Millennials get a bad rap.
They are often stereotyped as being lazy, entitled, and overly sensitive.
But who are Millennials, really?
Can they really be distilled down to just a few phrases? And, more importantly, how can understanding who they are help you build and grow your business?
Let’s start at the beginning.
Who Are Millennials?
Millennials (aka Generation Y) are most often defined as the global generation born between the early ’80s and the early ’00s. They fall between Generation X and Generation Z on the generational timeline.
There are an estimated 83.1 million Millennials in the United States, and they make up nearly one-quarter of the country’s total population.
When Were They Born?
There is some debate on what ages, specifically, are considered Millennials. Some accounts set their birth years between 1981 and 1996.
The original authors who coined the term Millennials set their birth years between 1982 and 2004. This disparity gave rise to the term Xennials. (We cover Xennials later in this section.)
For the purposes of this article, we define Millennials by the most updated definition, which is those born between 1982 and 1996.
Who Does The Term Millennial Come From?
Neil Howe and William Strauss coined the term Millennial in 1991 in their book Generations: The History of American’s Future from 1584 to 2069. The term did not immediately become popular.
As you can see in the Google Trends chart below, interest in the term didn’t peak until 2016, though usage began rising in early 2013.
Common Traits Associated With Millennials
The Millennial generation covers a 14-year span of births. This means a young person who was in high school in 1996 is placed in the same bucket as an infant born that same year.
The term ‘Millennials’ covers a wide range of ages and types of people. They cannot all be placed in the same bucket.
While it is important to understand that Millennials is not a one-size-fits-all label, there are some common traits associated with Millennials, which include:
- They are motivated by doing work that means something
- They are willing to spend money on brands who are purpose driven
- They are extremely technologically adept, occasionally to the point of being overly reliant
- They do not tend to stay with the same employer for long (the average is 3 years)
- They do not like to blindly follow orders but prefer a business structure that values input from all levels
- They believe in rewards for a job well done
- They value a positive work culture
- Many lean toward the liberal side of politics.
How are Millennials Different From Generation X?
Generation X refers to the generation born after Baby Boomers and before Millennials.
GenX is usually defined as those born between 1965 – 1979. They were often called “latch-key kids,” and “The MTV generation.”
They are most often considered to be well-versed in technology, though they began using it later in life than Millennials.
Other common Generation X characteristics are self-sufficiency, flexibility, and appreciation of a work-life balance.
They were in their teens and early college years during the rise of rock and punk music, which influenced their outlook on life.
Many of these traits are in stark contrast to the traits commonly attributed to Millennials, who are often touted as being self-centered and too reliant on technology.
By some counts, the Millennial generation covers a range of 20 years. In 2014 the term Xennials was coined by Sarah Stankorb in Good magazine.
Xennials refers to the ‘micro-generation’ born in the late 70s and early 80s.
This generation were relatively early adopters of technology but may have been in middle or high school by the time they began using cell phones or computers regularly.
Many of them were already in the workforce by the time the Great Recession hit in 2007, unlike younger Millennials who were either in high school or college.
Why is it important to understand this subset?
Though Xennials have some similar traits to Millennials, they remember the world before digital devices were the norm. They may bristle at being lumped in with Millennials and may share more traits with Generation X than Millennials.
If Xennials are a large portion of your target audience, you may need to adjust your marketing strategies appropriately.
Problems Facing Millennials
To understand what motivates Millennials, it is important to understand the most common problems they face.
Understanding the struggles they face will give you insight into how they view the world and how they choose to spend their money. Here are some of the most common problems Millennials face:
- Student Loan Debt
- High Childcare Costs
- Caring for Parents / Grandparents
Student Loan Debt
The cost of college tuition has nearly doubled since the 1980s. The average American owes $32,731 in student loans.
For many Millennials, high levels of student loans have resulted in them starting families and buying homes later in life. Many Millennials may have returned home to their parents’ house after college.
According to a study by Pew Research, nearly 15% of Millennials still live at home with their parents, which is nearly 10% higher than the number of Generation Xers who lived at home at the same age.
