A consumer paradigm shift is quietly underway…a consumer culture entirely different from the one in which we currently operate, that is, the one built around the philosophies, preferences, habits and foibles of the Baby Boomers. Move over, Boomers, there’re new kids on the block – the Millennials.
Who are the Millennials?
Members of the Millennial Generation were born between 1980 and the early noughties, to parents of Generation X (born between the mid-60s and the late ‘70s). The Millennials are the second largest generation in history, after the Baby Boomers (born mid-40s to mid-60s).
To understand the change that’s happening, it’s necessary to recap the last few decades. Up until now, Baby Boomers have shaped the economy. Part of the population explosion in the aftermath of the Great Depression and the Second World War, Boomers are the biggest generation in history, and have the most spending power. Boomers have impacted society and the economy in the following ways:
- The original yuppies, they embody materialism
- They question authority – as youngsters, they rebelled against the status quo and protested issues like the Vietnam War, civil liberties and equal rights
- A population boom meant an economic boom – the economy grew up with the Boomers and today they hold around 80% of the world’s wealth
- They have been the biggest market for goods and services, and marketing efforts have hitherto been geared towards them
- Baby Boomers embraced the era of mass communication – television, radio and print media advertising was how they were accessed.
Enter the Millennials…
While the Boomers’ children, Gen X, has had little impact on the economy due to its smaller size and substantially less spending power (a result of the poor economy in which they’re operating), Gen X’s kids are following in their grandparents’ footsteps, and are tipped to have a profound economic impact as they mature – in five years, they’ll account for one third of all retail sales. Millennials have the following characteristics:
- Higher levels of education but lower levels of income
- A privileged, pampered upbringing
- Self-centred and narcissistic– referred to as Generation Me or the Selfie Generation
- Exhibit a grand sense of entitlement – sometimes called the Trophy Kids, a reference to the fact that ‘just taking part’ is seen to be equal to real achievement
- On the good side, they’re described as optimistic, social, engaged and networked
- Show a Neoliberal approach to politics, religion and culture – embracing diversity and differences
- A function of high property prices and a tough employment market, Millennials are living with their parents far longer than previous generations
- Born in the digital age, technology and digital media is part and parcel of the Millennial identity – so-called Digital Natives, they’re the first generation to grow up with computers, smartphones and digital satellite television all on tap.
When it comes to consumer culture, Millennials:
- Are frugal and brand unloyal - willing to shop around for a deal
• Seek out mespoke brands – that is, ‘bespoke experiences tailored for me’
- Thoroughly research brands online before buying – take into account what online social communities are saying about a brand, as well as what it says about itself
- Shop online, as well as in bricks-and-mortar stores, but only visit physical stores to ‘try out’ products after preliminary online research
- Access websites and social media primarily through smartphones and tablets
- Expect instant feedback to queries or complaints via social media channels
- Early adopters of new technology – if a brand doesn’t keep up, they’ll move on.
How to Reach Millennials?
Forget the traditional channels of mass communication – it’s not where Millennials are at! To successfully market your goods and services at these digital natives, you need to:
- Provide genuine opportunities for your brand to interact with your audience
- Emphasise a personalised, customised brand experience
- Have a solid online presence, where consumers can find out all about you and your products and services, as a necessary precursor to buying • Build your online reputation and be available to interact via social channels
- Provide a channel for online shopping
- Incorporate responsive design into your website to cater for the plethora of different devices through which people are accessing it
- Embrace interactive content marketing instead of pursuing a solely reactive traditional marketing approach.