In your opinion, over the next six months do you think the economy will: be better, stay the same or get worse? Once you’ve answered for yourself, try asking someone sitting nearby. Now how do you think Millennials would respond? Do you think the entire cohort would have the same answer?
Before I get to the results, I’ll share a bit of background.
First, I am a millennial myself. My sister, seven years younger, is also a millennial. It’s always seemed strange to me that anyone would put the two of us in the same demographic “bucket.” In that short, seemingly insignificant, seven-year gap that separates us, I was well into my career in marketing, had gotten married, and started a family in the big city – while my sister was living in a university town, in the throes of finishing her second master’s degree (yes, second master’s degree at age 26. She’s incredible.). So, while on paper we’re both categorized as “millennials”, grouping us together is akin to saying a quarter and a dime are both coins. Yes, they’re both money, but there are several fundamental characteristics (such as buying power) that make them notably different from each other.
The second point is that I’m fortunate to have landed in a career that allows me to ponder, and attempt to answer questions, both big and small. So, when the routine topic of “millennials” came up again this spring, the team and I at IMI decided to really commit, building on years of homework to officially launch a pillar of our business dedicated to the topics of youth, emerging trends, and innovative technologies called NextWave. In April 2018, funded by our new venture, we talked to more than 3,500 people aged 13+ across North America, the UK, Australia, and Singapore. We asked each one of them where they think the economy will go, along with other critical topics including who they trust, how they communicate, what’s driving their purchasing behavior and the important issues of the day. All insights shared below came to light in that study. I’ve summarized a few snippets focused on the North American market, but for anyone who would like more detailed information, please feel free to reach out.
Lastly, we knew that if we truly wanted to understand the young people “we” are all trying to connect with, it would be essential that we go further than lumping them altogether by age range and labeling them “millennials.” Common generalizations like millennials are lazy, selfish, and entitled, aren’t constructive either. Instead, we chose to dig deeper, to draw a clearer picture of the subsets which reside within the highly coveted group of “18-34-year-olds”. Millennials were actually born between 1981 – 1996 and now range in age from 22 through 37, so yes, they too are getting older. We’re invested in getting to know them better, to uncover just how different (or similar) someone is at the bottom or top of that age range.
With my marketing hat on I wondered how much more effective brands could be if they actually understood the people buying their products? How many resources are currently being wasted trying to seduce the wrong audience? Reality is that the implications of this knowledge go far beyond marketing. A better understanding of this diverse cohort would benefit everyone from innovators to educators to policymakers and yes, of course, marketers. Wouldn’t it be amazing if companies could avoid wasting money advertising to the wrong people and instead refocus those dollars on making their products better, their employees healthier, and the world a better place by giving more back? One day perhaps….
Now, back to our study. We challenged ourselves to look beyond the fallback of AGE, asking: what about gender? Are we still on different planets? What about life-stage – those in the trenches still completing their education vs. those who have already graduated? What about the vast differences in those just starting a family vs. those living the single life? Each of these variables shapes the way millennials see the world, and – spoiler alert – there are few “one-size fits all” examples. This is a BIG rabbit hole, so here’s a snapshot of what we’ve uncovered so far:
At NextWave, we’re continuing to dig into the broad and relatively unexplored territory of “youth” subgroups – using in-depth studies to better segment and understand this group. It might be easy to say, “well, of course, men are different than women.” or “of course, age matters and life-stages matter,” but it’s another level altogether to understand the macro opportunities encapsulated in this nuanced data. How could your next conversation, outreach, or campaign be modified by applying some of these truths? The insights we’ve gleaned, and will continue to uncover, make a compelling case that just as a quarter and a dime are similar but distinct, so too are us, “Millennials.”
Please share your thoughts and reach out to chat about ideas for areas of future exploration, and/or best practices for marketing to millennials.