Higher Childcare Costs
The rising costs of raising a child puts an additional strain on Millennials’ finances. This may result in some leaving the workforce, waiting to have children, or deciding not to have children at all.
Millennials are having children; however, they are waiting later in life than Generation Xers.
Caring for Parents or Grandparents
In addition to being saddled with higher rents and student loan debt, many millennials are also caring for aging parents or grandparents.
Nearly 10 million millennials serve as caregivers for aging family members, according to the AARP.
Millennials face many issues the generations before and after them do not have to face. However, that does not mean that being a Millennial is all bad. There are some pretty awesome benefits for Millennials.
Benefits of Being a Millennial
So, what does the other side of the coin look like for Millennials? Turns out there are plenty of benefits to being a Millennial as well. Here are a few of the top benefits of being a Millennial.
- Millennials are more likely to have a college degree
- They are used to change and adapt well, particularly to new technologies
- They adept at research as many grew up with access to the internet
- They are technologically savvy and often started using the internet and digital devices in early childhood
- Millennials are the most diverse generation in history
- They are more likely to be more accepting of other cultures, religions, and gender identities.
What Do Millennials Like?
To understand how to market to this subset of the population, you need to understand what they like.
Here are some of the most popular trends for Millennials:
- Eating Out
- Social Media
- Subscription Boxes
- The Sharing Economy
Despite increased financial struggles, Millennials are still willing to spend money on doing things they love.
But, Millennials care about where they eat, preferring convenient, high-quality food over cheap fast food. The fast-food industry has been in trouble for years, and many people blame Millennials for the decline.
It is no surprise that Millennials love social media. What might come as a surprise is what type of social media they prefer. Millennials use Facebook and Instagram more than any other platform.
Only about 30% of Millennials use SnapChat regularly. If you are marketing to Millennials, you will want to focus on those two platforms, not newer social media platforms like Vero.
Ninety-two percent of Millennials use a smartphone, compared with just 67% of Baby Boomers.
There is a reason Millennials are stereotyped as always having a phone in their hand. Smartphone usage affects nearly every aspect of their lives, including where they get their news, how they shop, and how they work.
Many Millennials care deeply about sustainability across all niches of shopping, including food, fashion, and home. They are even willing to pay more to support companies who use less packaging or care about their carbon footprint.
They understand that being eco-conscious comes with a higher price tag, and they are willing to shell out more cash for items that are fair trade, cruelty-free, organic, and ethically sourced.
Subscription boxes are curated collections of related items that are delivered on a regular basis, usually monthly or quarterly.
According to Pipe Candy, there are nearly 7,000 subscription box service companies in the United States.
Why do Millennials love subscription boxes?
According to writer Zachery Grayson, it is a combination of convenience, variety, nostalgia, and a love of surprises.
The Sharing Economy
Millennials participate in the sharing economy more than any other generation, according to EMarketer. Uber, Airbnb, and Zip Car are all companies that are booming due to Millennials’ love of the sharing economy.
The popularity of sharing economy is likely due to a combination of the love of smartphones and the affordability inherent in the sharing economy.
The times, they are a-changing. Millennials are the product of their environment, just as every generation before them. Let’s look at societal changes that have shaped the way Millennials view the world, spend their money, and build their lives.
Here are some aspects of life in which millennials are living differently than their predecessors:
- Technology Use
Millennials have been known as ‘job-hoppers‘, with nearly half of Millennials planning to leave their jobs in the next two years.
But the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that Baby Boomers, on average, held a total of 11.9 jobs between the ages of 18 and 50, with an average of 5.5 of those jobs being held between the ages of 18 and 24.
Millennials are not job hopping at a significantly higher rate than the generations before them.
What has changed in the past 20 years is the types of benefits employers offer. Today, many companies offer wellness programs, family friendly-benefits, and career development opportunities.
Millennials may get blamed for “wanting too much,” but the truth is these benefits are commonplace, which places companies who do not offer these types of benefits at a disadvantage in the job marketplace.
In the past, companies shouldered the responsibility for their worker’s retirement plans through pension plans, which pooled all the money for retirement benefits together and invested the funds on behalf of their workers.
Once workers reach retirement, they received regular payouts from this fund.
