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WHY is this page here?  After all, this is a computer web site, isn’t it?  As a computer consultant, I specialize in business.  You will notice pages on this site discussing whether you want a web site, or how to advertise on the internet, or whether you want to start your own business (see the links below).  Those pages reiterate that you must know your customer before you create your marketing and/or advertising plan.  Part of that customer “profile” must necessarily include detailed information that will be essential in reaching that customer and convincing him, her or them to use your service or purchase your product. Read on...

Millennials graphic

CREDIT: Millennial Chat

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY:  The old way of selling to or employing Millennials is over.  If you want to deal with this group on any level, you’re going to have to learn to do it their way and on their terms:

Millennials are driving the economy.  So we must all pay attention to the 78 million of them, with 10,000 more of them turning 21 each day.  By 2018, they’ll be a $3.4 trillion market, bigger than the Baby Boomers (see Gen) at their own peak.  Pew Internet tells us that based on the latest census members of the Millennial generation - which continues to grow not only because the Boomers are starting to die, but also because of the influx of immigrants (and children of immigrants) between the ages of 18 and 34 - are have reached 75.4Population by Generation million in 2016, eclipsing the 74.9 million Boomers who were born following WWII as the largest generation alive in the U.S. [see chart at right.]   Millennials (born between 1981 and 2000) are expected to peak at 81.1 million in 2036.  On the other hand, Boomers (1946 - 1964, ranging between ages 51 and 69) reached their demographic peak in 1999 at 78.8 million, according to Pew.  [The label “Millennials” was coined by demographers Neil Howe and William Strauss, by the way, and popularized by Peter Jennings in ABC News Tonight in late 1997.]  For more, see GEN.  By 2028, Gen X (1965 - 1980) will also outnumber Boomers.  In spring 2015, Goldman Sachs issued a report confirming Millennial Parents’ $1 trillion in buying power, also listing their favorite brands (e.g. Earth’s Best Organic, Melissa & Doug, The Honest Co.)

Contrary to some popular belief and characterization, not all Millennials are lazy, tattooed (although 53% have at least one tattoo, according to a 2015 Source PicoSure/Wakefield Research survey), painfully earnest and narcissistic, constantly tapping on their cell phones while leeching off their parents.  (Of course, some probably are.)  Still, many are quite intelligent and motivated, but they have been badly hurt by high student loan repayments (although they don’t have as much other personal debt as previous generations) and a terrible job market. And just  because they aren’t as interested in cars, homes, marriage and children as were previous generations (at the same point in their lives) doesn’t mean they’re cheap.  They just spend their money on different things, like travel, technology and training. in many ways, in the 2000s, Millennials’ values have already made their mark on our economy.

Like any generation, they do have their particular traits. They’re certainly the most digitally engaged generation in history, using the Internet for everything from buying clothes and finding a restaurant to finding a job and repairing their car.  The Internet, whether accessed directly from a computer or from a smart phone, is their direct connection with the world and each other.

So, in order to hire employees from or sell to people of this generation, you have to know what motivates them and what’s unimportant to them, as well as the vehicle to reach them.   Buying a house, investing in a retirement plan, a steady job and other trappings once associated with stability and a secure future to the Traditionalists (see Gen) aren’t attractive to Millennials.  Even if they are, poor employment prospects nevertheless dampen their enthusiasm for relationships and major purchases.

Perhaps that’s why Millennials have been shunning traditional marriage in record numbers, viewing the institution as an economic arrangement in severe need of cultural overhaul.  It’s not viewed as a “starting point”  for building a life any more.  Now, Millennials feel that they want to be established, especially financially, before walking down the aisle (LINK).  Pew Research reports that a plurality of never-married Americans aged 25 to 34 says a major reason they haven’t married is that they’re not financially prepared; while wages for men of that generation have steadily declined the past 30 years, women still claim that a “steady job” is the most attractive trait among spouses. 56% of Millennials say they’ve delayed a life event because debt, versus 43% of older adults. 

Closely related, perhaps, is Millennial’s sexual relationships.  Not sure why, but studies have shown that Millennials are having less sex than Gen-Xers or Baby Boomers at the same age, even 15% of those 20 - 24 reporting that they’ve had no sexual partner since they turned 18.  Maybe it’s because of sex is being replaced by porn and virtual sex, or unrealistic expectations caused by advertising or social media, other pressures or general distractions.  

They’re certainly not living their parents’ lives, that’s for sure.  An Urban Institute report reveals that an unprecedented 70% of Millennials will remain unmarried through age 40, well below the Boomers (91%) Late Boomers (87%) and Gen Xers (82%) and the lowest rate of marriage by age 40 in history.  Unmarried Millennials still live together and some 70% percent state the desire to be married “someday,” but seem to be putting that date off.  Pew Research analysis of Current Population Survey data shows that the present median age for first marriages is now 27 for women and 29 for men - up from 20 for women and 23 for men in 1960!  If the trend continues, more than 30% of Millennial women will remain unmarried by age 40, nearly twice the share of their Gen X counterparts, according to the Urban Institute.  The disparity continues, predictably, when queried by generations:  55% of those 50 and older believe that society is better off if marriage and children are a priority, but among adults 19 to 29, 66% believe that society is just as well off if marriage and children aren’t the first priority, as do 63% of those 30-49 years old, according to the Pew study.  Younger generations suggest that, even aside from religion or economics, the paradigm should be changed.  Perhaps Margaret Mead (1960) or Pamela Paul’s (2002) suggestion of “beta” marriages or the proposed laws in Mexico City supporting two-year renewable marriages will come to the rescue. On the up side, divorce rates among this group have declined by over 10% from their predecessors, perhaps as a result of delaying their marriages until they’re more mature.

Part of this may be their view of when they view themselves as “grown up”.  While Traditionalists and Boomers had to start work very early in life, either because of war or intense scholastic competition, Millennials don’t have the same pressure.  So GenXers believe that they’re grown up about age 22, when they’ve completed their college education, and Millennials even later, at about age 30.  The same pattern holds in employment:  While Boomers, perhaps of their acceptance of their Traditionalist parents’ strictly defined hierarchal structure, expected to start work early (some at 7, but no later than 18) and hold somewhere between three and five jobs during their working lifetime.  After the Boomers, who were the first gen to compete with another for jobs, things changed.  Millennials can work whenever and as much as they want, and it’s expected that they will hold between fifteen and thirty jobs during their lifetime.  Some part of this change has been caused by employers, as the Millennials have seen their parents’ retirements, bonuses and benefits unceremoniously taken away from them just short of retirement and have firsthand been subjected to jobs with varying schedules and duties and virtually no benefits or upward mobility despite the fact that they have more college education than any other generation in history.  They have no corporate loyalty, and why should they?  Not suprisingly, 69% of them prefer a stable job without passion over a job with lots of passion but no job security, according to Adecco Staffing survey, 2016.

Viewing firsthand their parents’ security and savings eroded by plummeting real estate values, divorce settlements and misappropriated pension funds has also effected Millennials’ views about loyalty and security.  Millennials are especially pessimistic  after seeing these values fail their parents, who lost their jobs after years of company devotion and who were robbed of their retirement plans.  That’s one reason why Millennials are far more comfortable than their predecessors eking out a living through less stable contract work and flexible schedulesThey tend to engage in  “job hopping” that enlarges their group of friends rather than their material possessions.  They’re part of the “gig” economy, where they work “gigs” rather than long term structured employment. In a 2014 Telefonica survey, 49% of Millennials said work-life balance is the most important consideration when considering a job.  Only 41% said salary was important, while 29% sought an employer that acts with integrity.   They accumulate skills and contacts and educate themselves to solve problems.  This is the first generation with ready and free ability over the Internet to educate themselves and improve their job skills, and they are willing to do so.  Millennials aren’t fickle, rather they seek out contract positions that preserve work/life balance and their own values. According to a USA Today/Bank of America Better Money Habits Survey in 2015, work performance is actually the lowest priority for Millennials (at 22%), while moving up the priority scale is physical health (42%), then personal relationships (49%), leisure activities (55%), topping with emotional well-being (65%) as the first priority.  Interestingly, Millennials see themselves as less middle class and more working class than any other generation in history since records began three decades ago, the Guardian and Ipsos Mori have found.

