Who knows what it is about millennials that makes them so … significant when it comes to the marketing ploys of big companies. Maybe because there are 80 million of us, and we’re all potential consumers. Somehow, though, millennials have become the generational equivalent to Shaft — always flying under the radar and impossibly cool.
Which is why Monsanto recently made the decision to hire a young, hip, connected foodie as its “Director of Millennial Engagement.” Or, in other words, “Director of Making Monsanto Look Less Evil to Young People.”
The new director is Vance Crowe, a 32 year-old who has been schmoozin’ with foodies and young farmers with handlebar mustaches on behalf of the Big Ag company since June. But the over-studied generation has become more of a product than a group of people — and the more the word is used, the more it becomes rusty, old, and, well, just plain uncool.
So, as the term millennials becomes more and more convoluted by businesses scrambling for their love and affection, how does The Director himself define them? Here’s Vance in an interview with NPR food writer Eliza Barclay:
Millennials are looking to how they’re going to fit into the economy and culture, and they have a new set of ideas that need to be incorporated into all aspects of global life. We use the term “millennial,” but it really has to do with new ideas out there, and listening to them.
And when it comes to getting to know those ideas firsthand, how does The Director of Hangin’ with the Cool Kids do it?
One of the first things I did on the job was ride along with a Monsanto seed salesman. He is in his 30s, and has a big handlebar mustache and college education on breeding corn. He took me around and introduced me to farmers he’s been selling to. Many of the farmers were 50-plus years old, but they had a son or nephew learning from them. These are the millennial farmers who grew up on the farm and went away to school. When they come back to the farm, they’re pushing limits with more technology, and different ideas about cover crops.
Monsanto is a veteran punching bag, and often the face of Big Ag. Though it has been named one of 2014’s top 25 best places to work in the world, the company has a long history of PR flubs. There are yearly marches against Monsanto, and it carries the popular hashtag #monsantoevil like an albatross. If I’m at all representative, I might add that this millennial grew up with the presumption that Monsanto was a super-villain. Crowe’s job may just be impossible.