How to Piss Off a Millennial

Jen Dodson

by Blake Domino

Marketing Strategist

To past generations, millennials are a mystery that no one has been able to figure out. In order to place them into a category, they are often associated with being lazy, confused, and entitled.

To go along with that notion, here’s a quote from someone you may or may not know:

 “The children now love luxury. They have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise.”

The quote above originally comes from Socrates several thousand years ago, and it seems that the narrative of the Gen Xers and Boomers is similar today. However, after several thousand years, people are tired of hearing these same things over and over. Here are four ways to piss off a Millennial:

1. Talking Down to Them

Gen Xers and Boomers have much more life experience than millennials. This may lead to them thinking millennials lack a certain level of intelligence. However, a lack of information doesn’t equal a lack of intelligence; this is a misconception.

For example: a common misconception is that Socrates is the original source of the quote above. He’s not. The quote has been passed around for generations as a direct quote from Socrates, but most people don’t know the original source. According to Quote Investigator:

“It was crafted by a student, Kenneth John Freeman, for his Cambridge dissertation published in 1907. Freeman did not claim that the passage under analysis was a direct quotation of anyone; instead, he was presenting his own summary of the complaints directed against young people in ancient times.”

The point of me including the quote, is to point out that you probably didn’t know that its origins were in the wrong hands, and the only way that you would have known that was if you looked it up. It doesn’t matter if you’re a Boomer, Gen Xer, or a Millennial. All of the generations combined are capable of not knowing things, and talking down to someone for not knowing something is a sure way to piss someone off.

2. Being a Millennial Buzzword Machine

 There are plenty of buzzwords going around that you could use to describe a millennial. While furrowing your brow you might say words like “entitled,” “lazy,” or maybe even “disrespectful.”

Buzzwords are used in order to draw in the attention of the person listening – they elicit a reaction that says “this is important to me.” However, buzzwords can also create other reactions such as fear, desire, and anger. The main point is, many of the buzzwords used to group millennials are mass generalizations. Can you guess the reaction that millennials have when “lazy” is thrown at them? You guessed it, pissed off.

3. Using Memes Incorrectly

The world of social media and internet culture is full of “memes” that a lot of millennials are into. You’ve probably seen the ones of cats or even babies – this is only the surface level. There are hundreds of new memes that are created on a daily basis, and some catch on quickly.

The issue comes in when people and companies use memes in the wrong way.

For the next example it is important to note that not all memes are pictures; they can be video, audio, or even a hashtag. Also, they’re not always funny. In this case #WhyIStayed was trending on Twitter, and was created by victims of abusive relationships to share their experiences. Then DiGiorno Pizza saw an opportunity to make a well-timed joke –

DiGiorno Pizza Why I Stayed Tweet

Now, millennials aren’t the only people who would take issue with this, but with Twitter being filled with millennials, the backlash was immediate.

Response to DiGiorno Pizza 1

DiGiorno’s then deleted the Tweet, and issued an individual apology to each person that Tweeted at them.

The moral of the story here is to research things that are trending online before using them to make a joke or as an advertisement. Otherwise, you’re going to piss people off (and embarrass yourself).

4. Not Understanding Your Audience

Someone who frequents an organic smoothie shop isn’t likely to buy a 4 liter two-pack of Mountain Dew Code Red. Similarly, if you regularly interact with Millennials, it’s important to understand who they are and what they’re looking for in a company. Many of today’s Millennials tend to care about the moral standing of companies.

Many companies try to portray themselves as a living entity through their branding and social media, and therefore people hold them to the ethical standards that a living person should have. If a company tarnishes what is considered general morality, then they will be chastised just like a real person would.

An example of this backlash occurred when the CEO of Jimmy John’s hunting safari photos were circulated around the internet.

Pictures of Jimmy John Liautaud posing over the carcasses of African wildlife were posted to Facebook by a big-game hunting Facebook page. Unfortunately for Liautaud, this happened around the same time that Cecil the Lion was killed by a Dentist who was forced to shut down his practice due to public outcry.  Jimmy John’s CEO received a similar backlash, and people across social media began to boycott the sandwich chain.

The biggest takeaway here, is to know your audience. Some things are better left unsaid.

For Future Reference:

Hopefully this article has shed some light on not only how to piss off a millennial, but how to better interact with them on a daily basis. The next time you’re ready to talk down to someone, release an arsenal of buzzwords, haphazardly make a meme, or forget to consider your audience, you’ll know how millennials may respond.