Millennials Are Not Killing Business But They Are Forcing It To Adapt
For over two decades, Matt Britton has made his career by having his ear to the ground on what is happening on the sidewalks. With a belief that youth is not an age but an attitude, he thinks every business needs to realize that Millennials are going to be changing the world of business in unexpected ways. To learn more about this, Matt and I recently sat down to discuss the changes of being brought by a new generation of consumers.
Dave Knox: You built your career at that intersection of helping big brands connect with youth and the emerging meaning of what that means. Why were you inspired to focus on youth?
Matt Britton: As I was starting my career, a lot of major companies had written off the Internet after the bubble burst. They thought it was kind of a fad, almost like people think Bitcoin is right now. I saw what was happening with these young people and I saw how powerful the Internet was, in terms of how they communicate it, how they did research, how they consume media, et cetera. I knew that there was this big divide and the divide was that companies that were sitting in board rooms had no idea what was going on in the sidewalks and that the future was really dictated what was going on in the sidewalks. That whole notion still exists today. There's such a big disconnect between the people who are making these big corporate decisions and actually what's really happening. I was always inspired by the fact that I could be that bridge because I had passion about what was going on at the street level, but I also sort of had the sophistication and kind of strategary, if you will, to be able to speak to the businesses and connect the dots.
Knox: In 2015 you wrote your first book, YouthNation. One of the things I love about it is you talk that youth isn't an age, but a mindset. What do you mean by that?
Britton: That notion was built around the Millennial generation and their impact on the world. I often get asked, "Why are Millennials so important?" And the reality is, they were the first generation that grew up with the Internet in the household. Gen-Z looks at the world differently. Their brains are hardwired differently. For them, it's intuitive to say, "Why would I ever want to pick up the phone and call a car service when I can hit a button and have an Uber show up?" For everyone else who was born before the Internet age and grew up before the Internet age, it's not intuitive. However, just because it's not intuitive to you, doesn't mean you can't transform yourself to try to understand it.
So that's really what YouthNation is, that the world is driven by the Millennial mentality. Institutions that have been around for centuries are now being taken down through this Millennial mentality. But just because you aren't that age doesn't mean that it's beyond you. You just have to go to the sidewalks and you have to understand what's going on and transforming your mindset. The reality is many companies just can't, or they have C-suites full of old white men that are in golden parachutes that really have no incentive to. Those are the companies, like the Toys R Us of the world that are going out of business. It's up to everyone, whether you run a florist or you run a large organization to really understand and embrace this mentality because we're not going backwards.