Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Quick notes from Animal Ag Alliance Stakeholder Summit

Cracking the Millennial Code:

The Animal Ag Alliance hosted its annual conference in DC last week. Click for more information.

Honesty drives me to point out that the only part of the code I was interested in cracking is “how do we get money out of their pockets?” If not for that issue there would have been no conference, unless it was the secondary “How do we get them to vote for us?” or "How do I communicate affectively with this group?"
A quick glance at the list of speakers will show you that there were a lot of experienced and talented people presenting their ideas. I had to work hard to keep up. Let alone understand the importance of what I was hearing. For a taste of what the conference was like here is a link to a session from Panera Bread

The take home points for me were something like this and amount to little more than quick notes and personal thoughts:
Millennials are hard to define.

Millennials are an extension of the “me” generation in that they “want it now, the way they want it, with good quality, and a low price”. Which makes you pause and think when you realize how many choices there are for entertainment, news, information, social groups, and so forth, all the way down to personalized coupons at the checkout register.  My thought was, "And our government is trying to give us a “one size fits all” health care system and tax code. Politics aside, can that possibly have any staying power in our society?" I want to be treated as an individual, not a group.

Millennials were defined by age but the working definition at the conference seemed to be,  "those people that are living highly connected, social media lives."

Millenials shy away from long term relationships/commitments (from marriage to phone contracts) since they have seen and been hurt by so many in the past.

Millennials want transparency as a substitute for honesty and trust. Their life experience has taught them not to trust anyone because no one is honest. Broken homes. Broken marriages. Government lies. Depravity in the church. Schools that don’t teach but indoctrinate. Scientific manipulations. A press full of propaganda and not news. Etc.  So if they don’t see it themselves or at least get it from a friend, they doubt it. They are skeptics first. It is a really sad commentary on the failures of society’s institutions. All of them.

Millennials want a company to be about more than “making money”. They are highly sensitive to the ability for a company to make money by ignoring the environmental costs of their endeavor (exploiting the environment) or exploiting workers, so they want to know the company has that cost built into its equation somehow. This can be through environmental reclaimation (planting trees comes to mind) or proving they don’t pollute (green companies) in the first place to auditing of worker conditions in developing countries.

If a company is profitable, Millennials will expect it to be socially conscientious with those profits and give back/pay it forward to society in some public way. This is tough for those of us who think of charity and good works as a private matter. My thought is that one should not do your good works out in the public eye to be praised by man but should do them so your heavenly Father alone is aware of them. Millenials aren’t trusting, and secrecy is not part of their value system, so deeds done in secret/private don’t get a company anything. So start a fund, start a campaign, stand for something, start a hashtag, change your profile picture.

The crisis management exercise pointed out that companies are being judged constantly by the mob that is millenials. The contrast between what the communications department knew needed to be done to protect the company’s image/brand/value (communicate and be transparent) to fend off the judgment of the millennial mob and what the legal department wanted to do to protect the company from the trial by jury that was obviously coming, could not have been clearer. One says “if you don’t tell your story someone else will”, the other says “anything you say, can and will be used against you in a court of law” so stop communicating/talking.

Sustainability fits in here somehow.

They are cynics until you question/challenge their reality then you are evil and must be destroyed. Perception is reality to them and reality is not welcome.

The conference had too much information for me to assemble and process at one time into much more than the notes listed above. I hope that others who were there or watching on line may comment and post links that expand these thoughts. As a pig farmer, my mind struggled to follow some of these very good and well educated and trained speakers. I am trained to observe animals with my eyes, ears, and nose more than to listen and ponder big ideas, but exercise builds strength, so I appreciate the experience and exposure to the new ideas.

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