As I rounded off my 100th rosette of the day, I looked over the last 5 pies on my work table, exhausted and a little disappointed that my piping work wasn’t consistent across all these decadent desserts. I knew that each pie would be cut into 6 separate slices, likely to be mutilated because of the delicate whipped cream, so the size and shape of the whip cream dollop wouldn’t matter to the individual people who would be biting into these pastries. And I knew that my pastry decorating skills have improved since the first pie I decorated about 6 months ago–but the frustration still buzzed under the hum of the kitchen. I was frustrated that I hadn’t quite mastered the skills that I so diligently work on every day at the bakery.
Mastery–in my case, the ability to quickly and efficiently be able to present a perfect pie–is a very valuable asset to the Millennial Generation. Mastery is a step beyond accomplishment; it’s expertise in a very wise sense. It covers not only the knowledge of a skill, but how an individual can adapt to that skill, take ownership, and can be patient in the process.
For me, seeing my head chef work is seeing mastery of skill: she is calm and clean in her work, her tasks are thorough and accomplished lightyears faster than my own. Decorating a pie is second nature.
Mastery comes with one other virtue: humility. A master asserts their knowledge on the subject, but has the wisdom to be open about improvements. Since mastery itself is a process, someone who has transversed that path knows that the only way is up and better, even if compared to others you have reached the summit.
I like to think of it a little bit like the Light Side and Dark Side of the Force. We see the Jedi as the true masters of the Force in the Start Wars universe, and the Sith as experts who exert their power over others. The Sith allow hatred, resentment and fear to govern how they use the Force, whereas the masterful Jedi use their mastery of the Force to bring peace, confidence and wisdom. The Sith are still being controlled, and consequently frustrated, by something bigger than them; Jedi are at one with that bigness, allowing them to hold control, being more reliable in using their Mastery for good.
Though Millennials are anxious to be accomplished and eager to be reliable themselves, they tend to have an eye out for other masters–especially brands that have mastered the products and services they are selling.
When interacting with Millennial customers, it is essential to know that anything that looks “sketchy” or less-than masterfully crafted raises a red flag, sending Millennials running. This could be anywhere from your website to your customer service interactions: if any person, product or service allows your customer to have a single negative experience, the Millennial customer will leave your brand behind, unlikely to ever return. It is important to master what you’re selling, but be open to improvements. Your Millennial target will be attracted to your expertise and humility–realistic traits that they see in their favorite brands.
It’s also important to know that the Millennials buying into your brand are also working on a sense of mastery of what you are selling them. “Brands…need to recognize that they’re now dealing with a generation of consumers who are much savvier than their parents were at that age,” a Hashtag Nation study concluded. Nowadays, these are people that see your passion as aspirational: they want in, and can use your brand as either a standard to live up to or a cautionary tale in their own personal story.
Though most of your customers will not become experts or masters, and therefore your competition, they value treating each new product as a potential passion. So treating them like apprentices, offering educational opportunities and open honesty with how you do what you do, might strengthen your relationship better than just treating them like a paying customer.