by Julie Smith -- January 27, 2016

Last fall, I had the pleasure of talking to the Marketing Communications Executives International (MCEI) group in Seattle about generational differences, and specifically, what is different about millennials.  As the leader of Point B’s research in this area, I thought it would be helpful to put together a series of blog posts that address this evolving generation and what they increasingly mean to retailers, consumer products companies, and brands overall. There is a lot of chatter about Millennials – some true, some rumor, some yet to be determined.  So what exactly do we know about millennials? 

This post will provide a brief overview of millennials and why they matter so much.  Future posts will take a deeper look at how they interact with brands marketing and brand identity, social connections, economic standing, charitable giving and activism, and work dynamics.

Millennials are the first generation to come of age in the new millennium.  The children of the baby boomers, these eighty million people aged 19 – 38 are just beginning to make a huge difference for brands and corporations as they exert their considerable and growing economic influence. 

Millennials are the most ethnically diverse and tolerant generation in America.  They are highly comfortable with technology, skeptical of advertising, but strong consumers.

Today, their annual spending is $1.3 trillion (with about 1/3 of that discretionary).  While they represent a large portion of economic spending, they are still feeling the effects of the great recession as it led them to enter the workforce later than planned.  They often choose price over brand in both where they shop and what they buy.  They look for opportunities to rent or share vs. buy, and their enthusiasm here has in part fueled the growth of the sharing economy.  They are delaying or deciding to forgo major purchases like houses and cars. 

Millennials are also less attached to traditional institutions than earlier generations were at their age.  They are less married and less religiously and politically affiliated, but they are social. They are heavily involved in the lives of their friends and peers, both online and off, and have contributed to the rise of peer vs. expert reviews and its impact on how consumers (of all ages) make purchase and brand decisions. 

Millennials also care deeply about the world around them.  The vast majority of them see themselves as activists.  While the causes they support may vary, this activist mindset impacts every decision – from where they work, to where they buy.

Finally, millennials are mobile.  According to the Pew Research Center, 83% of them sleep with their phones – it really is this generation’s new security blanket.  The phone is truly becoming a primary screen for this generation.

In the end, only those companies that understand this demographic and provide great products and services, engagement through sincere conversation, and an understanding their economic challenges and social dynamics will capture their hearts, minds, and wallet-share.

Interested in learning more about millennials?  Check out our insight paper "Generational Differences: Understanding and Engaging the Millennial Generation."  Or email me at jsmith@pointb.com.