Hello, I am a Millennial.
You may have read about me. Maybe you are one too. There have been a slew of depictions, segmentations and breakdowns of my behaviour recently. Have you heard about my short attention span? Sorry what? I just got distracted by this Tumblr about Manatees.
At Sense Worldwide our business is to understand people and put them front and centre in the minds of the brands that cater for them to generate transformational innovation.
We’re mostly millennials and we talk – on the phone, in their home and with their friends – to thousands of them across the globe. So here follows a more personal portrait to equip you to serve our generation that outnumbers all others and will be shaping the world in our image into the new millennium.
1. One tribe to rule them all
If you’re still talking about ‘tribes’ in the marketing lexicon of old you’re already missing the point. Millennials craft complex and multifaceted identities from the myriad influences that surround them. Taste is context specific and cultural capital comes in expressing your diversity and ability to re-appropriate those influences in a unique way.
“I might describe my style as modern retro. I like to be unique but not stand out too much just for the sake of it”
Fabio, 24, Rio de Janeiro
One of the most accurate segmentations are the attitudinal creative, curator and consumer roles. Creativity is coveted and attitudes differ depending on how creative the individual feels they are. Brands perceived as creative are seeing better results amongst millennials.
The genuine creative sets the agenda being a true individual and leading the pack, influencing behaviour and generating content to create talking points. A stage below are the cultural curators who get creative by proving their knowledge to demonstrate the most diverse and recent influences. The third group consume what is distributed by the curators but choose their influences wisely.
2. Credibility in diversity
Don’t be surprised to hear us listen to dubstep and Motown in the same playlist and team 90’s grunge jumpers, with 00’s skinny jeans and brand new Nikes (client alert). It’s all about demonstrating the breadth of expertise and the creativity with which we repurpose it. For millennials recent cultural history – found online and rehashed in the media – provides influences through the generations that they appreciate and make use of.
“My taste in Music is a little bit of everything. There’s no genre I hate, I like them all individually”
Victoria, 17, London
3. My identity is not your brand identity
We like to think our brands do not define us, but our use of them does. This leaves the door open for brands to offer those components of individuality we need to craft our own. Converse (client alert) All Stars are one of the oldest sneakers available but they are customisable and repurposable and so remain relevant with our eclectic generation who value the heritage.
We can see the same in the rise of chains like American Apparel and Uniqlo who provide simple items that can be crafted into individual unbranded looks. Their marketing reflects their role in crafting a cool, individual identity and builds authenticity through brand purpose without relying on heritage.
Take the iPhone as a polar example. A uniform device with almost endless customisability iPhone provides millennials with everything they need. From the apps we use to the pages we comment on and the tracks we share, millennials are defined by their consumption and gain cultural capital from being first and well informed. It’s this personal customisation and creative potential of Apple products that makes them so desirable with millennials.
4. You can’t lie to us so you must build trust
You’ve heard how we are always connected. 75% of millennials state they’re never offline for more than an hour. We value the opinion of others and the wisdom of the crowd when making decisions with varying degrees of influence given to our friends, peers and voices we attribute authority (specialist bloggers and the like). In a web landscape populated by opinion and sloppy truths trusted sources of valued information are coveted and misrepresentations are rapidly exposed.
To define a voice as trustworthy millennials demand transparency and authenticity. Brands who are unafraid to project a unique tone of voice and stand for something are immediately trustworthier.
“It’s really important for a brand to have it’s own voice – I’m not interested in it looking like something I’ve seen on TV, it just has to be itself”
Lisa, 28, Chicago
5. Be authentically original
These attitudes feed into millennials interest in understanding something from its origin, ably tracking the history of a brand to understand its heritage and provenance. That’s not to say authenticity comes from having been around forever, but from being exactly what you say you are and doing what you do well.
Understanding this provenance provides cachet and feeds a new culture of awareness and value for the methods and principles behind a product as much as the product itself.
6. The experience economy
In a world where keeping up with the Jones’s extends beyond the neighbours next door to hundreds of followers, friends and fans cultural capital is king. Experiences drive our social conversations and become the overt expression of our identities. Who I am is surmised from where I go and what I do, what I share and what I know.
“I never want to feel like I’m missing out on anything – I always want to be doing something.”
Olivia, 20, Paris
Brands are fantastically positioned to craft experiences around their products both in their use, purchase or marketing. Visiting the Nike Fuel Station, unwrapping a Net-a-Porter product or diving into a Jagermeister music gig gives millennials the kind of experience they want to share to prove how full their lives are. Crafting these content and experiences is key to feeding the millennial need to share in order to demonstrate their taste and experience and gain social validation.
7. Optimism in adverse circumstances
Millennials are optimistic about their future despite being born in one of the worst financial slumps for generations. Millennials remain empowered by their digital mastery and position as the most educated generation in history despite evidence that maturing in an economic downturn can have lifelong effects on pay and achievement.
8. Life is friends and shared experiences
Perhaps because of this uninspiring work situation, millennials value work-life balance over corporate achievement. Leading rich experience filled lives is more desirable than tirelessly working to achieve for others. As a result innovation, entrepreneurship and social good are key attributes sought by millennials. Brands succeeding in this like Google and Apple rank as the most desirable to work for.
“I don’t want to be sucked in to making money. It’s great but it won’t bring me happiness”
Anthony, 22, Houston
Companies must be aware of their role in the wider world and work to improve it, both through their output and their actions. Many millennials find it hard to see these traits in the incumbent businesses of the Fortune 500 and here lies one of the greatest chances of disruption with some arguing 40% will not be around in 2025.
Many Fortune 500 firms are distrusted by millennials and they are not seen as desirable workplaces presenting an uncertain future for the customer-facing businesses sitting at the top.
9. Bring us together and we will come
The digital landscape has been transformed by products that help people connect with each other and brands must consider that their marketing will be far more effective if they foster interactions between customers rather than going for a one-way B2C dialogue.
An extremely transformational example AirBnB is changing the face of travel by connecting travellers with local homeowners and introducing the two. Real people meeting each other face-to-face around their interests.
We have faced criticism that our digital lives limit our relationships but millennials enjoy a rich landscape of connections both digital and physical and the recent rise of meet-ups, dining clubs and shared experiences show brands who can help us connect with each other can reap huge rewards.
What do you do now?
These are just a few of the top line traits we’ve seen across the globe, they vary in impact by region and age range within the Millennial demographic and our main advice is that you can never know your audience too well.
By knowing the needs of millennials you can build products and services that better service them from the outset and ensure your brands are relevant to our opinionated, informed and engaged generation. Don’t be afraid to lead and build products in rapidly refined iterations.
If you would like to learn more or get your questions answered by our global network of millennials get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Alternatively if you don’t command budgets but think creatively and want to improve the world around you join our network of smart thinkers and shape the future of the world’s best brands at http://thesensenetwork.com