by alison hillhouse
As entrepreneurship is such a key part of the Millennial generation’s DNA, you can see how this generation’s values are manifesting in the businesses they give birth to. In this series of posts, we’ll look at GenY businesses and how they reflect generational intent.
On a recent trip to Chicago, I bought a pair of sneakers from mostly-Millennial start-up Bucketfeet. Their mission is to give “talented artists a platform to showcase their art” and to get their fans “awesome, original shoes so they can stand out from the crowd.” It’s a very Millennial sentiment – sneakers with a purpose, that also provide a vehicle for self-expression.
As Bobby Stephens, COO of Bucketfeet said, “Wearing something that is different, colorful and unique is for someone who wants to get noticed… the shoes are a vehicle for people to start a conversation and tell a story. You aren’t just wearing Nike.” He showed us one pair of shoes created by a Columbian fine arts professor named “Fat Sugar”… and another by Sophie Roach, a young sketch artist from Austin, Texas.
To give you material for “the story of your shoes,” a personal note from the artist accompanies every pair:
Bucketfeet has rooted itself (for now) at Catapult, a largely Millennial co-working space in downtown Chicago. It’s chock-full of businesses espousing Millennial innovation mantras (crowdsourcing, customization, DIY, etc.) A few were:
· StyleSeek - analyzes your “fashion DNA” to provide shopping recommendations
· MentorMob – a how-to-DIY-anything social network, “changing the way you learn by leveraging the wisdom of the crowd”
· shiftgig- a career networking site for the service industry
Bobby of Bucketfeet described the atmosphere:“Catapult is an exciting environment, with good collaboration and idea sharing. There’s no competition- it’s all about cooperation, how can we grow as a community?” And general manager April Lane noted, “Five years ago, you could fit the entire Chicago entrepreneurship scene in a space like Catapult… but now it’s just exploded.”
By Alison Hillhouse, MTV Insights
Thanks to Twitter, Diplo can invite fans to graffiti his photos, Khloe Kardashian wishes followers good luck on midterms and fans truly believe “artists can be your best friends.” MTV has been talking with Millennials about this narrowing distance between fans & celebs … we call it “Zero Distancing.”
In a panel @MTVInsights hosted during Social Media Week, Millennial super-fans painted a picture of what today’s intimate interactions with celebs looks like. Here’s what we heard:
· Rewards in Re-tweets: Kassie, 22, went backstage to show the famous DJ Diplo her “Diplo Kitty” nails. “He Instagrammed this shot… and it made my life,” she explains. She also talked about when he invited fans to creatively alter a photo of him, and “make it trippy.” Kassie’s photo-editing creativity earned her a re-tweet. She says, “A re-tweet seems small, but it’s so rewarding… it shows me he acknowledges what I did and makes me even more obsessed with him.”
· Behind-the-Behind-the-Scenes: Devi, 18, loves One Directions’ behind-the-behind-the-scenes Tweets, whether it’s Zane taking a photo of Harry sleeping or the guys posting a goofing-off video when fans thought they would’ve been rehearsing. “It gives you insight into what they do all day… and we get to see this side of them that not all artists share.”
· Punctuation Perfectionists: Emily, 17, notes that One Direction fans are OBSESSIVE about every character in every Tweet from their favorite band. “We notice all the little things, where they put periods; how they do smiley faces… we know right away when something is off.” Like when a manager takes over. “It irks us. We know that’s not Liam. That period wouldn’t be there. We know Liam can’t spell.”
Real Love: Nicole, 14, gets real love and friendship from Khloe on Twitter. Khloe’s sent her advice on studying and offered well wishes when she was sick with the flu. Nicole says“It’s honestly like I know her, even though we’ve never met… it’s like we just have a relationship. I love her.” She explains that every Friday Khloe has FanFriday and will post a picture someone made for her on Twitter… here’s Nicole’s, along with Khloe’s glowing feedback:
So…What’s the Future? Through hack sessions MTV orchestrated with Millennial super-fans, we learned they are eager for 3 things from their favorite celebs or artists:
1. More “creative challenges” rewarded: True super-fans aren’t opposed to working for celeb-love… in fact it’s even preferred. They want to Photoshop images, go on scavenger hunts, write funny one-liners, and then be rewarded by their favorite celeb with something as simple as a re-tweet or as big as a special Meet & Greet for their city
2. Co-creation opportunities: Super-fans want to be part of the creative process , whether that’s contributing song lyrics, designing album covers or voting on merchandise. Devi, 18, dreams of a world where fans design official merchandise in place of the “cheesy” OD-branded UGGs… and a contest where a fan gets to serve as photojournalist and take over OD’s Instagram feed for a day.
