If you have read my Social Justice series that appeared here on Sundays for the past year or so, you’ll know that I have a ‘thing’ for the Millennial Generation; that series has forced me to research companies focused on changing lives while making a profit, and a good percentage of them are founded by Millennials.

To clarify, Millennials, or Gen Y, were born from the early 1980′s to the early 2000′s; often maligned as the ‘every kid gets a trophy’ generation, it’s pretty clear that THAT opinion was shallow and incorrect. As is the case for all generations, this one is markedly different than the one preceding it, but in some ways, very similar to Gen Y.

Gen Y came of age with computers; my 9th grade year we were thrilled to sit in our Apple IIE Computer lab and learn to ‘program.’ When the first MacIntosh was delivered to our science class, we knew the world had changed. Like Millennials, Gen Xers embraced technology; the primary difference being that WE remember a time before technology was an integral part of our lives.

Of course Millennials do not remember a time before the internet; their communication has always been online and via computers and gadgets, and that subject has been covered ad nauseum. There is, however, a lot more to them than technology; this generation is already making its mark on our world, and as they age they will continue to do so. I have every reason to be optimistic that it will be a very, very different impact than the Boomers, who they match in numbers but are so completely different than in so many ways.

What Makes Them Different

There is a ton of internet pontificating right now about Millennials, their decision making and purchasing habits, and how marketers NEED to pay attention to them. There is also a lot of hype; of course marketers need to pay attention to this massive generation, but marketers need to pay attention to all generations that are spending money. Most of the clients we work with don’t have the luxury of selling to one singular age group – wouldn’t life be so much easier if they could?

This generation is important, not only because of its size. It’s important because the characteristics that make them different will have a very big impact on our world:

  1. They are different than we were: Millennials, in general, care deeply about the society they’ve been handed. Brand ethics and behavior matter more to them than any recent generation, and they’ll hold the brands they deem irresponsible accountable.
  2. They crowdsource EVERYTHING: Because they have come of age in a hyper-communicative world, Millennials aren’t afraid to ask opinions of their online friends. And they do it. Often. That word of mouth is powerful.
  3. They are different than we were: if you came up in the 80′s it was all about ‘getting mine.’ Greed was good, and conspicuous consumption was de rigueur; not for this generation. Be it simply a reaction against the previous generation or the reality of the Great Recession and its impact on their employment opportunities, Millennials talk more about making a difference than they do about making the dough.
  4. They will change the world: you may have heard me say it before, but I was in an uncharacteristically jaded place when I started my Millennial exploration. I’d practically given up on our society because of the ‘leaders’ we have in place. This research and a nudge from Amy Costello made me realize that THEY MAY JUST SAVE US, because they care about their world passionately.

Marketing to Millennials

On my path to falling in love with the Millennial generation I met Jeff Fromm on Facebook through a mutual friend, and through that introduction learned about his book with Millennial Co-Author Christie Garton, Marketing to Millennials. If you care at all about marketing to this generation, read it. Everything I know about Gen Y was not learned in the book – I’ve been watching this generation closely for some time – my experience was a mixture of head-nodding and “oh, wow!’s” as the book pieced together so many stats and facts that further clarified my perception of who they were and how they thought.

The book is full of information about Millennials; here are the takeaways from just the first chapter:Change

  1. Millennials want to participate. Not willing to just be passive consumers any longer, this generation wants to actively participate, cocreate, and be included as partners in the brands they love.
  2. Millennials are heavily influenced by their peers. Most Millennial consumers turn to friends before making a purchase decision.
  3. Millennials have more friends. Not only are Millennials heavily influenced by their peers, but they have increasingly larger networks of friends they can share ideas with and receive feedback from.
  4. Millennials are digital natives. Born into an era when smartphones are abundant and texting is a fixture in communication, Millennials fluently speak the digital language.
  5. A millennial mindset has overtaken popular culture. To know what will be hot with American consumers tomorrow, look to what is popular among Millennials today.

Millennial Matters – the Series

For over a year our Sunday series here at ArCompany was the Social Justice one I referenced earlier, and it’s what led to my fascination with how Millennials are impacting our world. Although we will continue to periodically focus on socially responsible companies, this Sunday spot will now be home to this new series, Millennial Matters.

Millennial Matters will follow this large and outspoken generation from a Marketing perspective, focusing on both the successes and failures of established companies trying to connect with them, as well as Millennial founded companies and how they market to themselves and other generations. We’d love to have your input on your experiences, and how they differ or are similar, to marketing to the older generations.

Images courtesy of PhotoPin.

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