But this doesn’t mean that they favor starting their own businesses. A 2015 study conducted by the Washington Post found a declining trend since about 2000, finding that only about 1/3 of those in the 18 to 29 age group think that starting their own business is important.  53% believe its more important would rather work for an established company (vice 16% for a startup or 29% their own business).  Interestingly, while only 24% of whites desire to start their own businesses, 43% of Hispanics and half of African Americans have expressed their desire. The study, conducted in association with the Harvard University Institute of Politics, found that the Millennials are divided equally about whether a strong federal government is needed for things like food and medicine to keep the public safe, or whether such rules do more harm than good by slowing technological development and medical advances.

While Millennials have a lower percentage of the federal workforce than previous generations (employment of those under 30 dropped to 7% in 2015), a Deloitte study found that Millennials don’t really have much of a different view of Government service than previous generations.  Federal government hiring is off generally, their morale when hired is no different than older generations and turnover isn’t higher even though they’re used to job hopping.

In addition to their work ethic, the Millennials are also having a profound effect on office space.  What was the goal of Boomers, the corner office with the conference table, the physical representation of status, is going to be nonexistent with Millennials.  Even in law firms, where such status symbols as office size, conference rooms and glitzy lobbies are part of the well-earned hierarchy, such white-glove firms as Covington & Burling and Nixon Peabody are eschewing corner offices and conference rooms for cookie cutter spaces with a desk, one side chair and a glass wall (signaling transparency and democracy).  Millennials want a “holocracy,” not a hierarchy.  They’ve rejected the “paying dues” ethic of the Boomers (think Marco Rubio running for President after a scant year in Congress with no actual Federal government accomplishments because, as he claims, “I’m ready now”), and instead favor the flexibility and mobility of a “flat” power structure.  They like the feeling that everyone in the enterprise is “in it all together” before they’ll commit.  And, from the looks of it, older generations are being forced to go with this approach.  Moreover, since many more workers are out of the office at any given time (estimates are about 47%), the idea of “hoteling” is becoming much more common, as collaborative workers simply reserve offices and conference rooms, as well as specific office concierge services, on an as-needed basis.   Finally, because their priorities are more time with their children, pets, families and hobbies and not work, they’re also shaping the policies for bonuses and additional compensation.  An article in the Washington Post (7/28/15) reports that the day of the bonus has gone the way of the gold watch.  The Millennials would rather have a day of paid leave or a gym membership (things which cost a company far less than a substantial bonus) than even a large cash bonus.  It’s a win-win for both employers and workers, that is if you’re a Millennial.  Maybe that’s why it’s predicted that the Millennials will have less millionaires and become far wealthy than previous generations.

This lack of command structure and desire for codependance and democracy extends to Millennial’s families, when they finally start one.  According to  Nickelodeon research, their so-called “velcro families” not only take their infants and children everywhere, they also give them a vote, no matter what their age, on family decisions.  Therefore, to get their business, you’ll just have to design restaurants, resorts, businesses and shopping to account for this.  Rather than taking a romantic weekend off in the city, Millennials would rather taken the whole family to Disney on Ice.

And employers can no longer take the hard-line “you’re being paid to do a perfect job” approach that worked with previous generations.  Because they’ve been nurtured and encouraged since birth by their parents, they expect that pat on the head for merely doing their job, or else they’ll walk.  Nor does the “you’ve got to pay your dues first” position work with employment any more, as discussed above.

Not surprisingly, Millennials have also shunned organized religion in record numbers.  On the average, they’re less likely to pray or attend religious services and more likely to value individualism.  A Pew survey found that they are more likely than any previous generation to say they’re unaffiliated with religion, although the majority still practice some form of religion.  The number of 12th grade girls reporting never attending church has surged 125%, boys 83%.  The trend has been significantly higher for girls, possibly because of the overall shift in traditional female roles.  The resistance to permitting female clergy, church rules and how they view the role of females, and traditional role of churches toward females (often seating them separately or failing to provide them with the same religious education as males, giving women the feeling that they have second class status) have all had an effect on modern women toward religion.

They’re also the first generation to be less patriotic.  Since 2001, Gallup has polled Americans to see how proud they are to be Americans.  In the first survey in 2001, 55% were “extremely proud” to be American and, after 911 the figure jumped to 65%.  After the Gulf War, the number even increased to 70%.  But in 2016, the number is at only 52%, the lowest recorded so far.  Gallup holds Millennials (and liberals) for this result.