3. Tapping the creative jugular: We’ve heard that celeb Instagram feeds are hot because they are like “mainlining” into the artist’s creative jugular. And our fans are looking for more vehicles to get this intimate revelation as to what inspires their favorite celeb… whether that’s through celeb-generated playlists on Spotify or inspirational photos. They want more than just in-the-moment status updates… they want to get inside celebs’ brains and unpack what inspires them to actually create.
By Jillian Curran, MTV Insights
A whole slew of social commentary has emerged about what it’s like to be 20-something today, with sites gaining momentum like F*ck I’m in my 20s, Thought Catalog and Adulting. On these blogs, Millennials try to dissect the dos/don’t of this somewhat ambiguous life stage in the confusing and chaotic world today…. as Adulting puts it “figure out how to be a grown-up in 468 easy(ish) steps.” Our panelists often express similar feelings. Mike, 24 says, “We’re not really sure when we’re supposed to become ‘adults’ and I’m not sure if I’ll ever really feel like one.”
As we study this generation, we are seeing this constant need to know the “why” behind the “what.” As “natural researchers”, Millennials are always trying to decode issue and figure out a lifehack for it. It’s not surprising that they are collaborating and working out the rules of modern adulthood together in a funny and even self- deprecating way in these kind of forums. “This content is self-deprecating and honest, giving young people a platform to bitch, learn and figure it all out together.” Explains one of our panelists
All the self-reflection is perhaps not so surprising. There is so much conversation & media commentary out there about what it means to “grow up Millennial” and run headlong into an adulthood laced with unemployment and mounds of student debt. “20-something-milestones” and “before-30 bucket lists” abound. It’s so much a work in process these days, that adult has morphed from a noun to a verb!
By Alison Hillhouse, MTV Insights
* Here’s a sneak peak of what’s to come in @MTVInsights presentation at Social Media Week NYC on Feb 20th *
It’s no longer unusual for the biggest pop star in the world to wish you luck on your math test, or for a reality star to forgo therapy and solicit advice from 8 million teen fans. The pedestal has been dismantled by social media tools in the hands of a generation that loves to flatten hierarchies. We indeed live in a flat world where fans demand not just a VIP pass to celebs, artists and entertainment experiences, but an eye-to-eye view.
This is the age of “Zero-distancing”
As Julian, 21, says “Today, artists can be your best friends.” So conversations like this between Nicole (@trukardashfan) and Khole Kardashian about Nicole’s upcoming midterms aren’t unusual:
As Nicole says, “Khloé always makes time to talk to all of her fans. Whenever I get a tweet from her it makes me so happy because it feels like we are close since we communicate often.”
Millennials also crave intimate glimpses into the mundane daily activities of their favorite celebrities, such as Taylor’s cat claw clipping:
We hear from Millennials that they click through various social media channels to get different perspectives into a celeb’s life, like different video camera angles at a live performance. Each social media channel serves a distinct & unique purpose:
· Facebook is the most “formal and official outlet” for tour updates and information
· Twitter offers a “blow-by-blow feed”, and highlights interactions with other celebrities
· Instagram provides a direct line into their literal world-view, like “seeing the world through their eyes”
· Tumblr is the most intimate glimpse into an artists’ psyche/spirit. Jessica, 25, explains that it allows fans to get a authentic glimpse into an artist’s creative inspiration and process… it “shows how artists express themselves, the aesthetic that makes them tick.”
