It happened in the most unexpected of places; the unnerving realisation that I was no longer the next hot thing. Queueing to get into a club (!) during one of the few reprieves Australia has had from lockdowns the past year and a half, I realised that I – a millennial – had been dethroned by Generation Z. They weren’t just younger; they were an entirely different generation and we both knew it.
A few weeks ago, I wrote about the rise of millennials, but probably not in the way you’d expect.
For our industry in particular, ‘millennials’ has come to feel a bit like shorthand for anything youthful. Heck, if I had a dollar for every brief I’ve read that talks about connecting with a millennial audience, I’d be very wealthy indeed.
No, my piece focused on the fact that this construct is now fundamentally flawed in that millennials just aren’t that young anymore. And while that may be alarming for some - ahem, me - it also represents exciting new possibilities.
Millennials are expected to make up 75% of the Australian workforce by 2025 which means that we are teetering on the brink with a critical mass of change makers who have the potential to drive impact at speed and scale.
And this prompts questions. What sort of change might they affect? How will they use positions of power within businesses? What does this mean for the brands that have historically marketed to them?
Since writing my article, I think we’ve been offered some clues.
In early September, it was revealed that the founders of Canva - recently valued at US $40 billion - have made a pledge to give a 30% stake (approx. $16.4 billion) to a foundation seeking to eliminate extreme property.
As JBWere Philanthropic Services’ John McLeod said to the AFR, a pledge to give away such a large shareholding was “astonishing”, particularly given the relatively young age of Canva’s founders (they’re millennials).
To add context, this would make Canva the largest, private donor in Australia. No mean feat.
And this is representative of the exciting opportunities that millennials now face. They have the resource and influence to plug what Junkee Media’s 2021 Youth Report, Brand New World, has dubbed ‘The Intention-Action Gap’; the disjunct between corporate values and meaningful action.
Canva’s commitment is - I hope - a telling sign of what is to come.
Looking more closely at the topics that young people in Australia care about – we see the potential for millennials to enforce widespread implementation of gender equal hiring and remuneration practices; to make tangible commitments to climate change action; and to promote greater recognition and inclusion of diverse voices, including First Nations people. And that’s just them getting started.
Perhaps this is looking at my contemporaries through rose-coloured glasses. I’m quick to recognise that this cohort is not a homogenous mass and not every member holds the same progressive attitudes.
And yet, as an eternal optimist, I can’t help but wonder (and hope) at the meaningful impact this generational shift can potentially have on Australia.
The leaders in the marketing and advertising space have already observed and acted upon it via forward thinking leadership teams implementing policies that are reflective of not only millennial values, but values that are culturally resonant across generations.
As a very wise friend once said to me in relation to affecting systemic change, “the fish rots from the head”. How exciting for us to be on the cusp of a markedly different school of marine life that’s primed to behave in a very different way from the status quo. For all we know, these fish may not rot in the first place.
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