The first installment of this series asked a question: Who are Millennials? Defining Millennials is easy enough, even if many attempts are fraught with misconceptions. Understanding why they’re they way they are is trickier – but not impossible. In this article, we’ll focus on finding a suitable answer to the trickier question.
Millennials aren’t a monolith – no one group conforms perfectly to stereotypes, and individual members of a group differ from other members in myriad ways. (Example: Older millennials share a lot of similarities with younger Gen-Xers, while younger Millennials may reflect more values of Generation Z.)
Still, for the marketing world, it’s easiest to recognize Millennials as a generation prone to certain traits and habits. Understanding how those traits developed is the first step to effectively marketing to Millennials.
First, the “bad” traits: To many, Millennials are vain, self-centered, killers of a couple dozen industries. They’re the Instagram-generation, curating a visage of a certain life to gain others’ approval. They were raised with participation trophies and lax parenting models and they’re now ill-prepared for adult life.
But to it’s important to put those facts in context. The trends regarding Millennial development are better explained by the fact that Millennials were welcomed to adulthood with a housing market crash and the subsequent recession of 2008. They’ve entered a workforce saddled with student loan debt, where workplace productivity requirements increase faster than the average salary.
Millennials just aren’t entirely responsible for being the “failure-to-launch” generation. For this generation, the circumstances surrounding the transition to adulthood are radically different than those of generations before them. These are important details for marketers looking to understand Millennials.
The most interesting things about Millennials, however, is that the circumstances they came of age in fostered many of the generation’s more positive traits. Cynicism over their own futures and struggle to obtain financial independence have shaped the generation’s value system.
Millennials are unique consumers with specific habits to understand.
Millennials are likely to view positive experiences and personal growth as more valuable than material possession. They often believe the brands they associate with help define their personality and values. Businesses should promote their goods and services as part of a lifestyle choice, not just as a product worth buying.
Because of their relationship with technology and their firsthand experience with its development, Millennials require the companies that they do business with be as efficient as possible and will reject companies that don’t meet those expectations. Keeping user interface experiences with your business’s website and physical location will help keep Millennials engaged with your business.
Finally, because of their cynicism towards the market at large and their opinion of corporate culpability regarding the economic woes the generation has faced in their short time as adults, Millennials hold businesses accountable for their moral actions as well as their business-specific behavior. Growing up in a diverse, Internet-driven landscape has made them more tolerant of others from different backgrounds as well. Making sure your business understands and embraces Millennial values such as workplace diversity and attention to larger issues like eco-friendliness and climate change is a way to make inroads with Millennials.
Millennials aren’t as strange and hard to understand as some readers may have thought. In fact, for all the generation’s quirks, they’re an efficient, open-minded and driven bunch, with their own distinct relationships with the companies they do business with – and they’re open for business. In the next series, we’ll examine Millennial lifestyles and the way they spend their money, and how marketers can understand and capitalize on that information.