Millennials – that is, young adults born between 1980 and the early 1990s and also known as Generation Y – have been given a bad rap. Labeled as lazy, pampered, spoiled, aimless (and myriad other not-exactly-true titles), Gen Y has struggled to prove its worth during a very trying time in our country’s history.
As a Millennial, I find the flack shelled out to my generation to be unfair at best. Sure, there are members of Generation Y who fit the labels – but, to be fair, what generation doesn’t have members who are entitled, spoiled and/or lazy? The public is fascinated with stories of Millennial mass unemployment, insurmountable student loan debt and the growth of a generation of Peter Pans who might never venture away from the nest.
What many generally fail to see is all of the good within my generation’s ranks. The creatives. The go-getters. The scholars. The philanthropes. They’re all there, trying to find their way in the world when so many have said they can’t make it. The system is against them and still they press on, creative by choice and entrepreneurial by necessity. And marketers need to pay close attention – after all, Millennials will soon be the most powerful spending force (their spending power is currently estimated to be around $990 billion).
Attracting Millennials’ attention isn’t too difficult – all it takes is an understanding of their makeup. Here are a few things about Millennials to keep in mind:
1) They are true technology natives. Not only comfortable multi-tasking, they are also comfortable multi-screening, that is, moving between multiple pieces of technology. From laptops and tablets, to smartphones and beyond, they love the way technology intersects with their lives, and honestly couldn’t live without their favorite devices.
Try engaging them through their multiple screens. You might be surprised that they not only engage with you, but also appreciate that someone understands their multi-screen lifestyle.
2) They’re all for social responsibility. Forget what you’ve heard – Millennials care about what’s going on around them, in their communities and in communities around the world. In fact, nearly 63% of Millennials volunteered for a non-profit in 2011, and 70% say they’ve helped raise money on behalf of a non-profit organization.
When it comes to sustainability, Millennials are plugged-in. According to our on-going Pulse research, they are the age group most likely to search for greener products, with 78% of their ranks reporting having done so in the recent past. Furthermore, nearly half of Millennials say that a company’s environmental reputation has an impact on their purchase decision.
Try encouraging their participation in both large and small-scale philanthropic activities. But make sure what you’re asking them to do is legit – this generation has been a huge advocate for corporate transparency, and has become very good at sniffing out frauds. Furthermore, they’ve got a lot going on in their lives and need to know that where they’re devoting their time is worthwhile.
3) They aren’t their parents, or even their older siblings. There’s a lot to be said about how this generation is rewriting traditional life milestones. For instance, many are putting off marriage and home-buying until they’ve shorn up their professional lives, or at least established themselves comfortably. Comparing their life track to that of Baby Boomers and Generation X could lead to more angst than you’d like.
Try acting as a partner in their life-building process, rather than a reminder that they aren’t living their life the same way their parents did. By removing the guilt and supporting their choices, Millennials’ trust in your brand will grow considerably. They’re getting used to hearing “no” and reasons why they can’t – help them see they can.
Millennials are certainly an interesting group to pay attention to. They’re dynamic, educated and creative. Better yet, their population is very large, and their spending power continues to grow. The brands who understand this will certainly see the rewards of working with Generation Y. The brands who ignore Gen Y will … well, it might not be pretty.