In the last decade, millennials were blamed for killing everything, from beers to napkins.
9 min read
This story originally appeared on Business Insider
If you are guided by the headlines, the last decade was nothing but a bloodbath at the hands of millennials .
Millennials killed the napkins. They killed the cereal. Buffalo Wild Wings and TGI Fridays? Dead in a ditch, thanks to millennials.
As a millennial and business reporter covering the retail source, I have written many of these headlines. In fact, it became one of my favorite genres: a trend article in business with the drama of a mysterious murder.
However, most millennials were not as fans of my titles as I was. One fact – millennials are not spending money on this, so sales have gone down – it became an accusation. Reporters were persecuted, accused of blaming a harassed generation instead of investigating who were the real culprits.
The idea that millennials were killing industries became a metaphor that defined the decade, and in the end, they managed to kill the headline that “millennials kill.” In retrospect, gender highlighted a change in trends, depressing truths about the economy, and the increase in violence in social networks.
The origin of the headlines
The media obsession with millennials escalated in the early 2010s.
As Kate Dries reported to the New York Times in 2013 , trend articles painted millennials as materialists but elbows. According to these stories, the generation felt entitled to everything and hoped they would be given a participation trophy for the simple fact of getting out of bed.
By that time, business publications begin to use the idea that “millennials were killing” to tell stories of industries that failed to win over these new customers . A 2012 Christian Science Monitor headline: “The millennial generation could kill the NFL . “ Forbes , the same year: “Could it be that the idea of continuing to live in the home of the parents of the Generation Y is killing the real estate market?” By 2014, things had already warmed up a lot, with “promiscuous” millennials killing McDonald's because, apparently, they had no loyalty to fast food.
My first story about the killings perpetrated by millennials was in 2016, when I reported that they were killing the light yogurt industry . Nielsen's information showed that sales of light yogurts had cut sales by 8.5% between 2015 and 2016, a massive decline. Industry experts said millennials were to blame.
But were the millennials really who killed light yogurt? Almost four years later we still see it in supermarkets, even when the category is worse than ever.
Recently, The Associated Press reported that sales of yogurt and drinkable yogurt increased in 2015 , reaching almost $ 9 billion in the United States. In 2019, sales are expected to have reached only $ 8.2 billion and fall to $ 7.4 billion by 2024. There are certain brands that have disappeared, while others have been forced to readjust their strategy, moving away from light products .
In retrospect, I feel a little guilty for having contributed to a narrative that could become a cliché.
For reporters, writing that millennials were “killing” or ending something, offered a simple way to present a story that people wouldn't really care about. Was it an oversimplification? Can be. But even if millennials didn't kill light yogurt, they certainly damaged it seriously.
However, as deaths accumulated, the message of their responsibility in this negatively affected millennials.
Millennials are killing industries because they can't afford to support them
In the mid-2010, the negative response to this was growing. The characterizations of millennials as self-centered and obsessed with technology, such as the cover “Me Me Me Generation” of Time magazine in 2013 , caused more parodies and lent themselves to ridicule.
But as Know Your Meme pointed out , the really negative response to this narrative didn't really explode until the Economist uploaded a tweet asking why millennials were not buying diamonds.
Image: The Economist via Twitter
And completely unleashed the fury of millennials. Although The Economist was right to report that, as a result of millennial buying habits, diamond sales were falling, the headline ignored the obvious reason: Millennials don't have the means to buy diamonds, something that the People rushed to explain on Twitter.
As a study by the U.S. Federal Reserve reported in 2018, millennials “are worse than members of previous generations at the same age, with lower incomes, less assets and less wealth.” The authors said the discrepancy could be explained primarily by the fact that millennials passed the age of majority in the Great Recession, damaging their financial well-being since their early adulthood.
The study found that the real earnings for Generation X men who worked full time and were heads of household were 18% higher, and 27% for Baby Boomers. In the case of women, the difference was smaller, with 12% for Generation X and 24% for boomers. But it is a fact that previous generations were earning more money.
“One in five homes were severely charged negatively for this,” said Greenberger, an analyst at Morgan Stanley. “And if you think about the children who lived in that house, and the depth and duration of the real impact of the recession, I think you have an entire generation that completely changed their buying habits.”
A similar study by Deloitte in 2019 found that millennials are “dramatically worse in financial terms” than previous generations at similar ages. According to information from the United States census , the net value of its citizens under 35 has fallen by more than a third since 1996.
In addition to the recession, Deloitte's study found that the increase in the cost of things has broken the ability of millennials to freely spend on luxuries like diamonds. And he also reported that in 2017, consumers spent 16% more on real estate than they spent in 2007. Health costs increased by 21% during the same period, and educational costs increased by 65%.
In other words, costs rose and profits stagnated, so it shouldn't surprise anyone that millennials didn't enjoy being accused of destroying things they simply couldn't buy.
Both readers and reporters could learn some lessons from the decade of murder by millennials
Today, any headline that hints that millennials are killing some industry will receive negative comments, no doubt. Google Trends showed an increase in 2017 and then a significant decline in terms of using the phrase. And although she has not disappeared completely, she is about to do so, so much so that I feel relatively certain that millennials killed her.
So what should we learn from the murders of the decade by millennials?
Present industry trends as stories of mysterious killings may lead to an oversimplification, but it is important to remember that we are talking about dramatic stories.
When an industry suffers, the income and lives of hundreds of people are at stake. Nobody likes cold headlines that show sales figures. I don't want to write an article called “Light yogurt sales fall by 8%.” And I know that most people won't want to read it either.
The problem with this metaphor of the murders does not have so much to do with the implications of death, which are usually valid, but are lacking in context and omit the underlying problems. These “murders” were presented as options instead of talking about decisions made by economic necessity.
Entering 2020, the owners of the killings may already be dead. But the economic reality that gave way to these declines in certain industries and the financial battles of millennials continues. As we enter the new decade, remembering this context is fundamental, especially as we prepare for a new avalanche of articles talking about Generation Z.