What do Beyoncé, LeBron and I have in common? Well, very little other than the fact that we’re all Millennials. I’ve been fascinated by Millennials for some time now and have quickly learned how integral my generation has become to the marketing industry. As Millennials grow in number, influence and spending power, it’s crucial that companies take note of their increased clout and overall importance to the future of their brands.
But first, I’m often asked what in fact it means to be a “Millennial?” We hear this discussion crop up from time to time, but who are the members of this generation? Millennials were born between 1980-2002 (born or growing up around the turn of the millennium), thus comprising the highly coveted (current) 18-34-year-old market. They’re more than 80 million strong, meaning they now outnumber Generation X and even Baby Boomers.
And yes, more than two-thirds of Millennials are still living with their parents, according to a recent Pew Research Center study, but that’s in large part due to the tough job market and graduates continuing to be saddled with student debt, which at more than one-trillion dollars has outgrown credit card debt in America. With so many in the generation still living at home, it should come as no surprise that only one-fourth of Millennials are married, a stark contrast to previous generations when they were this age.
Millennials are very optimistic about the future, even despite job hunting during the nation’s deepest economic downtown since the Great Depression. A Los Angeles Times article touts that 86% of Millennials believe they earn enough money to live their desired lifestyle or are confident that they will in the future. In the article, Pew’s Paul Taylor aptly refers to the generation as “America’s most stubborn optimists,” explained in part by this optimism and the continued access to our parents’ bank accounts. In my case, that extends to mom and dad’s HBO GO and Netflix accounts, too.
As the Pew study finds, Millennials are far more racially diverse than their parents and decidedly more liberal ideologically as well, especially when it comes to social issues. They’re also much more detached from traditional church and political institutions and more likely to be cause activists.
While these can all serve as helpful insights to marketers, no doubt the biggest generational difference – and most noteworthy for brands – is Millennials’ digital savvy. Millennials are proud digital natives – growing up around technology versus being forced to adapt to it – as evidenced by 81% of them owning a Facebook account. The Millennial generation is known for being early and rapid adopters of new technology that they constantly use to bolster their wide-ranging social networks of friends, family, coworkers and various affinity groups.
The fact that Millennials are at the very center of our digital-centric world is why marketers must pay attention to them moving forward. Not only are Millennials using technology, but they are consuming digital media in unprecedented amounts as well. According to The American Genius, Millennials spend a full day each week online, and the Wall Street Journal has reported that some are even spending up to 18 hours per day interacting with media.
The American Genius refers to Millennials as digital “sponges,” an apt reference given how much information they’re soaking up online and in the mobile space. Furthermore, not only are they absorbing information, but a key point is that they’re sharing it as well. Millennials are highly engaged on social media and it’s become second nature for them to like, vote and share digital content. Therefore, brands are not only reaching their audience but also garnering the all-important earned media as a result of this type of engagement. As The Boston Consulting Group notes, more than half of Millennials are willing to share brand preferences on their social network and are now being sought out for their brand knowledge and opinions.
With Millennials representing one-quarter of the U.S. population, marketers clearly must acknowledge their growing purchasing power. An Accenture report states that they spend $600 million dollars annually, a figure expected to climb to $1.4 trillion and represent 30% of total retail sales by 2020. These figures do not include influenced spending, or spending that results from our parents and grandparents turning to us for our digital and consumer expertise.
While most Millennials can’t claim to have the individual purchasing power and clout of Beyoncé or LeBron, collectively they’re a growing force that is helping drive the future of marketing given the digital world in which we live. Thus, it’s imperative that you begin asking what your company is doing to be a part of it.
After having now explored who Millennials are and why they matter to marketers, in an upcoming blog post I look forward to discussing the way in which brands are increasingly tapping into the Millennial market and how they’re making successful inroads in the process.
Keep in Touch
Want fresh perspective on communications trends & strategy? Sign up for the SHIFT/ahead newsletter.