The challenge of marketing to Millennials
Millennials, also known as Generation Y were born roughly between 1980 and 1995, and while various entities do not share a consensus on the years that start and end the generation, a consensus is forming around consumer behavior of millennials which many outside of the generation have a difficult time understanding, thus communicating with or marketing to this demographic can be complicated.
AGBeat has long written on the topic, offering the the ultimate guide to marketing to Millennials as well as reporting on studies like recent comScore data revealing that Millennials respond to creative ads best, and recently analyzed eMarketer data as to why Millennials trust strangers’ opinions online as highly as those of friends and family.
Bringing clarity to the emerging data is the Pew Internet & American Life Project which addresses the generation of digital natives that were “brought up from childhood with a continuous connection to each other and to information will be nimble, quick-acting multitaskers who count on the Internet as their external brain and who approach problems in a different way from their elders.”
The study unveils the effects of hyperconnectivity and a generation of people who are always “on,” and while most of the effects are positive between now and 2020, the experts predict the generation will “exhibit a thirst for instant gratification and quick fixes, a loss of patience, and a lack of deep-thinking ability due to what one referred to as ‘fast-twitch wiring.’”
On a personal note, as a Millennial, I can assert that the study rings true for much of my own behavior in that if I can’t find something on Google within seconds, I am irritated, and if I reach out to a brand and they say that all emails will be answered within five days, I move on in frustration. Some see the generation as spoiled, but Pew points out that it is more complicated than that and the root source of much of the rapid behavior is hyperconnectivity.
Brands seeking to target Millennials must understand the generation and why there is impatience, but on the same hand, must understand that the generation carries many positive attributes which experts cited in the study are hopeful about:
William Schrader, a consultant who founded PSINet in the 1980s, expressed unbridled hope. “A new page is being turned in human history, and while we sometimes worry and most of the time stand amazed at how fast (or how slowly) things have changed, the future is bright for our youth worldwide,” he wrote. “The youth of 2020 will enjoy cognitive ability far beyond our estimates today based not only on their ability to embrace ADHD as a tool but also by their ability to share immediately any information with colleagues/friends and/or family, selectively and rapidly.”
Schrader continued, “Technology by 2020 will enable the youth to ignore political limitations, including country borders, and especially ignore time and distance as an inhibitor to communications. There will be heads-up displays in automobiles, electronic executive assistants, and cloud-based services they can access worldwide simply by walking near a portal and engaging with the required method such as an encrypted proximity reader (surely it will not be a keyboard). With or without devices on them, they will communicate with ease, waxing philosophic and joking in the same sentence. I have already seen youths of today between 20 and 35 who show all of these abilities, all driven by and/or enabled by the internet and the services/technologies that are collectively tied to and by it.”
Perry Hewitt, director of digital communications and communications services at Harvard University, says this evolution is positive. “It seems easy to decry the attention span of the young and to mourn the attendant loss of long form content—who will watch Citizen Kane with rapt attention when your Android tells you Rosebud was a sled? On consideration, though, the internet has brought forward not only education, but thinking. While we still want to cultivate in youth the intellectual rigor to solve problems both quantitatively and qualitatively, we have gotten them out of the business of memorizing facts and rules, and into the business of applying those facts and rules to complex problems. In particular, I have hope for improved collaboration from these new differently ‘wired’ brains, for these teens and young adults are learning in online environments where working together and developing team skills allows them to advance.”
David Weinberger, senior researcher at Harvard University’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society, says values will evolve alongside the evolution in ways of thinking and knowing. “Whatever happens,” he wrote, “we won’t be able to come up with an impartial value judgment because the change in intellect will bring about a change in values as well.” Alex Halavais, an associate professor and internet researcher at Quinnipiac University, agreed. “We will think differently, and a large part of that will be as a result of being capable of exploiting a new communicative environment,” he noted.
The full Pew study: