A Conference About Millennials Just Proved How Little We’re Understood

The Millennial 20/20 event in Sydney was a patronising exercise in exerting corporate dominance by leaving the consumer they’re aggressively targeting out of the conversation.

A Conference About Millennials Just Proved How Little We’re Understood

by Lucy Morris |
Published on

A conference in Sydney, called Millennial 20/20 has been decoding the behaviour of the youth, and the results have been laughable. The panel of 113 speakers from the likes of Facebook, Airbnb, MTV, Vice and the Guardian spent two whole days diagnosing the ‘millennial mindset’, yet very few of those panellists were millennials themselves.

Officially speaking there is no exact definition of who or what a millennial is. Essentially it's being used as a by-word for young people around the world regardless of demographic, location, privilege or education. Most places are suggesting that it refers to somebody born in the ‘80s and ‘90s, but others are including anyone born in early 2000s in that bracket too. As vague and patronising as the label is it’s in no way stopping brands from treating them as a marketing opportunity.

This meeting of the minds was held in a former railway depot complete with exposed bricks and graffiti reading the word ‘HOPE’. The wifi password was ‘SmashedAvo’. And, The Economist sponsorship stands doled out in free vegetable smoothies. The marketing head at Facebook Australia was keen to press the point that a ‘purposeful life’ is paramount on a meaningful ‘work-life integration, rather than work-life balance.’ The managing director of Expedia, Michael Pearson, was able to boast about the vast swathes of data they’ve hoarded. He was keen to share that they could target their consumer as pointedly as possible, saying ‘I know where he lives, I know he has a wife and two kids’ and that he knows why ‘millennials are delaying those key life purchases’.

Attendees shared their insights on Twitter. Georgie Cavanagh who is head of creator and brand partnerships at TRIBE wrote, ‘No longer digital marketing, but marketing in a digital world’. While one marketing strategist wrote, ‘I think Matt has the quote of the session: “financial services companies want to sell you the products that suit them, not you.”’ Another added, 'I'm at @Millennial20_20 #M2020 basically us #Millennials are entitled, narcissistic, superficial brats. Sounds about right. Now check out this meaningless shot of the fancy conference I'm at while you're at work.'

The whole thing was a sham. It was a tokenistic attempt to talk about connecting with youth while really offering a networking opportunity for the people who are keen to cash in on their money. From the condescending ‘hang out’ areas with ‘chill out lounges’ filled with doughnuts, ping pong and free coffee to the holographic lettering of the website, the branding of the event typified how the conference only grazed the surface of what millennials are about.

Main image: Millenial 20/20 Sydney/Twitter

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Follow Lucy on Instagram @lucyalicemorris

This article originally appeared on The Debrief.

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