When you talk about your business strategy, be it short term or your 5-year plan, have you carved out a strategy specific to attracting and keeping Millennials as happy customers? If you haven’t, your chances of success will be much lower than that of competitors who are. At least, that’s what many would have you believe.
But that’s simply not true.
Millennials are the most analyzed and scrutinized cohort of all time. Under the microscope, thousands of articles have been written about Millennials and their uniqueness, suggesting they’re a homogeneous group. Nothing could be further from the truth, but nonetheless, Millennials have become the fodder for a great deal of content, conversation, surveys, seminars, focus groups and so on.
Sure, Millennials are a different breed, but so were Boomers. And so are the legitimate segments you’re already focused on in your marketing efforts. Should you be rejigging your focus to set your sites on a cohort? Does that even make sense? Well, many companies are already doing it, and many are doing it poorly. If getting all worked up over Millennials isn’t on your radar, that’s probably a good thing.
Full transparency: I’m a baby boomer, and yet the more I read about Millennials, the more I find I identify with some of their much ballyhooed behaviours.
Honestly, if you’re a Millennial reading this, you probably won’t get much further. You’re already sick of all the media coverage the subject is getting, tired of the microscope you appear to be under, and definitely tired of people saying “you’re so Millennial”, as if you’re part of a group wherein all it’s members have all the same behaviors and beliefs. Presumably tired of it all.
So what’s all the fuss about? Why is there an endless supply of documentation and research on Millennials? That answer is simple: Millennials form the largest portion of the population, and are now the majority cohort in the workplace. And that has businesses scrambling to find a silver bullet for attracting and keeping Millennials as customers.
Millennials are all the buzz – here’s a selection of quotes and comments from several sources
- Millennials are a demanding bunch and mobile is their playground.
- The busy or bored generation.
- Only a fool builds desktop first in today’s world
- Millennials are constantly on the move, which means they still do the bulk of their shopping in-store, but now it’s a far more targeted process
- Millennials are asking, “Should I be forced to watch or view an ad before I can see the content I want to see?”
- Cord cutters are so last year. These days, it’s all about “cord nevers”.
- Millennial wakes up, checks Instagram, pays for a coffee with Apple pay, plugs in headphones and listens to Spotify.
- Context, content, commentary and commerce.
- Millennials—in sheer numbers, at least—became the largest cohort in the Canadian workforce last year.
- Millennials aren’t from a different planet—mostly, they want the same things their parents did. But there are generational differences that will change the way many companies work over the coming years.
- The traditional office is most squarely in the cross-hairs, with 70% of millennial employees saying they’d rather work remotely.
- Millennials are often dismissed as narcissists because they share a lot.
Any one of us who’s not a Millennial knows someone, or maybe it’s even yourself, who acts like a “Millennial” but is of another generation. I know plenty of Boomers, myself included, who have many of the above traits.
Isn’t it simply the case that the world has gone digital,
and Millennials are just a little ahead of the curve because
they grew up with a silver iPod in their hands?
Who are they?
Millennials, also known as Generation Y, Gen Y, Echo Boomers, Boomerang generation, or The Millennial Generation (born between the early ‘80s to early 2000s), are the demographic cohort which follows Generation X (born between 1961 and 1981), who are those that followed the Baby Boomers (born between the mid 1940s to the mid ‘60s). In 2015, Millennials outnumbered their Baby Boomer parents, becoming the largest cohort in North America, representing 25% of the US population and 27% of the Canadian population.
They are not one homogeneous group – but what cohort is?
We’ve been quick to classify Millennials into one convenient bucket, and many marketers have focused their efforts against a range of stereotyped assumptions for this enormous cohort. Probably not the best strategy. Logic would suggest a cohort of this size surely cannot all have the same motivations, aspirations and behaviors, let alone share the same socio-economic condition.