@MTVInsights will be speaking more about “zero-distancing” on February 20th at New York’s Social Media Week. We’ll start with a teen panel who will speak about their virtually-intimate relationships with celebs in social media, and then be joined by Viacom stars who will speak about their experience interacting with fans:
· Nev Schulman from MTV’s “Catfish: The TV Show”
· Drita D’Avanzo from VH1’s “Mob Wives”
· Cody Alan from CMT’s “Hot 20 Countdown” and nightly syndicated radio show, “CMT Radio Live with Cody Alan”
· Ivy Winters from Logo’s “RuPaul’s Drag Race”
By Nick Shore, MTV Insights
At the end of 2012, we were having an @mtvinsights dinner with a little crew of 13 to15-year-olds, asking about their world and lives as the year came to a close.
The thing that struck me as especially poignant from the conversation was a response by one 14-year-old girl when I asked about how she thought the world would change in the next few years. “Newspapers will probably become extinct in our lifetime,” she said, “and we may be the last kids to use actual books in school. They are already starting to get iPads for us.”
The sense she conveyed was that the material world is in some ways disappearing before her very eyes. There was a distinct note of ennui in her voice. Or maybe it was the way my ears were tuned, since our discussions were taking place right before the end of the Mayan calendar. The world didn’t end, I reflected on December 22nd when we all woke up in one piece, but maybe it is ending in a way; a more curious way than we could ever have imagined.
Things have always disappeared and been replaced by the new: horse & buggy to motor car, Betamax to VHS, etc. But is there a difference, I wondered, when something disappears into a string of 1’s and zeros? And what will it feel like to a generation who grew up watching this dynamic speed up, where materialism sprints ever more quickly towards the non-material?
I had a glimpse into the answer to my own question last week when I saw my own 15-year-old daughter listening to one of my songs on her iPhone.
“Where did you get that song?” I asked.
”From my Cloud….oh, no, actually from your Cloud” she said.
“Hey, you, get off my cloud” I managed to restrain myself from saying/singing. But to her, it’s clear and unquestionable that most everything’s just floating up there; sent up into the atmosphere like all the stuff needed to make a new home in space, should the one we currently inhabit ever crumble or start to disappear.
By Alison Hillhouse, MTV Insights
Constant feedback looping is a way of life for Millennials, who grew up with “full on” parenting, as well as the omnipotent social media machine, powered by “likes”, lols, RTs and <3333333333. So it’s not surprising that Millennials are creating new apps, sites and forms of digiquette that fuel the loop. In chatting with MTV’s Inner Circle, our college trend panel, we’ve learned about two new feedback mechanisms gaining momentum at universities:
- Anonymous compliment sites – Compliment Facebook pages have been cropping up for colleges around the country — students anonymously post compliments for friends, crushes and randoms in their Psych 101 class. While compliments run the gamut between sincere and joke, most seem to reflect a witty hybrid of both. A sampling:
o “_____ has her sh*t together more than anyone I know. The most beautiful and the most insightful.” ~Kenyon compliments
o “______, every time I see you I just feel happy …. Also, you make a mean Spotify playlist.” ~Kenyon compliments
o “____, you are like the kidney of Hamilton College. People abuse you sometimes, but everyone loves you and needs you no matter what.” ~ Hamilton compliments
o “_____ has a neat beard, a cool personality, and rocks at social media (texting, twitter, and stuff like that)! He’s also nice. Xoxo” ~Michigan Law compliments
- Lulu- This new app is exploding at the University of Florida and other campuses down South – it allows girls to rate guys in their Facebook network across a variety of dimensions from manners to sense of humor to commitment potential. Each guy is also assigned positive hashtags (e.g. #WillSeeRomComs or #Perfect Grammar or #SexualPanther) and negative ones (e.g. #IntegrityChallenged or #Worlds Worst Massages).
Many guys are obsessed with their rankings and feedback, and are clamoring to check girl friends’ cell phones to check their latest status. And when they aren’t pleased, we’re seeing responses in Twitter like this:
Tweet: “I HAVE TROUBLE WITH COMMITMENT?!?! YOU INSIGHTFUL BITCH! #Luluproblems #yoursoright”
With all the interest in soliciting “likes” & positive feedback across different platforms, we’ve also heard rumblings of annoyance that peers are so feedback obsessed. Some of this is reflected in snarky or fake posts seen on these sites. Regardless, we don’t see the “looping” trend reversing anytime soon.
