Millennials now outnumber Boomers
In a new study by The Boston Consulting Group (BCG)1, Millennials, aged 16-34 and Non-Millennials were surveyed extensively, showing “negative or dismissive attitudes toward Millennials” by Non-Millennial (Baby Boomer) corporate decision makers.
According to the United Nations Department of Economic Social Affairs, the number of Millennials (79 million) already outnumber Baby Boomers (76 million) in America by 3.94 percent. This gap will widen in coming years as Boomers’ numbers decline, making the bias against Millennials risky for brands, as many enter their prime spending years.
Millennials and technology
Attitudes toward Millennials are very different between Millennials and Non-Millennials. Millennials have a positive perception of their generation, describing themselves as “tech-savvy, young, cool, hip, and innovative,” as Non-Millennials perceive the generation as “lazy, young, spoiled, entitled, and tech-savvy.”
Both agree that Millennials are young and tech-savvy, and the study indicates that while both spend equal amounts of time online, Millennials are consummate multi-taskers and much more likely to produce user-generated content.
- Own smartphones: 59 percent of Millennials, 33 percent of Non-Millennials
- Own desktop computers: 63 percent of Millennials, 80 percent of Non-Millennials
- Rate brands online: 60 percent of Millennials, 46 percent of Non-Millennials
- Upload pictures, videos, and blog: 60 percent of Millennials, 29 percent of Non-Millennials
- Watch 20+ hours of tv per week: 26 percent of Millennials, 49 percent of Non-Millennials
- Watch tv online: 42 percent of Millennials, 18 percent of Non-Millennials
The above data shows a major generational difference in that Millennials do much more online than Non-Millennials, and are more likely to do traditional activities from some form of a computer be it a smartphone or a tablet, like watching tv or making phone calls. Millennials are proven to be multi-taskers, typically engaging in various forms of social media, email, and web surfing simultaneously across various browser tabs and devices, and while many Non-Millennials engage in this behavior, brands must take note that while they have a Millennial’s attention, they may not have their complete attention, so messaging must be absorbed quickly before their eyes dart somewhere else.
Millennials’ behavior is impatient, yet optimistic
BCG asserts that Millennials exhibit four common themes in their evaluations of themselves as a generation, which is supported by their behaviors:
- “I want it fast, and I want it now.”
- “I trust my friends more than ‘corporate mouthpieces.’”
- “I’m a social creature – both online and offline.”
- “I can make the world a better place.”
Brands currently not engaging Millennials should note that the generation expects a different customer service model, and it may surprise some to know that the generation typically prefers efficient, expedient service over receiving a friendly response. Many Non-Millennials mistake the instant gratification need of Millennials as being self-entitled, but it is typically tied more to speed and BCG notes that Millennials are always in a hurry – they expect fast service just like they expect fast downloads and get annoyed and willing to purchase better devices when they slow down.
The challenge here for brands is how to get Millennials to spend time with your brand, when they barely sit still for long enough to read an entire news story, rather skim and get the highlights. As we previously asserted, brands will need to capture attention immediately and quit making consumers analyze data or messaging themselves – the era of a wall of 10 point font on a white paper won’t reach Millennials, but a large image depicting an economic indicator will perform much better, for example.
The crowd-sourcing generation
The report notes that Millennials trust their friends over corporate mouthpieces, but eMarketer data goes a step further and indicates that the generation actually values friends and family’s opinions as equally as they do strangers online evaluating products and brands. This supports BCG’s assertions that Millennials are the crowd-sourcing generation, and they constantly consult Google to verify what they’re told offline.
Half of all Millennials use their mobile device to check out reviews or research while they are shopping, yet only 21 percent of Non-Millennials do so. Brands will need to step up their mobile game in short order as the zoom-in/zoom-out game will become tiresome for Millennials who will move on to better resources (that you don’t control). Over half (53 percent) of Millennials will explore brands via social media, but only 37 percent of Non-Millennials will, further supporting the idea that Millennials highly value crowd-sourcing.
Millennials and social media
Millennials are validated by “likes” on Facebook, and they form tribes online, even with strangers. The BCG study reports the following:
- Use social media: 79 percent of Millennials, 59 percent of Non-Millennials
- Have over 200 friends on Facebook: 46 percent of Millennials, 19 percent of Non-Millennials
- Favor brands with Facebook pages, mobile sites: 33 percent of Millennials, 17 percent of Non-Millennials
- Lives feel richer when using social media: 47 percent of Millennials, 28 percent of Non-Millennials
What stood out to us is that the report indicates Millennials favor brands with “Facebook pages and mobile sites,” but those are two very, very different outlets, so we do not consider that quite a reliable metric, but the study’s assertion that mobile is critical in coming years remains.
Lastly, the study found Millennials to be more likely to encourage others to support their cause, participate in fundraising events, purchase items associated with a cause, and volunteer their time, but the study fails to report how much each generation actually donates in dollars, which we suspect would be dominated by Non-Millennials.
The reason generosity matters, however, is that Millennials who have been trained since they could walk that environmentalism and social justice issues are important, expect companies to publicly engage in corporate social responsibility programs and to support causes relevant to the companies, be it their employers, or brands they seek to purchase. It’s not just a stunt, and Millennials take charity quite seriously and expect brands they identify with to do the same.
The Millennial generation is quite misunderstood, and while there is a need for instant gratification, and yes, some self-righteousness, the generation is caring, smart, and fast. Brands with leaders that exhibit a bias against Millennials may be skewered by the growing number of purchasers as Millennials’ purchasing power quickly outgrows Boomers’.
The study surveyed 4,000 Millennials and 1,000 Non-Millennials, including “pivotal years” before and after each generation to get a true picture of behavior, but we find it interesting that the disparity between the volume of each generation surveyed is quite large, so we expect future studies to reflect similar results, but perhaps a little more favorable toward Non-Millennials. The point remains, however, that brands better adjust quickly, because this generation has money and they don’t blindly throw it away – they research, they are practical, they are mobile, they are in a hurry, they care about your corporate culture, and they want to tell their friends about their experience with your brand.
- Millennials are more difficult to reach, but respond well to creative ads
- Technology has made Millennials impatient yet more complex thinkers
- How Millennials are conditioned to be entrepreneurs
- Why Millennials rely on friends’ and online strangers’ advice equally
- Millennials learning from their Boomer parents’ mistakes
- Portrait of the new Millennial businesswoman
- The ultimate guide to reaching Millennials