Their lack of desire to own cars and houses, or at least delay those events, has resulted in the increased development of “walkable urban spaces,” a/k/a WalkUPs (much like those in other countries, like Germany) within distance of work, shopping, restaurants, home and school, as opposed to the Boomers shaping their life around spread out suburban housing environments which require cars to shop, go to work, transport their kids (“soccer moms”) and go to school.  Here in the U.S., home ownership rates among people 35 and under has been steadily falling since 2009, from 39.8% in 2009 to 34.2% in 2016 and shows no signs of abating.  Their persistent attachment to their smart phones makes face-to-face interaction, therefore travel, much less necessary.  Millennials are far more apt to rent than to own their homes, either because they can’t purchase (due to high debt levels) or simply don’t want to.  For Millennials, the mass lifestyle shift away from owning and toward either renting or crashing with relatives may actually work in their favor, as buying a house a house can lock up your savings, locks a geographic location, and is illiquid and overvalued these days.  They’re putting off homeownership, which many view as a prerequisite to marriage, and they’re also too poor to buy houses.  A MacArthur Foundation study found that 88% aspire to own a home, but only 53% consider it to be a high priority. When they do, for some reason, the CES and home shows show that they tend to prefer modern, sleek lines in their homes, but also natural materials such as wood, rustic childhood elements like farmhouse sinks as well as stone but are also drawn to colored lights that can turn a shower into purple rain and other smart-home technology. And because many Millennials saw their parents lose their homes during the recession, they’ve spearheaded the “tiny house” (approx. 400sf unmortgaged, low utilities) trend, which has also been adopted out of necessity by some baby-boomers who lost their houses and retirements.   This situation has it fallout:  Falling profits at Home Depot, Lowes and other DIY and home renovation suppliers.  As a result, more Millennials than ever are living with their parents now than with any other living arrangement.  By 2014, Pew reports that nearly one-third of young adults lived in their parents’ home, a larger group than those living with s spouse or romantic partner, living alone or with roommates or living as single parents.  The census reports that living with a spouse or significant other peaked in 1960 at 62%, but has decined steadily to 31.6% where it is today.  The theory is that this has been due partly to the poor economics over the past 50 years (student debt, poor paying jobs, rising home prices, etc.) and partly by the lack of importance of marriage (insufficient income to support a family or buy a house, men not feeling that they have to be sole breadwinners in a family (maybe even stay-at-home dads), or lack of stigma of living alone or having a child out of wedlock). The highest percentage of Millennials living at home are among black and latinos (36%) compared to 30% of white young adults, although the metric is actually more about men and women, as men are far more likely to live at home with their parents.

Also, as the direct result of Millennials’ views public transport ridership has reached record highs. And they’re big fans of TN like Uber and Lyft for the same reason, perhaps why GM invested some $500 million in Lyft, hedging their bets against future auto sales.  [The annual report by the American Public Transportation Association showed that ridership was at 57 year high, the 10.7 billion trips in 2014 were at the highest since 1956.]  So, they’re interested more in location than size of their homes, unlike previous generations, who wanted a larger home and didn’t mind hopping into a private vehicle to get everywhere.  And even in home ownership, Millennials eschew debt far more than other generations, perhaps seeing how their predecessors got themselves into trouble, or because their college loans are more than enough.  Aware of this, many homebuilders are trimming home sizes and cutting prices to appeal to Millennials.  Tri Pointe Group (CO), Taylor Morrison Homes and Meritage Homes are among builders who are wooing Millennials with inexpensive entry -level homes with less frills.  A 2015 USA Today study concluded that two-thirds of the Millennials said that having no debt is a top priority, as opposed to other generations, which viewed savings as more important to their financial liquidity.  [Other findings:  81% decided not to buy something because it would be a better financial decision, 75% won’t buy something on a credit care, would rather save up the cash for it and 36% believe they could maintain their lifestyles if they lost their job tomorrow.]  Of course, some say that, as the Millennials are having children, they’re starting to opt, to their chagrin, to the mini-vans which have become almost a requirement for lugging around kids and their accessories.  Interestingly, studies have shown that, particularly in cities, Millennials are competing with empty-nester Boomers for the same smaller, less-maintenance condos, the first time in history that this particular situation has occurred.

