Generation Y (Millennials) have a Branding Problem: Value

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Except, there isn’t really one.

A Generation-Y problem, that is. Not the way you’re thinking, at least. There is a Young Person Problem, though. One I’ve been thinking about for a long time. I got so worked up about it, I wrote a whole damn book.

The basic premise: with the advent of personal public platforms through countless mediums (Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter, Flickr, YouTube, etc, etc) you can use de-facto fame however you’d like. The idea of the world hearing your innermost thoughts two decades ago was reserved for actors, athletes, and politicians. Now, anyone and everyone has access to a platform and your milage may vary depending entirely on your savvy.

You can post about things that either boost your value or diminish it. Basic Social Internet Literacy and Public Relations are not something most of us were taught in school alongside arithmetic and penmanship. Is it any wonder why so many people get so screwed up when technology gets involved? Yet we pounce on stereotypes and slip ups and angsty bitches. And we keep on vaguebooking and posting nip-slips and rants about our bosses.

Ergo, Young People have a branding problem not just because we’re young and have a generational name we gave ourselves. Young People have a branding problem because most of us don’t yet have the life experience to know that a reputation is something that sticks with you. That comes with time and experience. On top of that, just like everybody else – we weren’t taught Basic Social Internet Literacy – which is why screwing up online isn’t a generational thing.

Look, I get it. Writing blog posts that cause Gen-Y to ragequit in the comments section gets most sites insane traffic.

WTF Marketing - Millennial Search

Turns out, more searches than bullying, rock-and-roll, wildfires, and, oh yeah – Nickelback.

Sorry Chad Kroeger.

Hating on “those damn kids” turns out to be a pretty good revenue generator. It’s not a new thing; remember grunge? Gen-X was so tired of being trodden on they invented a whole damn genre of music! In fact, hate in general seems to drive a lot of business – anger spreads faster through social media than any other emotion.

One commenter on the Huffpost article:

I really appreciate this article. I am a part of the generation you speak of and find myself having these thoughts a lot. It’s really helpful to scale yourself back a bit, lol.


You know what they call someone who brings someone down to make themselves feel better? A bully. Understandable that you don’t know that, considering bullying is taking a back seat to millennial bashing in the news these days. I hate the fact that someone my age read that article and went, “Oh, gee – maybe I shouldn’t aim as high as I wanted…”

Who the fuck wants to live in that kind of society?

Let’s talk Tesla…

Tesla died penniless and alone, in love with a pigeon. Tesla’s father begged him to come home, thought he was working himself to death. Made fun of his letter of commendation from the dean of the Austrian Polytechnic. His father died that same year. Tesla had a mental breakdown, his Uncles put together enough money for him to return to his studies, then he went on to work for Edison and become an inventor.

What if he’d thought, “You know, Dad’s right, this life sure doesn’t live up to my expectations, I’d better go follow in his footsteps and become a priest…”?

Here’s what would have happened:

  • no A/C power (the thing that lets your house have nice things like ovens and lightbulbs)
  • no fluorescent lightbulbs
  • no medical x-rays
  • no radio
  • no remote control (kind of moot without A/C power…)
  • no electric motor
  • no wireless communications (no WiFi…)

There’s only one way to break this cycle of nonsense: know your value.

How do you do that? Three steps:

  1. What do you want to be known for?
  2. Live, breathe, eat, sleep, and ceaselessly pursue #1.
  3. Learn how to talk about #1 to someone in a non-promotional way so they understand why you do #2.

The people who are the best in the world at something can command more respect, more money, more sympathy, more love, more patience, more… whatever. Because they’re the best in the world. There isn’t a substitute down the street.

You can be that person. Maybe you aim a little closer to home: the best in your community. The best in your state. The best in your country. Or just “the best”.

Knowing your value is the thing that stops you from making stupid silly mistakes online (for the most part). It’s the thing that lets people be sympathetic when you realize you screwed up and patient while you fix it.

Knowing your value is the thing that lets Gen-Y (and all young people to follow) brush off idiotic, stereotyping articles from bullies. It’s the thing that lets you land or create the job that you want. It’s the thing that lets you negotiate hard for your wage.

Be the best. Know your value. Everything else is nonsense.

This post is part of the monthly Word Carnival series of posts. This month, our carnies take on the challenge of knowing your value and conveying it to clients so that you can charge what you’re worth – and get it! Read the rest of the Word Carnival posts here for more great advice from some of the smartest business owners and entrepreneurs you’ll meet.