Today, the responsibility for saving for retirement mostly falls to the workers through a self-managed 401K plan.
Many employers will match contributions up to a specific amount. For Millennials, this means they are now in charge of funding their own retirement, and some are choosing to opt out of contributing to their 401ks.
Amazon and eBay were both founded in 1995, and the way we shop has never been the same. Sales Floor outlines the differences in the way generations shop.
- Eighty-four percent of Boomers prefer to shop in store, and 67% will go to a brick and mortar store even if the item is available online.
- Generation Xers tend to be more conservative shoppers, preferring to research their options thoroughly before making a purchase. They are skeptical of marketing and want honest explanations of how products work.
- Millennials want an omnichannel experience, meaning they want to be able to move seamlessly from their mobile device to a laptop, to a brick and mortar store. For example, they might price match an electronic item online while standing in Target.
Use of Technology
It should come as no surprise that Millennials are more likely to use technology devices than previous generations. However, Boomers and Generation Xers aren’t far behind.
Pew Research reports the following statistics on technology usage.
- Smartphone ownership: 92% off Millennials, 85% of Generation Xers, and 67% of Boomers
- Tablet ownership: 64% of Millennials, 54% of Gen Xers, and 52% of Boomers
- Social media usage: 85% of Millennials, 75% of Gen Xers, and 57% of Boomers
Marketing To Millennials: What You Need To Know
We’ve discussed who Millennials are, what they like, and how societal shifts have shaped the way they shop, work, and spend money. How can you utilize this information in the way you market your business?
Here are a few things to keep in mind as you market to Millennials.
- Spending Habits
- Mistrust of Advertisements
- The Power Of Celebrity Endorsements
Their Spending Habits
Millennials have less money but are willing to spend more when it comes to things they care about. If you offer a product that is sustainable or eco-friendly, Millennials will be willing to spend more.
They Don’t Trust Ads
Sixty-nine percent of all consumers do not trust advertising, according to an Ipsos Connect report.
This number is even higher for Millennials, with a reported 84% stating they don’t trust ads.
They Do Trust Their Favorite Stars
According to a study done by Defy found that 58% of Millennials don’t mind watching video ads to support their favorite digital stars.
They Want to Know The Why
Millennials gravitate towards purpose-driven brands. They don’t just want to be sold to, they want to support a company that trying to make a difference in the world.
Consumer Technologies reported that 70% of Millennials actively consider what the brand stands for before they make a purchase.
How to Advertise to Millennials
Given the sheer size of the Millennial population, there is no one-size-fits-all method for advertising to Millennials. There are, however, a few marketing strategies that tend to work well:
- Authenticity Matters
- Be Social
- Be Transparent
Millennials are not swayed by glitzy marketing.
Forbes reported, “1% of millennials surveyed said that a compelling advertisement would make them trust a brand more.”
Brands would do well to focus on content marketing and creating connections over higher ad spend.
A reported 62% of millennials say they are more likely to become a loyal customer of brands who are willing to engage with them on social media. Organic social reach may be down, but social media is still an important place to showcase your brand.
A report from Millennial Branding found 42 % want to help brands develop products and services.
What does this mean for your business? Instead of focusing on having the perfect product before launch, invite customers to give feedback and consider implementing the changes they want.
Millennials grew up with access to a nearly infinite amount of information at their fingertips. They can and will research any claims you make about your business. They expect ads to lie to them and gravitate towards brands who are honest and straightforward.
There are a lot of misconceptions about Millennials. (For one, they aren’t in high school right now. The youngest Millennial is 21 years old as of the end of 2018.)
Globally, there are as many as 2 billion Millennials.
Outlining precisely how to market to all Millennials is simply not possible in one article or even an entire book.
Instead, we have provided you with the information you need to reflect on how Millennials perceive your business.
Are you meeting Millennials where they are (on social and mobile devices)?
Are you leading with your purpose and focusing on how you give back?
These are areas most Millennials care about, and where you should focus your marketing efforts.
Ready to start targeting millennials?
Check out these marketing ideas, which includes tactics for social media platforms most popular with millennials. And if you’re on a budget, learn more about inexpensive marketing strategies in our post.