By Matt Cohen, MTV Insights
In true Millennial fashion, the students behind the recently-launched “NYU Hook Ups” Facebook page are taking an organized and responsible approach to…well, anonymous sex. Tackling their new venture with the same dedication and efficiency they’d normally reserve for an extracurricular activity, these students are helping classmates hook up faster and smarter.
Why waste time scanning through hundreds of OKCupid profiles when you can post anonymously on NYU Hook Ups and wait for the “Likes” from potential hook up buddies to roll in?
Some of “NYU Hook Ups” safety and efficiency features include:
- a 2-step verification process to confirm that hook-up seekers are actual NYU students (No need to open yourself up to Craigslist randos when you can stay within the safety of your college bubble)
- a commitment to keeping post-ers “100% anonymous” and to “hook[ing] you up in less than 24 hours” (Sure beats Match.com’s six-month guarantee)
- an advisory urging users to “be careful” and “always make sure to use condoms” (Thank you free NYC condoms!)
As Millennials take unexpectedly responsible approaches towards other “taboo” or “rebellious” behaviors – whether it’s serving as the sober “babysitter” for a friend who is planning to get wasted or using home testing kits to make sure their molly is free of “harmful substances” – this generation is truly redefining what it means to have “good clean fun.”
UPDATE: NYU Hook Ups announced yesterday that they will be transitioning over to a full site with a more sophisticated interface. Could we be witnessing the birth of a new start-up?
By Jillian Curran, MTV Insights
After spending countless hours on social media and talking to Millennials themselves, it’s impossible not to notice the rapid evolution of youth slang and how closely it is tied to the heartbeat of the generation. Here are a few emerging trends that speak to how they define what popular is today, living in the moment and their fratty sense of humor.
The Chill Hustle: We noticed two sets of words emerging simultaneously that describe the perfect combination of cool. One set comprised of words like, “chilla”, “chillax,” “straight chilla” and at the same time words like “hustle”, “on my grind”, “Boss” were popping. Put those two together and you get “the chill hustle”. These words describe someone who is motivated, successful, has their hands in a million things but can still have a good time. They make success look easy. For Millennials who thrive on being self-made, these words pop up in tweets and everyday speak to show how hard they are working and their jack-of-all-trades ambition. At the same time, they want to show they are cool, calm and collected and look damn good while their making moves. As one intern Jaclyn told us, “I have so much going on, but you always want to look chill. The worst thing in the world is to be called stressed!”
YOLO (you only live once) popularized by Drake’s song “The Motto” was a huge hit among Millennials. At first we saw people declaring this as their generational anthem, some tattooing it on their wrists or hashtagging it on every tweet; YOLO felt like it encapsulated Milennials’ care-free attitude and drive to live it up. But with anything, the oversaturation of YOLO has spurred an equally popular backlash. People have used YOLO to call out insignificant events or poke fun at people who are acting ridiculous. Either way, YOLO’s moment in time shows this generation’s desire to experience everything before age 30 and waste no time or opportunity.
Cool Story, Bro: We’ve seen a new kind of Frat Bro humor emerging, used to call out anyone that is acting dumb or foolish; mocking college frat culture. If past generation’s humor was more cynical or snarky, this generation is ruled by an undercutting wit, like a smart slap. Cool story, bro is a quick response to call out a friend and get the upper hand on the joke. “Cool story, bro. The best part was when you stopped talking”
Other variations of this lingo are:
o Soft : “Yo bro, You’re eating a pinkberry? Stop being so soft.”
o That’s so Frat: “Yo, is that dip spit on my sperries? #thatsofrat”
o She can get it: Guys have this faux-cockiness, so instead of saying “I’m into this chick”, it’s “Yo bro, Jenn can get it.” It’s like I’m so awesome, she can get with me!
