to young people, there’s clearly some stark divergences in opinion. But maybe – just maybe – pigeonholing such a complex group of people into one of two extremes isn’t necessary.

Who Are Millennials?

But, who even qualifies as a millennial? What are they really about?

No precise dates pinpoint where Generation Y begins and ends. The term “millennial” was coined in 1987 to identify the original graduating class of the new millennium, according to authors William Strauss and Neil Howe.

Taken a little more generally, the word refers to individuals born between the early-1980’s and the mid-1990’s. Often described as Echo Boomers, this nuanced generation peaked in birth rates around August 1990, somewhat reflecting the massive population growth seen in Baby Boomers. However, the fundamental difference between millennials and their generational predecessors follows a single historical milestone – the advent of the Internet.

Millennial Inclinations

Unlike prior generations, millennials matured into adulthood alongside the Internet. American educator Marc Prensky explained millennial inclinations toward modern technology, analyzing how their collective generation thinks and processes information. In his research, he discerned that millennial children were natives to the digital world. The direct product of a media-rich moment in history. (Imagine the constant bombardment of social media notifications, instant messages, mobile applications, ect. – it’s overwhelming!) As such, millennials require learning environments steeped in engaging forms of media to maintain their attention.

Prensky’s findings about millennial cognition proved widely applicable. For instance, millennials like to network and multi-task their way through problems. They gravitate toward parallel processes over step-by-step methodologies, and seek situations where information is simply a click away. Graphics appeal to them first before reading the accompanying text. They employ their familiarity with digital media to strain through multivalent content like a fine sediment, gleaming the essential particles before progressing to the next thing that demands their rapid scrutiny.

Although educators were slow to reinvent learning strategies for millennial students, marketers quickly grasped the key to understanding the millennial thought process – if something doesn’t demand a millennial’s attention in comparison to the flood of content assailing their sensory experience, you can’t blame them for being inattentive. Hence, the solution is transforming straightforward content into enjoyable activities.

Prensky recalled a team of professors who created a software system for a company’s staff of mechanical engineers. While the software promised to revolutionize the field, the engineers encountered a steep learning curve while navigating its complicated interface and hundreds of new buttons. Realizing the need to overcome this roadblock, the product’s marketers observed the demographic of the engineers: they were almost exclusively millennials.

The Monkey Wrench Conspiracy

With the interests of their audience in mind, the marketers created a video game called The Monkey Wrench Conspiracy that utilized the software in building tools, fixing weapons, and defeating traps. A wild success, the game sold a million copies that taught the new system to engineers worldwide.

Its secret to success? Rather than bogging down the millennial engineers with dense exercises and labored pedagogy. The game operated with speed and urgency, fusing elements of education with entertainment into a legitimately fun activity. The bottom line is that learning and communicating can (and should be) fun.

To learn more about marketing to millennials, contact us today at