Rob Callender writes: Millennials, born between 1979 and 1996, were the babies the “Baby on Board” signs warned about. They were the kids the Kids Choice Awards were invented for, and they were the teens that catapulted certain teen fashion retailers to iconic status a decade ago. They were young, then young-at-heart, and then, according to some, insufficiently adult. But then a funny thing happened: Millennials grew up. They have spouses, houses, kids and careers. They have become parents.
But that doesn’t mean they’ve turned themselves into human minivans—dull and practical and wholly centered on the family. In contrast to prior generations, Millennials have spent much of their lives building a strong sense of self, celebrating their independence, and exploring their options. They prioritized understanding themselves and refining their individuality prior to becoming parents, and they’re not giving the fruits of their labor up for family life.
Don’t misunderstand: Millennials aren’t rejecting the concept of family. Most want children at some point. But they’ll hold tight to their own sense of path and purpose. Unlike previous cohorts, their guiding vision is based on personal evaluations rather than societal expectations. They won’t allow society to dictate what they do, with whom, and when. As this Pew data shows, a growing belief that more variety in family structures is a good thing has gone hand in hand with an increasing mix in family structure.
For marketers, the generational shift Millennials are forcing has profound implications. Since time immemorial, marketers have tried to connect with the Family Unit using well-worn tropes. Maybe you’ll recall the Overwhelmed Mom, the Clueless Dad or the Overprotectors. These parent-bot caricatures don’t look like the family life Millennials know—or want.
Rather, Millennial parents will continue to embrace their individuality and encourage their own children to develop the same from a young age. Connecting with modern families will require speaking to individuals who happen to be entwined in a tightly knit confederation. It’s an important way in which the huge Millennial cohort is recreating culture more in its own image: interrelated and perhaps even interdependent, but still highly individualistic.