In addition to some trends, here’s a quick list of random and awesomely funny youth speak. Who knows, some of these could show up in the next installment of Webster’s Dictionary.
- N.A.R.P (Not a Real Person): “Snooki is such a NARP”
- #Boom: Used after a good comment or joke, an extra exclamation. “ Making things happen today. #BOOM
- Wifed- Up: You’re guy friend hangs out with his lady too much. “ Kevin can’t hang out tonight, he’s wifed’ up”
- Getting Swole: For those who spend too much time in the gym. Short for swollen. “Yo Bro, you’re so swole!
- White Girl Wasted: For those who have a little too much to drink. “ Damn, I got so white girl wasted last night.”
- Selfie: Turn your camera around and take a pic, you got yourself a selfie. Some of our panelists have told us they will send selfies to their friends if they have nothing else to talk about.
- Mupload: Mobile Upload
Junene Taylor, MTV Inner Circle / Indiana University of Pennsylvania
Millennials like you and I have a bit of a problem on our hands. Because of our misfortune in having graduated during this economic climate, many of us are “on pause” from chasing the American Dream. Instead we are chilling in our parent’s basement waiting for our Dream to re-emerge and knock on the door. Preferably with pizza. But once we realize that this isn’t happening anytime soon, the ¼ life crisis can set in.
How do you know for sure that you’re caught in the vortex of a QLC? Here’s the checklist:
1. You repeatedly doodle on coasters “Why oh why didn’t I invent Pinterest?”
2. You change your major between 3 and 6 times.
3. You are jealous of how popular your cat is with all the other cats, and want her “social life”.
4. You spend a whole Wednesday creeping on the Facebook walls of a friend you haven’t seen since kindergarten.
5. You self-pierce your nose (on a whim).
6. You break out in a cold sweat every time you see the sweet girl with the 4.0 and Ryan Gosling look-alike boyfriend.
7. You genuinely wish you could participate in the Hunger Games.
8. You genuinely wish you were a vampire
By Alison Hillhouse, MTV Insights
On October 26th, I witnessed something unusual in the streets of Fort Greene, Brooklyn. Mobs of teens & 20-somethings were wandering about clad in all-white from head-to-toe, donning accessories such as white sunglasses, white furry boots and white angel wings.
This was the pilgrimage to Sensation, an internationally renowned EDM (electronic dance music) festival making its first American appearance at Barclay’s Center. I interviewed several groups of Millennials who traveled from places as far and wide as Buffalo, Denver and Amsterdam to find out what was so special about this particular rave:
Millennials hunger to be a part of never seen before or again experiences… almost an antidote to a world that’s become so manufactured and where everyone has access to the same pieces of digital content. This was the very first time Sensation had travelled to the US, and young people wanted to be physically present at this once-in-a-lifetime event, which they could Tweet, FB and Instagram for friends who couldn’t make it (just check out the thousands of Instagram photos of Sensation Innerspace, many here)
2) Generational water cooler
Millennials are community-oriented, and crave a feeling of oneness and unity – so an EDM show has almost become a religious experience for this generation. Sensation particularly achieves this with its mandatory “all-white” rule, and a few Denver 20-somethings who made the pilgrimage to BK explained they liked the dress code because of the “sense of belonging” it fostered.
This crew also said they like how Sensation connects young people around the globe. “The whole world is connected, you can’t think locally anymore, you have to think globally” said Kan, 24. Al, 24 noted that these kinds of festivals feel right for his generation because they “transcend judgment and presumed stereotypes.”
Denver-ites: Linda, David, Al and Kan
In a world that’s trending towards post-consumerism, experience trumps physical things…. particularly the hyper-experience offered by EDM shows. Drugs are not required to feel transcended by the pulsating bass, multi-colored lights and fountains of fire & water spewing from the set of this $2.5M show. But it wouldn’t be an EDM show without Molly… as publicized on a young woman’s glasses below. And as I finished up my interviews and headed to the supermarket, I came across a pack of teens in all-white who were aggressively searching for the cough syrup aisle to concoct their own transcendental evening…
[Photo via @elisemami]