After Millennials, who’s next?
Millennials are in the cultural driver’s seat, but when Campbell’s dedicates a soup in your honor and Pampers starts to make advertisements for you…you’re old news. Even as Millennials are a large part of our clients’ audiences, it’s on us to see who is up next.
Born after 2000, Wikipedia calls them Generation Z — and sure, Z comes after Y which comes after the Douglas Coupland-coined title Generation X — but convenience should not be your naming strategy. They’re also known, like every generation that’s lived alongside the internet, as Digital Natives. And there have been misguided attempts to label them the iGeneration, as if they are a lost Apple product from 2003.
Forget that noise. None of those fit. We call them Trillennials.
Trill means true and it means real. It’s postmodern authenticity. Twenty-five year old Trailblazer point guard phenom Damian Lillard is trill. He doesn’t politely demure to what’s expected or his older teammates. He acknowledges and embraces that he’s great. And that works because it’s true. Edward Snowden is trill. He was tired of the American public not being allowed to know what our communications are subject to, so he embraced transparency at his own detriment, and put the truth out there. Kendrick Lamar is about as trill as it gets. He speaks about the very real aspects of being young and black in America that a huge part of the country won’t acknowledge.
Being trill is a defining aspect of the rising generation. Where Millennials put self first, the next generation is putting the truth first. They’ve embraced transparency and flexibility. They’re cool with mistakes because it’s easy to move on. They keep it super real. They are the Trillennials and we’ve noticed some things about them.
1: TRILLENNIALS ARE NOT ANCHORED TO SPECIFIC ONLINE SERVICES.
If Millennials grew up with the internet, Trillennials grew up IN the internet. Millennials made Facebook what it is today and brands came with them. But Trillennials don’t use Facebook in any meaningful way because it’s how boring adults communicate about babies and brunch.
Trillennial reality is fast moving, always connected via mobile devices. They use easily replaced apps to create and consume bite-sized portions on small sharp screens — from Snapchat, Kik, WhatsApp and Periscope–and even as you read this someone is laughing at these outdated references. Nobody is afraid to leave behind followers or content. It’s easy to make more and it’s better to get out too early than too late. Trillennials go where there’s energy and getting there is as easy as downloading a free app.
2: TRILLENNIALS EXPECT PLATFORMS TO MAKE IT EASY TO CREATE AND SHARE.
As creative tools become more accessible and ubiquitous, creative output takes off like a rocket. Instagram and Snapchat push very large user bases and content numbers. YikYak lets you broadcast your thoughts to not just people who actively seek you out, but any old creep nearby. Tumblr makes showing off your tastes alongside its 231 million blogs and 108 billion blog posts as simple as tapping the reblog button. Minecraft is a game that’s solely a sandbox and it’s the biggest thing there is for anyone under 15. Twitch is a billion dollar service that exists ostensibly to talk about Minecraft while you play Minecraft.
We all have access to these tools, but this type of ease in creation and sharing has always been central in the services Trillennials use. It’s the expectation.
The bar to get it out there is lower than ever. Create or iterate, share, receive instant recognition, repeat. Here’s the bottom line: if you do something tangible, you share it. If you do something digitally, you add your voice to it.
3: MILLENNIALS OBSESS OVER NOSTALGIA, TRILLENNIALS LIVE LIFE ON THE TOP OF THE FEED.
As much as the internet never forgets, it is equally relentless in marching forward to make what’s recent what counts. As a product of the internet, that’s how Trillennials act in real life as well: with impermanence and a judicious use of the skip button.
Trillennials aren’t tied to one specific ethos or aesthetic online or in real life. Identity is fluid and it’s easy to change what you’re associated with–the same things that used to be the monumental building blocks of a teenagers identity. No longer is anyone pigeonholed by studded belts and skateboards. Those self-identifiers are as easily changed as a profile image or a username.
Let’s say you’re tired of the athletic look you’ve been cultivating with colorful KD Nike socks. An afternoon on menswear Tumblr tags is all you need to learn how to dress well. Order selvedge denim and double-monk straps for cheap from JackThreads and share your outfits on the r/menswear subreddit. Get feedback and do it again.
It’s life lived without the need or desire to put in your Malcolm Gladwell approved 10,000 hours. When there’s too much to see and do, you tend to be quick to skip to the next thing–and for Trillennials it’s effortless, and usually free, to get there.
This changing of the cultural guard poses some really interesting provocations for brands.
If consistency is important in how you present your offering, how do you keep up with a generation that consistently presents itself in inconsistent ways? How do you connect with a generation that’s already moved on by the time you’ve polished a product, or even a tweet, into perfection? And what will you do the first time you misstep and don’t connect with the people who will soon become the cultural movers?
Trillennials are coming in hot. Will you be ready?
John Vieira is a senior copywriter at Nemo Design, a brand and design agency in Portland, Oregon. He’s worked on projects for Nike, Converse, Hot Wheels and MasterCraft. John is also the creator of Spaceman, the smash hit podcast about video games and the ways they affect our lives. Follow him on Twitter at@supersexypizza.