If you think about it, television has followed this change:  The Boomers watched shows like The Brady Bunch and Eight is Enough, which showed families living in big houses in the suburbs and piling into their station wagons to get places.  But the Millennials watch shows like Two Broke Girls, The Big Bang Theory and Sex in the City, which take place in safe, walkable, familiar urban places, preferable to Millennia’s, even after they marry and start families.  It’s been predicted that, in the new era of phablets, laptops and Hulu, Millennials” TV viewing habits may also well signal the end of the communal living-room screen. It’s pretty well known by now that Millennials have a far shorter attention span than earlier generations.  If a website doesn’t load immediately, they’re moving on.  They shun network programming and scheduling, which requires them to schedule their life around TV network programming, instead opting for streaming content and cutting the cord, viewing TV when they choose to on any and all of their devices. As a general principal, it’s quite hard to get many Millennials to read a long article, book or manual.  They’re used to Googling or word searching for just the part they’re interested in and ignoring the rest. [Even this page, I suspect, is far too long for most of their attention spans.  They’d skip to what we call the “Executive Summary” (the “Cliff’s Notes” for executives) if there is one!]  This isn’t necessarily always a bad thing, as many articles take far too long to “get to the point” and don’t cite sufficient authority other than “talking heads” to justify their often long-winded conclusions!

And the cars they do choose to own are usually boxy and utilitarian (think Kia Soul, Nissan Cube), not status symbols like their parents’ Mercedes and Lexus. But don’t blindly follow the statistics, the conclusions they reach may be misleading.  An MTV survey released in 2015 showed conclusively that Millennials enjoy driving (70%). equate freedom with cars (90%) and couldn’t do without their cars (70%).  So, aside from the cost, why don’t they have them?  Unlike the pre-1990s, where virtually any 16 year old get a license as easily as an adult, most states have imposed restrictions (restricted hours of driving, prohibition against driving with their friends, special stickers affixed to their license plates) that have deterred teens from getting their licenses.  The number of people 20-24 years old which have drivers licenses has steadily decreased from 91.8% in 1983 to 76.7% in 2015.  This, at the same time as the average cost of vehicles has increased by 20% between 2005 and 2015, to an average of $33,188.  Also, see the emergence of the “Minivan Millennials”.  Recognizing this, in 2015 Uber launched a new service in some places which lets customers request a car seat with their ride!

Talking about possessions. Look around you.  How many of you are wearing wristwatches?  How many are from Gen X and Millennials?  Very few, I bet.  Because they use their smart phones for everything, including telling time and communicating with their “friends and family” (a/k/a “framily,” as Sprint calls them).  Why be tethered to another device when one already has everything?  Only grandpa calls a watch a “timepiece,” anyway.  They really do think that everyone should get a smartphone by age 13 and that it is acceptable, even required, to use it everywhere - at a family dinner, during a religious service, at work, at weddings (even their own), funerals and other events (see those playing Pokemon Go at funerals!).  And younger people use Instagram and Twitter differently from adults - A Pennsylvania University study published in July, 2016 shows that, for those social media accounts that are the public display of their lives, teens tend to post more, reply much faster, post more photos and post more often, but also delete posts more often when they do not tend to show them off at their very best.  As a direct result, today’s employers often have a difficult time untethering Millennials from their phones during the work day, because Millennials don’t understand the security risks they pose and view their phones as much more than a telephone.  Many just won’t work for a company that bans them from using their phones at their place of employment.  They’ll just stay at their parents home and tap away right there.  Moreover, even at work, they believe that they are capable of multi-tasking, as in doing their job while balancing the rest of their life over their smart phones at the same time.

On the selling side, a 2014 Zogby Analytics survey confirms that 90% of Millennials say their smart phones never leave their side, even at work.  And they NEVER turn them OFF, either.  (No surprise there, if you’ve ever hired one.) They spend more time each day glued to the tiny screens of their smart phones than they spend sitting in front of their TVs.  Boomers may have invented the computer and Gen X popularized the daily use of the Internet, but Millennials invented Facebook and social networking.   Companies which don’t have an excellent mobile website are missing the boat, because Millennials love the ease and speed of using their smartphone camera and apps to get car insurance quotes, deposit checks, pay bills, enroll in everything, even pay taxes.  Many say they won’t even deal with a company without a mobile website. And digital wallets like Venmo are particularly popular with Millennials, as they mashup cell phone payments with social media.

