I can't imagine what it's like to be a millennial — or, you know, about four years younger than I actually am, having been relegated to life at the tail end of the tail end of a puny (in all possible senses of the word) generation. Baby Boomers got the spoils of the aptly named Greatest Generation. My putative category, Generation X, got Reality Bites, the Commodore 64 and email (in college).
Millennials, on the other hand, get everything.
They are so numerous, so young, so free from the financial burdens of elderly parents, college-aged kids or having reached peak earning potential during the global financial crisis. Millennials are a marketer's wet dream, equal parts size and financial mobility then compounded by the "Stars: they're just like you (as long as you buy this $200 T-shirt)!" nature of their celebrity-obsessed age. Google "how to market to millennials" and you will get 24,300,000 responses (here's a sample).
This leads to some good ideas (Uber; HotelTonight; Seamless). It also leads to many that are embarrassing, patronizing or downright insulting.
State of Hawaii, please stand up.
Hawaii's tourism board, charged with promoting a state that's so perennially attractive that the staff could basically watch reruns of Dog the Bounty Hunter all day without losing visitors, has just announced its latest plan to woo millennials: facial recognition software that will review your responses to a marketing video and make suggestions for in-state destinations based on your frowny-frown or arched eyebrows of interest. Sounds like technological gibberish to me — but what do I know? I'm typing this on a Motorola Razr. “Hawaii is very solid with baby boomers but we need to think about the travelers of tomorrow and these kinds of things help us get going in that direction,” Leslie Dance, VP of marketing and product development for the Hawaii Tourism Authority, told Skift.
We don't know how the state of Hawaii markets itself to Baby Boomers (telegraph, presumably) or to Gen X (not at all; why bother!). But it's clearly millennials who get the cream of their innovative thinking. And you know what? Let them have it, and their selfie sticks, and tourism board Snapchat takeovers, and hotel room robot butlers, and their Pokemon Go tours of Paris.
Here’s the thing: at the moment, “technologically advanced” and “millennial” are synonymous. Get ready to cede that particular title to Generation Trumpocalypse or whatever comes next. But don’t feel bad for us. They can have their facial recognition videos and unlimited marketing budgets. We were the last generation to have childhood vacations uninterrupted by the Internet, and for once, we got the better end of the deal.