In the article by Michelle Lynn, executive VP of Carat and posted in Forbes, Lynn outlines four differentiated segments within the Millennial population. “We termed them: TrendNetters, Alter-natives, Lyfpreneurs and Beta Blazers”, says Lynn. So, while one segment embodies all that’s been bandied about in labelling Millennials’ behavior with expressions like “optimism, entitlement, over sharing, short attention spans, and selfie taking”, the other three segments shed more light on just how diverse this cohort really is. “We believe they [TrendNetters] are target number one because they are reachable, easily understood, highly attuned to trends in pop culture and fashion and are always digitally connected,” says Lynn, indicating this segment represents only 42% of the Millennial population.
Research conducted by BCG identified 6 distinct Millennial segments: “Hip-ennial, Millennial Mom, Anti-Millennial, Gadget Guru, Clean and Green Millennial, and Old-School Millennial”
And yet another study form Curalate uncovered as many as 14 Millennial personas. And the list goes on.
The reason Millennials have been so over-researched is because we can – enabled by big data and our digitization of everything. Perhaps all that’s left to research on Boomers is how much healthcare they’re going to suck up over the coming years. But we’re just starting to feel the impact of Millennials, so of course we’re going to throw everything we have at “understanding” them.
They are growing in power and influence – but are they different?
Not only is the digital world evolving rapidly, the focus on meeting the needs of Millennials has become a driving force, affecting everything from the evolution of the workplace, the focus of product development across most categories, and a shift in sales and marketing direction.
There’s no chicken and egg scenario here; what’s happing is the combination of four key factors, a perfect storm of sorts:
- Technology has enabled most Millennials to access content and communicate when they want, how they want and where they want.
- Millennials have their own way of doing things, because they were the first to learn how to leverage the new technology.
- Millennials represent a huge swath of the population.
- Marketers are using these same technologies to ensure they’re in the right place at the right time.
Smart marketers will be advertising on YouTube because that’s where more and more video content is being consumed. It just happens much of this consumption is from Millennials. Boomers are still tethered to their TVs, because that’s what they know.
In his article on Grabble, Edmund Ingham, contributor to Forbes magazine, outlines how trust is now a part of the winning formula, along with providing real-time solutions that meet their needs.
According to the article, this generation might very well be the ones to create a more honest and gentler planet. They have an affinity to brands that give back, and they look for trust in the relationships they have with the brands they bring into their lives. While previous generations may have been loyal because of brand image, quality, price, and availability, Millennials have embraced trust as a growing requirement, creating new demands in order for brands to succeed.
Honestly, who among us is ok to do business with a company they don’t trust? When I get to a commerce site, if I can’t easily find the shipping charges and the customer support information, I simply leave – there’s no trust created there. Does that make me a Millennial? I’d say it makes me part of a growing segment of consumers who require the establishment of trust before doing business together. And that premise is as old as the hills.
In research commissioned by Google, we learn that 87% of Millennials have their smartphone with them day and night, and check their phones 150 times a day, and 91% use their phones when in the middle of a task.
And again, the same can be said for most Boomers and Gen X’ers I know. So I ask once more, are Millennials really any different?
Transformation is already underway – go mobile or go home
The rapid evolution to all things mobile is being driven by Millennials. This group, many of whom have never had a cord to cut, aka “cord nevers”, use their mobile device more than any other group, and they use it for everything. Some suggest web development must now come second to establishing a well-honed mobile experience. Technologies are changing, not just because of new developments and capabilities, but because this cohort demands it, and this cohort is large. The world has never seen the likes of this kind of driving force before – your business needs to be harnessing it as you look inward, and addressing it as you look outward.
YouTube is quickly replacing the TV as the primary video delivery screen. And as such, media plans must keep up with this trend lest marketers lose the ability to connect with and exert influence over this audience. A Nielsen report, commissioned by Google showed “As time in front of the TV declined last year, 18-49 year-olds’ time on YouTube jumped 44%”. Even this study realizes the trend is not solely driven by Millennials. So, will your media plan’s segmentation include Millennials, or the group (however you define it) that has moved to YouTube for its video consumption?