On the learning side, it’s been confirmed that, because of the ready and constant availability of information over the Internet, most Millennials don’t use the rote “memorize and repeatlearning structure that their parents were taught in school, but are satisfied to simply know where to find the answer.  Whether or not the earlier generations agree about this, their perspective has driven the educational process to a different way of teaching.  (I for one, have always learned this way.  But I do remember being required to go through the “manual” process of learning before skipping directly to the shortcut.)

Somewhat surprisingly, a 2014 Chase Card Services survey reveals that Millennials are much more likely than older travelers to seek out hotels with luxury services like dry cleaning, massage, spa services or pet friendliness.  Not surprisingly, they find it a “deal breaker” if the hotel isn’t near public transportation (bad news for car rental companies) or doesn’t have the technology to indulge their obsession with social connections, as 97% post to social media even while on vacation.  They are more likely than other travelers to meet others staying at their hotel and they like the idea of travel rewards. So much so that Choice Hotels, a budget chain, has started opening Cambria Suites, a more upscale chain devoted to Millennial’s tastes.  Steve Joyce, CEO of Choice, says that Millennials are very much about being in control, doing things in their own time, their own way.  So Cambria ‘s health club is open 24 x 7.  So is food access.  And there are choices of pillows for the beds.  And using rewards point for instant redemption, such as a glass of wine at the hotel bar.  Of course, there are technological features such as making reservations with Ford’s Sync in-vehicle app, after being the first to have an iPhone app.  And using no front desk check ins, instead using a smartphone to check in, pay and unlock room doors.

A 2014 survey also found that the Millennials/Gen Y (ages 18-24) and Gen Z (ages 14-17), are generally gender and race neutral, significantly effecting the country and the world because they just don’t consider gender or race pivotal or even  very important in societal roles. Who they are, what they say and how they act as individuals are far more important to them than their race or color.  On the other hand, they seem to be somewhat more conservative in their views about free speech:  A pew survey published in 2015 reveals that four in ten Millennials believe that the U.S. Government should be able to prevent people from publicly making statements that are offensive to minority groups or religious beliefs.  That’s higher than any other age group surveyed.  But maybe not as race neutral as we thought:  The 2016 Black Youth Project at the University of Chicago and the AP-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research has revealed that both black and white Millennials believe that racism causes serious harm, more than previous generations, while sexual orientation means much less.  Moreover, answers to questions about President Obama’s performance, Black Lives Matter, minimum wage increases, education support, airstrikes against ISIS, a wall on the Mexican border, an the Clinton/Trump election still tend to be split by race and economic condition, as with previous generations.

On the political front, Millennials are the only age group where a majority views socialism favorably, 69% saying they would be willing to vote for a socialist candidate for president (like Bernie Sanders, a self-proclaimed “democratic socialist”?).  Why? Because they have doubts that democratic government and free market economics can give them the job advancement and lifestyle they desire.  They look to countries like Denmark as successful experiments in socialism and are interested in duplicating some of these socialist traits.  In the 2016 presidential election, while they may support the democratic candidate or a third party candidate, those polled are almost all ashamed that Clinton and Trump are all that our country has to offer, view the election as a rigged procedure and think that our country now suffers from the problems that appear to have been fixed in many other civilized countries.  A Harvard University study found that just 51% of Millennials do not support capitalism, vice 42% who do.  (Of course, capitalism no longer means what it used to, and is an economic term, vice denunciation of Communism in the cold war sense.)  Will they continue this outlook as they age?  Maybe, but remember that the Boomers (also GenX) became skeptical of big government as they aged and have virtually flip-flopped in their original support of big government.

Millennials may be activists, but in their own way, not like the Boomers.  While the Boomers relied on protests, boycotts or divestment campaigns, Millennials are far more likely to leverege online resources to inform their offline activism.  Back in 2007, NYTimes columnist Thomas Friedman labeled them “Generation Q” (for “quiet”) for just this reason.  Partly because of the Internet tools available to them, Millennials find it easier to express their views without taking to the streets, but instead, for example, steering their purchases or investments toward companies that comport with their values, a practice known as “social” or “impact” investing or purchasing.  A 2015 study by the U.S. Trust found that Millennials were much more likely than their predecessors to see investment decisions as “a way to express social, political or enviromnental values”. 

