3 ways people & brands sabotage efforts to connect with gen z & millennials

Updated: Jul 13, 2020

I market to Millennials and Gen Z for a living, so it's fair to say that I see a number of patterns. The core of what I do is help--anyone from established older companies, to new startups--find ways to modernize, optimize and speak the language of right now, and tomorrow. Some brands do an incredible job of staying relevant, decade after decade, continuously outperforming the competition with excellent marketing and branding, and there is a formula. Like many things, it comes down to exemplary communication.

Every day, I talk with marketing teams and business owners about ways they can communicate and evolve to better meet the minds and needs of younger generations. It doesn't matter if you were a massive success within your generation. Unless you somehow became genuinely iconic, if you don’t pivot and modernize in certain respects, you're going to become outdated and archaic.

People don't realize how blissful and fascinating modernization can be. But that's a rant for another day, let's jump right into these three ways you’re probably irritating younger generations, and how to stop.

1. Talking too much

Skip this one if you're exceptionally quiet by nature, and have mastered the lost art of listening. If neither of those apply to you, treat this as scripture:

These generations appreciate silence. The world is so loud for us, and everyone is talking constantly at us. Nearly no one listens well and we’ve been told to shut up since we learned to talk. I cannot possibly overemphasize the criticality of this and how much it will benefit you: honestly just shut the fuck up.

Unless you're naturally always quiet (and other people tell you that, it's not just a feeling you have towards yourself) just try it. Literally just use like 90% less words than you normally do and I can practically guarantee magic in your life and personal life especially. Listen. Nothing annoys younger generations like incessant noisemakers.

"The most dangerous person is the one who listens, thinks and observes." - Bruce Lee

Listen. Think. Observe. THEN, and only then, if you absolutely have something you are certain will serve as a contribution, consider speaking.

The problem with constant speaking isn't simply constant speaking, it's lack of listening that is the icing on the annoying af cake. If you can listen exceptionally well, and speak scarcely, but well, you will be heard.

2. Demonizing things you don't understand

Just because you once knew a vegan who didn't have an impressive rebuttal for your one seemingly impressive argument, doesn't mean every vegan is stupid. Hinduism and Buddhism are different. Though both contain elements of things like appreciation for nature and the environment, veganism, peace, inner peace, meditation and mindfulness, all of these things are very different, often entirely unrelated and nonreligious.

There is literally not a single good reason to lack a basic understanding of something as simple and harmless (a word I do not use lightly) as mindfulness.

If you mistake any of the aforementioned tenets as being all one mutually exclusive interconnected concept, you look daft as hell.

If you’re running around hating on vegans because you knew someone who you thought was cool one time and said "vegans don't build mad gainz there skinnie lol" you just come off like a fat idiot.

Oh, unless it's hipsters. We all hate hipsters, even hipsters hate hipsters. They are exempt from this list of often misunderstood and mistaken lifestyle choices that you need to avoid mocking at the risk of making an utter ignorant fool of yourself.

3. Ignorant devotion to traditionalism/inflexible disinterest in modernity, evolution, the way the world has changed and improved

"Get off your damn phone," the holy anthem spoken in unison to Millennials & Gen Z from the time we received our first cell phones, until the time that our parents and grandparents got their first smartphones.

I almost never hear this phrase anymore because the previous generations seem to have caught onto a few things:

  • The damn devices are pretty darn fun

  • It seems that they indeed do not have satan hardwired into every pixel

  • Kids and grandkids can serve as quite reliable tech support at times

These basic principles are not exclusive to enabling better communication between the younger and the older. But they do solve the mystery of how some people just seem to be better at "keeping up" and connecting with younger generations.

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