Why Do We Even Care About Millennials?

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Narcissistic. Addicted to technology. Un-attached to the brands they buy. These are the labels that follow the ever-elusive millennial population today. Open any daily marketing subscription and you’re hard pressed not to find an award winning case study or quoted research project touting that the future is doomed in their hands. Our hands.

So earlier this week, when HBR published a refreshing, yet brass, take on Whole Food’s recent announcement to build a millennial-focused arm of the brand it naturally sparked a second glance.

Is there such thing as a “millennial strategy”?  

Before we answer, let’s break millennials apart a bit. What is a millennial?

As defined by Pew Research Center, a millennial is a person born generally after 1980 until the early 2000s. As of early 2015, more than one-in-three American workers are now considered millennial. Today’s worldwide population has more millennials than any other generation, with Boomers (those ages 51-69) sliding into second place. So we can agree, that millennials are no longer a subset of population, but a driving force behind it.

Now let’s take a look at some of the primary behaviors of this generation.

  • They are digital native, and yes, slightly self-absorbed. 55% admit to having posted a selfie and have an average of 250 friends on Facebook
  • Their trust is earned, not given, with only 19% saying most people can be trusted as compared to 31% of Gen Xers

However, before we rush to PowerPoint and start signing the check for your brand’s next millennial strategy, it’s also worth looking at the flip side of the coin.

  • The average age of a gamer today is 28.5, that’s quite high for a generation that “ends” at 34
  • Those ages 35-44 over index by 40% as “mobile addicts” versus an average mobile user by Flurry

What this helps us start to uncover is that digital behaviors are less millennial truths and more human truths. Truths we are all guilty, or responsible for creating, regardless of our age. We are speaking to a consumer who is more informed, more attention strapped and more conscious of the world around them, but are those traits driven by age? In some ways, yes, but in most ways, no.

Should we abandon the study of generational differences all together?

Absolutely not. But we may find that if we take a closer and slightly less age affected look at the people in front of us, we’re very much all the same.

While millennials are certainly a generation worth paying attention to, it’s time to shift our focus away from a person’s age and towards challenging ourselves to create experiences that will amplify the world, for all of us.

Our charge as strategists, designers and developers lies less in joining a pro or anti-demographic stance and more in understanding what behaviors our customers exhibit. Our opportunity is to funnel that energy into creating emotionally and context rich experiences worth engaging with.

When we do this, we’re forced to start thinking less about content and more about communication. To focus less on channel is next and more on what stories are worth sharing. Mobile, done well, will help us to accomplish these things.