What does it mean for your brand?
Relevant, meaningful, funny, trust-worthy, thought provoking, intelligent, cause-connected, found on Google or Facebook – these are the adjectives that go along with what Millennials are looking for in brands and their content marketing. The NewsCred study outlines brand loyalty drivers, and is worth a quick look to ensure your brand is lined up to communicate in a positive way with today’s thinking and consumers’ connection to content.
The interesting study by Exponential and provided by Curalate outlines how the combination of short attention spans (now pegged at 8 seconds), and the growth of visual-based apps like Instagram, Pinterest and Tumblr, are enabling consumers to get the information they need in seconds. For brands, this means creating consumer-centric content, much of which is derived from the sharing of user-generated content, largely visually-based, in order to drive interest in a brand. The study identifies 14 distinct personas within the Millennial population, each motivated by different messages and imagery.
And so I say, good luck with that.
Millennials make their move into the workplace
Perhaps the most profound statement Millennials are making as a unified cohort is in the workplace. As such, while it’s possible much of the attention on the marketing front may simply be unnecessary, the workforce transformation that’s underway may indeed need some tending to.
Millennials are the largest cohort in the workforce today, and their presence is driving a workplace transformation. Canadian telecom giant Rogers Communications, for example, is tearing down walls, removing offices and arming its workforce with mobile toolkits. Since Millennials would sooner work where it’s convenient and remain mobile, the company is ditching dedicated desks and offices. What remains to be seen is how the remaining Boomers and Gen Xers respond.
The article in Canadian Business outlines how, at the turn of the century, half the workforce consisted of Boomers, yet now they represent less than 30%, while Millennials now form nearly 40% of the workforce. As this shift continues, the focus on how best to manage the Millennial workforce will gain momentum, at least for those who are facing the change with open minds.
In an article published by Weber Shandwick and the Institute for Public Relations (IPR), we learn that “34 percent of Millennials see meeting with colleagues outside the office as a positive driver of their work reputation, compared to 14 percent of Gen Xers and 15 percent of Boomers.” Additionally, the study shows “Millennials place a greater value on the importance of in-person interactions and relationship building than GenXers and Boomers”. While this seems to contradict the mobile-first nature of this cohort, there seems to be a degree of differentiation between the requirements to get the job done, and the requirements to build relationships. Presumably, spending numerous hours in meetings is not what Millennials have in mind for “in-person interactions”.
In the article by Tyler Howard, Howard outlines 4 tips for managers if they want to keep their Millennial workers happy, engaged and not to become flight risks. This advice goes beyond simple “tips”, and suggests a great divide is coming if Millennials aren’t managed the way they want to be.
Regardless of how organizations choose to manage the new reality, the fact is, Millennials are making their way into positions of influence, and are now finding themselves providing leadership for the development of marketing programs to target – none other than – Millennials. If nothing more, Millennials themselves will drive the wake up call necessary for marketers to realize that segmentation based on when someone was born, is meaningless.
Like the cohorts that came before, Millennials are also made up of an array of segments which represent a reflection of their environment, socio-economic and other factors. One need only look at Boomers to realize they were never categorized as one segment other than in social history and census documentation.
But really, how much different are Millennials than Gen Xers and Boomers, other than they got an earlier start with technology. To a large degree, access to technology is what defines this cohort more than anything, and at the same time, it’s what is redefining society as a whole.
I suggest you keep up the segmentation process that’s been working for you. The Millennial cohort is not a group to segment on, and rest assured, they’ve already found their way into most of the segments you’re already looking at.
It’s time to stop fretting over the M word.
A plethora of articles can be found on Huffington Post
Canadian Business offers a cornucopia of articles
Grabble article in Forbes Magazine
Canadian Business article
Institute for Public Relations – Millennials in the workforce
Harvard Business Review article – what Facebook knows about engaging Millennial employees
Marketing Land article on email and personalization
Some great articles from the Think With Google database