One Reality and Four Myths About Millennials
Millennials: famous for killing the napkin industry, killing casual dining chains, and eating avocado toast. For brands, capturing the largest generation in US history is crucial because Millennial spending power is set to surpass $1 trillion by 2020. However, brands are finding marketing to them as complicated as it is important. We have all heard the Millennial stereotypes: lazy, narcissistic, overly sensitive, materialistic, and tech obsessed, but how do Millennials really compare to other generations? Are they really that different? Should brands treat Millennials different from previous generations? To answer these questions, let’s look at one reality and four myths about this powerful group of people.
Reality: Extended Adolescence
Economic and technological contexts have shaped Millennial adulthood. It is true that they are experiencing delayed adulthoods compared to previous generations. The economic recession of much of the Western world affected their employment prospects and wealth as they entered adulthood. The huge surges in technological advancement have had large impacts on the social attitudes and behaviors of Millennials like getting married and having kids later in life. Many of the following myths stem from their extended adolescence.
MYTH: Millennials Are Young
First things first, we need to clear up the idea that all Millennials are juvenile. Although there is disagreement as to the specific age range of Millennials, there is a general consensus that they were born between 1980 and 1995. These adults are no longer meandering the halls of middle schools or attending summer camps, but buying homes, getting married, and having children. Despite their delayed adulthood, millennials are no longer the ‘up and coming’ generation.
It must be noted that generations typically cover a large range of the population so there are some significant differences between younger and older millennials. For example, digital natives (currently 25 and younger) are used to fast accessible internet while older (original) Millennials grew up with snail paced dial-up modems. Technology in itself is so dominant that it is bound to create differences among generations and even among Millennials themselves.
MYTH: Millennials Are Lazy
According to IPSOS MORI, 33% of Millennials believe their own generation is lazy. Despite this, there is little difference between average work hours of Millennials and other generations. Changes in society, different types of employment, and increases in productivity have led to reduced work hours over time. In the US, for example, the number of workers who telecommute from home has tripled over the past 30 years. Contrary to popular belief, working from home, flexible scheduling and regular breaks leads to increased productivity.
MYTH: Millennials Don’t Respond To Advertising
There are countless articles on the web claiming brands must come up with new advertising strategies because Millennials are much less trusting or likely to respond. However, this sentiment can be debated. It is easy to look at Millennials in isolation, but in reality, the mistrust of brands and advertising is becoming a popular characteristic among all populations. According to IPSOS MORI, Millennials are actually more likely to say that they pay attention to advertisements compared to other generations. Millennials are not passive consumers like previous generations. They are open to connection and want to actively participate with the brands they love.
For example, Chipotle strengthened their connection with Millennials by creating a fictional Millennial-aged farmer, Chip, who battled corrupt food companies. They featured a “Farmed and Dangerous” web series and website that allowed people to interact and share their experiences. Another campaign led the NFL and McDonalds to embrace Millennials as content creators by joining in on the fun of “Bad Lip Reading”.
For more examples of effective Millennial campaigns check this out.
With such advancements in technology, Millennials have access to copious amounts of entertainment whether that be through social media, podcasts, or streaming movies. Millennials are more selective with what they attend to and as a result respond to advertisements in different ways. Although traditional advertising may still have an impact on Millennial purchasing decisions, many Millennials are connecting with brands in different ways like social media. According to Mintel, a quarter of Millennials state that social media is a good place for brands to reach them.
Despite all the new and exciting ways to reach Millennials advertising targeted at them has become undoubtedly generic as portrayed in this fun parody.
MYTH: Millennials Care More About Brand Purpose
Typically, brands who are ethical and consciously participate in CSR (corporate social responsibility) activities are favored over others. If you are wondering why so many brands touted their philanthropic efforts at the most recent Super Bowl, it is because they are convinced that it is the key to winning over the Millennials generation. However, compared to other generations at the same age, Millennials are no more likely to buy products or services based on ethical concerns. Brand purpose is not a defining characteristic for Millennials but rather a factor of age (which is further exaggerated with their delayed adulthood).
As the Millennial generation quickly closes in on being the most powerful spenders, brands must ensure that they understand their behaviors and characteristics. Although blog articles can help provide insights into consumers, brands should be listening to their Millennial customers by conducting surveys or asking them questions on social media in order to create effective advertising campaigns.