Millennials tend to get their news from Facebook, rather than traditional network TV or radio.  A Pew American Trends Panel found in 2014 that, while 61% of Millennials got their news from Facebook and only 37% from local TV, the opposite was true of Baby Boomers, who got 60% of their news from local TV and only 39% from Facebook.  Of course, Facebook news isn’t either impartial (it’s skewed because it knows your politics from your profile and from “bubble filtering,”   or complete (there are just too many posts to show them all in your feed).  Who do Millennials trust most?  Jon Stewart (“The Daily Show”) and Steven Colbert (“The Colbert Report”).  They also sign in to news aggregators like Newser or even gossip sites like Gawker.  Where will they go now that Stewart and Colbert are off the air?  A study by the Public Religion Research Institute suggests that they won’t go to Public TV or MSNBC (too liberal).  Rather, it looks like CNN.

Probably because of the poor job market, stagnant wages for those who do have jobs and high student loan payments, the savings rate for Millennials has dipped to a negative 2%, according to Moody’s Analytics, although it’s better than the negative 15% in 2007.  And allegedly because they claim they “just don’t know enough” about retirement plans like IRAs, Millennials just don’t sign up for them (vice the Boomers, who say they just don’t have enough extra to put it into them) Moreover, because the Baby Boomers aren’t ready to give up their jobs, many educated Millennials will have to wait until the Boomers die or retire in order to move up, and this has slowed things down as well.

And a recent Gallup poll reveals that Millennials support stricter gun control laws, at 49% for those under age 35 (vice 56% for those 56% and older), which is somewhat surprising since generally younger people are more pro-gun support than their elders.

Charitable donations are far different for Millennials as well.  The latest Millennial Impact Report (one of a series by the research group Achieve, sponsored by the Case Foundation) has some interesting findings:  Not surprisingly, they’re not motivated to donate money or time through their workplace.  Predictably, they’re much more likely to be influenced by their peers than their work supervisors, by 65% to 44%, with only 11% having their donations deducted from their paycheck.  This may be one factor that earns their label of “selfish” by other generations, but that’s not the case.  Fully 78% of Millennials made donations on their own, vice 22% through their workplace.  According to the Millennial Impact Report, 19% donated via text on their smart phones.  Much more interesting, though, is their trend toward actual as opposed to financial involvement.  70% spent at least an hour volunteering their time to a cause they cared about, with more than a third volunteering 11 hours or more.  45% participated in a company-wide volunteer day, 32% used paid time off and 16% took unpaid time off in order to volunteer.  [As a baby boomer, I recognize some of the traits that our generation had back in the 60s.  I marched in the first Earth Day, protested the Viet Nam was (but, to be clear, didn’t evade service) and voiced my opinion about black rights back then.  Idealism and optimism aren’t limited to just the Millennials.  Every generation probably had these traits, save the Silent Generation (see Gen Definition).

A 2014 Food & Marketing Institute grocery shopping study reveals that Millennials shop differently, too.  As opposed to older shoppers, they tend to make their shopping list just before going to the market and have a much more spontaneous “backwards” approach to grocery shopping, paying less attention to discounts and buying only what they need for that day’s meal, rather than stockpiling staples. And store loyalty isn’t as common with Millennials, as they shop in about 2.5 different channels (superstores, boutiques, markets, supermarkets), rather than always at the same store.  Moreover, studies reveal that, at least for major purchases, Millennials can take from six to eight months making a decision to purchase a home or car.

The most interesting trait that studies have shown is that Millennials don’t like breakfast cereal.  Yep, that’s right.  Why?  Because they view it as “inconvenient,” according to a Mintel 2015 report, as it requires them to clean up after eating it.  That may well be why sales of breakfast cereals have tumbled some 30% over the past 15 years.  Also, it may be why coffee sales have also slowed (less than 10% of Americans grind their beans and make their coffee) while ground beans and pods have skyrocketed, pods by 138,324% in the past 10 years.  And why Millennials chose to eat out more often, even if it’s more “casual dining” than “fine dining”.  All because of the convenience. Sociologists (Braun Research) have hypothesized that, because 82% of Millennial parents were asked to do chores as children, now that they’re grown, they don’t want to do chores at all.

