New York Times Columnist David Brooks has a knack for identifying cultural realities or trends in a way that can be useful for readers and marketing professionals alike.
He’s the one who, in an Atlantic Monthly article, first described and named the cultural, economic and political gulf between “Red” and “Blue” Americas.
In a column last spring, Brooks reported the insights of one of his students – a senior at Yale – who described in a “dazzling paper” what it feels like to be a member of her age cohort, the latter half of the Millennial generation, born roughly between 1982 and 2004.
As we’ve pointed out in other Daily Insights, it’s essential to engage and influence this under-30 market now, as it continues to form long-term habits and viewpoints.
According to Brooks’ student, Victoria Buhler, the events of 9/11, the Iraq War and the Wall Street crisis of 2008 have shaped her age group into wary realists, whom she calls “Cynic Kids.”
“We are deeply resistant to idealism,” writes Buhler. “We require a hypothesis to be tested, substantiated, and then the results replicated before we commit to any action.”
These are intuitive insights, but they can give us a pathway into messages that may resonate with Millennials.
Although they believe in the importance of environmental responsibility, Millennials are wary of, as Brooks puts it, “ethical and idealistic vocabularies that seem fuzzy and, therefore, unreliable.”
This squares with our recent Eco Pulse™ data that they are the most green in attitude but not in behavior.
If a product is touted as being green, Millennials, with their emphasis on testing and substantiation, will want to see the facts and documentation.
For this reason, they will likely respond well to the product sustainability ratings being discussed by big box stores. They will also pay attention to third-party certifications, which “vet” your green claims.
This contrasts with age cohorts in their parenting years, for example, who are more focused on the health aspects of green products.
It also contrasts with the penny-watching of other cohorts. With little money and plenty of college loans, Millennials want good prices, but the most effective appeals will consider this in the context of a more subtle set of values.