Stop fretting about Millennials and embrace your inner Perennial.
Remember when your parents told you to turn down that loud, obnoxious music? Actually, they yelled, because otherwise you wouldn’t have heard them. They griped about “kids today” and wondered what this next generation was coming to. Many of us have turned into our parents, and now we deliver the same message to our kids and grandchildren.
We worry about what’s going to happen with the Millennials … and all the generations that follow. They never put down their phones, yet they very rarely actually talk on their phones. Will they ever be able to have a conversation or build the kind of relationships that lead to success in account based sales? Maybe, maybe not. But it’s time to stop pointing fingers.
Boomer that I am, I probably won’t stop talking about the “good old days.” And I certainly won’t stop encouraging Millennials to overcome their digital dependence. But generational diversity shouldn’t be a source of animosity. In fact, it can be a competitive advantage for account based sales teams.
This month’s guest post from Gina Pell introduces a term she has coined: Perennials. She encourages us to stop putting people in generational boxes and focus on what unites us instead. Here’s her take:
Meet the Perennials
By Gina Pell
This content is appropriate for people of all ages. And that’s the point. The days of targeting media and products at people based on their age is over.
The Perennials. We are ever-blooming, relevant people of all ages who live in the present time, know what’s happening in the world, stay current with technology, and have friends of all ages. We get involved, stay curious, mentor others, are passionate, compassionate, creative, confident, collaborative, global-minded, risk takers who continue to push up against our growing edge and know how to hustle. We comprise an inclusive, enduring mindset, not a divisive demographic. Perennials are also vectors who have a wide appeal and spread ideas and commerce faster than any single generation. Lady Gaga + Tony Bennett, Lena Dunham + Jenni Konner, Beyoncé + Jay-Z, Bob Dylan, Jimmy Fallon, Pharrell Williams, Justin Trudeau, Ellen DeGeneres, Malala, Sheryl Sandberg, Mick Jagger, Michelle Obama, Emma Watson, Elon Musk, Bernie Sanders, Diane Von Furstenberg, Lorne Michaels, Ai Weiwei, John Oliver, Aziz Ansari, the little girl on Stranger Things … #Perennials
The Millennial Cliché. If you are older than 36, the upper limit of Millennial age, chances are you’ve done your fair share of trash talking about this generation. I’m a culprit. But I stopped cold once I remembered I was far worse back in my day. My partner Amy and I began our careers in the dot-com biz when the internet was as fledgling as our ability to run a startup on angel funding. Amy was 27. I was 32. My accountant-trained parents asked how my company was going to pay back the million dollars I raised from investors. I said, verbatim, into my Motorola StarTAC, “Earned revenue is very 20th Century thinking, Dad. It’s all about eyeballs right now. You wouldn’t understand.” At least, Millennials can’t stand their moniker and are even harsher critics when it comes to judging their contemporaries, so why rub it in? It’s time we rewire our collective Pavlovian response, Millennials = entitlement, and find the overlap between all ages.
Generation Ex. The term generation used to refer to parents and their offspring every 25 years. It wasn’t until the 19th Century that it mutated to describe the social cohort we are born into. The Baby Boomers (1946–1964) are the first and only officially recognized generation by the Census Bureau because of its clearly defined characteristics. Leap forward to 1991 in Generations by Strauss & Howe and the moniker Millennial is coined. It took another decade for marketers and the media to up-spin Millennials, whose birth years fall within the range of 1982-2004 as “the next greatest generation” and begin focusing all their efforts to woo these limelit consumers, voters, and likers. As for the rest, born before 1982, well, the rest is history … irrelevant and in the past.
Generational Segregation. Tolerance feels unattainable when there are hard lines drawn between decades, and terms like Boomers, Gen X, and Gen Y keep us separate and at odds. The media’s adoring gaze is focused solely on the Millennial timeline and it’s light’s out for everyone else. In a recent article in the ABA Banking Journal it’s suggested, in fact, that “attitudes and habits that are widely thought to be millennial-specific may actually be quite widespread among the general population.” Relevance belongs to every age not only during the period of a generation’s ascension to power. Take Sarah Jessica Parker who debuted on Broadway as little orphan Annie then went on to become the game changer of fashion and friendship as Carrie Bradshaw. Today she stars as Frances on HBO’s Divorce, a grittier take on conscious uncoupling. She’s been a Perennial all along.
Hashtag Perennials. I spent the past year ruminating on an appropriate sobriquet to describe a set of people based on psychographics not demographics that would include Millennials, as well as people of all ages. I began floating the term Relevants to see if it stuck until a wise New York Times journalist pointed out that saying “I’m a Relevant,” could be misheard as “I’m Irrelevant.” So, I turned to my husband Dave, the dude who writes NextDraft and king of catchy headlines. He was dozing off next me on an airplane, “I got it,” he said, “You should call them Perennials.” I quickly searched all definitions of perennial: enduring, perpetual, ever-lasting, recurrent, ever-blooming. Thus, Perennials was born.
Netflix and Chill. It’s time we chose our own category based on shared values and passions and break out of the faux constructs behind an age-based system of classification. By identifying ourselves as Perennials, we supplant our constricting label with something that better reflects our reality online and off. Amazon and Netflix get it right with recommendation engines that target people based on behavioral data over outmoded generational stereotypes, so why shouldn’t we?
Being a Millennial doesn’t have to mean living in your parents’ basement, growing an artisanal beard, and drinking craft beer. Midlife doesn’t have to be a crisis. And you don’t have to be a number anymore. You’re relevant. You’re ever-blooming. You’re Perennial.
(Note: The original version of this article appeared on The What and has been reposted with permission from Gina Pell.)
About the Author
Gina Pell is an award-winning Creative Director and tech entrepreneur. She is currently Content Chief of The What, a fast-growing email newsletter with five eclectic, curious things you should know about every week—from books to health, life, style, travel, and tech. In 2016, she coined the term Perennials to describe ever-blooming people of all ages who continue to push up against their growing edge, always relevant, and not defined by their generation. Pell also founded Splendora.com in 1999, a style and culture innovator in the online fashion space which was acquired by Joyus in 2011. Pell served as Chief Creative Officer of Joyus until 2013. Gina graduated Phi Beta Kappa from UC Berkeley before completing the Painting and Print Making program at Università Internazionale dell’Arte – Venezia in 1997.
Don’t you mean the 20th century under Generation Ex, unless you really do mean the 1800’s! Great article. I, for one, definitely identify as a Perennial!
I think businesses needs to move away from the faux persona constructs used by marketing and sales and adopt JTBD (Job To Be Done) principles to really reach and properly serve customers, especially in an account-based approach. This aligns quite nicely with a “Perennial” outlook.