And Millennials are not just trading up from fast food chains to fast casual dining like Chipotle.  They’re also trading down for food at convenience stores, driving the convenience chains like 7-Eleven and Speedway to offer more fresh food offerings, like salads and wraps.  Convenience stores are no longer just gas stations.  NPD’s “Eating Patterns in America” study finds that convenience stores accounted for 11.1% of Millennia food and beverage stops in 2014, compared to 7.7% in 2006.  Fast food casual accounted for 6.1% in 2014 vs. 3.1% in 2006.  These 18 to 24 year olds are re-shaping the food industry again, proving that, as fast food is getting squeezed from above and below in price, they can eat out at the convenience store and save money at the same time.

And today’s Millennials read, too. A Pew survey finds that some 67% of ages 16 to 29 read a book at least once a week, more than the 58% of adults 30 and older who do so.  Also, 43% of Millennials read daily, compared to just 40% of the older group.  But Millennials don’t consider a public library as much a  part of their community, as their elders do (mostly because of financial savings), obtaining their newspapers and magazines through feeds and blogs over the Internet.

In shopping, Millennial’s tend to seek quality, craftsmanship and authenticity over brand names.  Luxury is about how a product is made, where it is made, not advertising claims or who owns it.  They’ll seek a category of product rather than a specific brand.  For example, a woman won’t simply go to Burberry and find a handbag, rather she will browse on her smartphone for handbags from a variety of sources before making a choice.  Many Millennia’s fall into the HENRY (“high-earner not rich yet”) category, exhibiting the “using luxury without owning luxury” characteristic of those with a steady cash flow but not yet accumulated wealth.  The 50% of leased luxury autos in the U.S. fall into this group.  Affluent Millennials typically spend their dollars on so-called “functional luxury,” products that feel less frivolous than fashion, but are still quite expensive.  Apple and Whole Foods would be examples of this type of product.  And as a result of the digital nature of their shopping, Millennials actually participate in the branding of a product, creating its popularity, also becoming active in the “re-branding” of products to show features found to be attractive to their Millennial customers.  On the down side, the resolution of possible problems, set forth on a blog, showing quick response and concern for customer loyalty will be apparent and immediate, crucial to maintaining Millennials as customers (or losing them if their complaints are ignored).

So, from a general marketing and advertising standpoint (aside from the specifics discussed above), what does and doesn’t work?  Traditional old-school sales pitches might’ve worked with Boomers and their parents, but they clearly don’t work well with Millennials.  Pushy sales people are a turn-off.   Cold calls, forget it.  Internet banner, sidebar and pop-up ads, pretty much ignored.  TV, they just ignore the commercials or fast forward with their DVDs.  Celebrity testimonials, not generally helpful (although apparently the Kardashians seem to be a perennial  exception).  Brand names, not necessarily a lock without more function.  Newspapers, not so much, either. Specialty magazines may be better, but they’ll more likely check a blog or feed for more current and believable information via social media.   Professional reviews, not followed nearly as much as crowd reviews by real users and customers via social media (like Yelp).  Real people, particularly of their own generation and circle (think FaceBook, Twitter and Google+ friends groups), are the key to connecting with Millennials.  Authenticity rather then hype.  While their desire for authenticity can sometimes be emotional, it isn’t blind.  Millennials aren’t stupid; the continuous availability of data on the Internet allows them to fact check representations before being conned by anything in advertisements and stated by sales persons.  And, if you do get caught conning them, they’ll never ever come back.

 

And on it goes.  All of the above is a profile based on statistical generalities, of course, and cannot possibly apply to every Millennial.  But one thing is clear:  Millennials are shaping and will continue to shape the economic, personal and political correctness of the coming years.  The above observations don’t define each and every Millennial, but they definitely do describe an observable trend.  Previous generations had a definite effect on the world, now it’s their turn.

The great irony, of course, is that even the Millennials don’t see themselves as Millennials, according to a Pew Survey: Forty percent of people born within Pew’s Millennial boundaries saw themselves as Millennials, eight percent as Boomers, the same percentage as those who saw themselves as The Greatest Generation (see Gen).  Much of the discussion about “generations” is actually a comparison of marketing terms rather than sociological ones anyway.  Dates of birth, spans of years or other demarcations aren’t really particularly accurate.  In fact, there probably isn’t any “actual” generation for any group other than the Boomers, which is a statistically defined group. There is no U.S. Census Bureau designation for these groups, although the interpretation of the collected data may make statistical sense.  Even the year spans for these generations vary somewhat depending on who is writing the analysis.

SEE ALSO:  Marketing & Advertising on the Internet, The Evolution of Internet Marketing, Gen.

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