The similarities and differences of Boomers in 1969 and Millennials in 2015. Should we be terrified for the future?

In August of 1969, 400,000 kids made a pilgrimage to Bethal, New York for 3 days of peace, love and music. They arrived by any means necessary: hitch hike, rusted out Pintos, VW Mini Buses packed like clown cars … All for a chance to hear Santana, The Grateful Dead, Joplin and Hendrix. There was tie dye, long hair and a unique “herbal” aroma that lofted through the atmosphere. I’m sure that any “adult” who experienced this spectacle was terrified for the future of America.

Those tie dye wearing, long-haired, free-love, herb inhaling hippies are now in their 60’s, getting kids through college (or spoiling grandkids), managing companies and quite possibly reading this article!

Last month I went to the Summer Camp Music Festival for 4 days of a very similar experience. We had 20,000 Millennials enjoying more than 125 artists on 7 stages. There was tie dye, long dreads, and that exact same “herbal” aroma hanging in the air like LA smog.

I was terrified for the future of America!

There were two very distinct differences between the audience of the 2015 music festival from the one in 1969.

  1. While parking, we didn’t see the rusty Bugs, packed Mini Buses or worn out Pintos. We were surrounded by young adults in BMWs, Mercedes and Land Rovers … none of which, I’m assuming, the drivers made a single payment on. 
  2. The event organizers and attendees went out of their way to be environmentally conscious, with recycling stations at every turn, using biodiesel generators to power everything and well-attended morning education sessions on issues of sustainability, reusable energy sources, carbon offsetting, composting and more! The event also supported more than a dozen non-profit organizations. 

This was not my parents’ Woodstock!

So, as the “old man” of the weekend (seriously, that’s what the snot-nosed little brats who camped around us called us! My ego’s been in hospice ever since), I have some observations. While I understand that this particular group of 20,000 represented more of a sub-culture, lets call them “Hippielennials,” they did display some behaviors that I believe we, as marketers, can take note of (I feel like Dian Fossey with her gorillas):

  • Rather than blending in with the masses, many of these “kids” demonstrated a deep desire to stand out … to show their individuality AND to gain attention. This extends well past the dreads, tats and costumes. Mellennials are rethinking all social “expectations.” Even one of the most sacred of conventional relationship structures: The 2012 census shows that married households has fallen to 50.5% down from 72% when Richie Havens opened Woodstock.
  • There is a materialistic entitlement. Even though this is a poorer, more indebted, less employed generation, the rides they showed up in were nicer than mine. Mom and dad lived in a better economic time, paid their dues and want their kids to have a better life than they had. But it is the paying of those dues that breeds respect and appreciation. While Millennials have grown up in a worse economic time, I don’t believe they’ve been asked, as a whole, to pay their dues. (See how this entitlement can help you with this “Time” story: How Millennials Sense of Entitlement Could Benefit You (Banks))
  • While they are materialistically entitled, Millennials are more globally and environmentally aware. It’s an interesting social conundrum, studies show that these same people driving BMWs to a weekend concert are shifting from Brand Loyalty (focus on a product’s social status) to Cause Loyalty (an organization’s ideals). Find out more at this insightful NY Times article.

The group from the 2015 Summer Camp Music Festival will shape the world even more than their 1969 Woodstock, “Boomer” counterparts.

I’m no longer terrified for the future of America!

In fact, I’m a bit optimistic. As the Millennials mature and gain more responsibility, they will acquire an appreciation for material possessions, but they will also mold the world their way – with less regard for conventional customs and more concern for the world around them – all, still with peace, love and music.

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