The Millennial generation, aka Gen Y, is forging a distinctive path into adulthood and parenting, both culturally and economically. While this multicultural generation is very slow in getting married—only 26% versus 36% of Gen X and 48% of boomers (Pew)—once Millennials start a family, their social and consumption behaviors change.
Let’s start with a backdrop on recent technological trends and consumptions… We know that Gen Y is highly connected and highly informed. The number of video-playing devices almost doubled from 2010 to 2012 to nearly four devices per person, according to Magna Global. According to a recent SDL study, millennials check their smartphones 45 times a day, and 5 out of 6 connect with companies on social media networks. This is the generation that orchestrates their own brand experiences across multiple channels and devises—often as many as four devises per day. E-mail is one of their last choices of preference but they share content with peers and other trusted brands through social media. Social networks and customizable news feeds dominate content discovery, with top 3 channels being facebook, twitter and youtube. Importantly, growing a customer relationship isn’t always about selling a product…60% of consumers like it when they receive a touchpoint that’s not related to selling a product. Counter intuitive? Not really.
Think of this generation as highly connected and highly informed. Need for constant and instant communication…yet connection and relationship on an individual basis versus trying to fit into a “social norm.” It is about personal growth, relationships and causes—values most important to them.
How they choose to interact with brands is making traditional marketing extinct. Brands must break through millennial’s personal spam folder and provide content that finds them across many channels. In order to win their trust, brands must be Authentic and transparent. And their content must be consistent across all consumed channels and willing to trade campaigns for customer experience and advocacy.
There is an important cultural transformation taking place in the youth minds of the your current and future customers. They are transforming business and branding norms. I always say….Embrace diversity, freedom, equality, adventure, inspiration and social consciousness in your branding messages, and this market will relate. More importantly, it is all about staying color blind and gender neutral. Diversity, multiculturalism and acceptance of all people goes way beyond race and gender. A survey from the Public Religion Research Institute showed at least a 20-point gap between Millennials and older generations when it came to gay & lesbian rights. Even Chick-Fil-A CEO apologises for gay marriage statements to stay relevant in The New World Marketplace.
Although unattached to organized religion, politics and marriage, Millennials are entering parenthood (10.8 million) with some distinctive cultural changes. Last year, I wrote a blog Dad is the new Mom. Since then, there have been numerous articles about higher level of involvement about Millennial dads being far more involved with raising their kids and playing an active role with all HH duties. They view head of HH as a partnership. What is also noteworthy is a recent study by Barkley showing that Millennials, now the new parents, prefer modesty and practicality over status. While this may sound like a normal transition into a family life, Gen Y favors brands such as Walmert, Costco, Target, Kohl’s and K-mart far more than previous generations….they even prefer these brands over the web darling Amazon. Makes sense, given that this is the generation that entered adulthood during dot-com bust, 9/11, and big financial and housing crises. Many were just entering the work force when 2008 recession hit, facing high unemployment and college tuition debt. Same study showed that 50% of Gen Y parents buy products that support causes and charities. Branding implications? All the tech trends should be positioned as practicality, not flashy status symbol. Reconsider marketing strategies to reach this generation.
Although I’m sharing latest Gen Y trends, these trends also apply to Gen X and baby boomers for Gen Y has the greatest influence on previous generations and cultural evolution as a whole. And even more so, older generations are redefining ageism. This year, last of the boomers will turn 50. And next year, in 2015, the first of Generation X starts turning 50 (with the youngest turning 35). Like the younger Boomers who came before them, they will also bring a youthful attitude to the life after 50 with higher emphasis on self-importance and quality of life. Yes, we refuse to define ourselves by age and cultural limitations our societies put on aging. (For more on this, also ready my blog, 50 is the new 30)
Understanding Gen Y and knowing how to reach them will not only ensure your long term success, but also enable your brand to leverage on this cultural evolution impacting our societies cross-gnerationally. Are you ready to shift? Are you willing and ready to become your own future rival?
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