The Millennial: A mindset, not an age

By Ana Andjelic

All interesting conversations start on Twitter. A few days ago, Edward Boches noted that his elderly mom was on Facebook. My response was “we are all Millennials today.” By it, I meant that being a Millennial has become a set of habits, not an age.

What was once considered a behavior typical for a specific demographic group has largely spread through the rest of society. It impacts how other generational demographics are consuming media, shopping, reading news, communicating, and interacting with brands. The underlying dynamics of this change are the very properties of digital technology  (interactivity, connectivity, visibility, engagement) that dramatically narrow the gap between early adopters and the mainstream.

But there is also something else. Now, maybe more than ever before, the coming generations of super-consumers have a potential to imprint their media habits to the rest of the population. Whoever is in touch with this generation changes their media behavior, too. Parents (and grandparents) are now on Facebook to keep tabs on their kids (or, maybe just to connect with their long-lost high-school friends, or play Farmville); they watch YouTube; they go on Twitter (can’t beat all those coupon deals); and maybe even occasionally take a peek at Foursquare. Typical parents are typical anymore. All bets are off.

And then, there is this: The “Millennial” is really not that young anymore. We are way past college, with a completely new set of needs, and as a consequence, demands for products, services, and brands that can respond to them. The thing that we are not, or will ever not be past, is their media habits and behaviors. We won’t crucially change the way we use the web and behave online just because we grew up: we will just expand it further according to our new set of interests.

The expectations from media and brands that we have formed earlier are going to stay. Don’t expect that someone who watched TV shows online will suddenly sign up for Time Warner; it is more likely that we will just hook up our computer to a flat-screen that we can now afford. Someone who shopped on Etsy may upgrade to Net-a-Porter, but the deal is the same. A person who used Twitter just to play around with friends, may now expect customer service from their brands there. A person who texted 1,000 messages a day is going expect, for example, “pay bill” alerts from their banks, nudges about their upcoming meetings, and trip reminders. And so on.

The bottom line is, through interactivity, or just through plain aging, the Millennial behavior spreads. Today, it’s almost a norm. Tomorrow, it will definitely be such. At the same time, advertising agencies seem to have an uneasy relationship with Millennial behavior, to say the least. This is, to a great extent, still a brand-dominated world. The campaigns are approached from the brand’s point of view, and retrofitted to appeal to consumers.

True, every client presentation today is adorned with stats on Millennials’ media use, slides on behavior trends, and audience insights and landscape overviews. But there remains the question whether the ad world really, truly understands how today’s digital-savvy consumers behave online, why and how they use the web, and – most importantly – how to build digital campaigns that resonate with the new behaviors.

Because soon, it’s all going to be the same media habits, brand expectations, and consumption patterns with everyone. It’s time to stop talking about the Millennials, and start thinking about the influence of Millennial behavior.

Next Great Posts labeled as Next Great are generally submissions by various contributors, whose information can be found within the text of the article. Next Great posts without author information are the collective effort of the editorial staff: Christine Peterson, Alex Pearlman and Edward Boches.

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5 Responses to “The Millennial: A mindset, not an age”

  1. Tom Miesen

    I definitely agree with this. Our consumption behaviors are becoming mainstream because we grew up in the digital revolution and came of age in the social networking revolution. They either have to get on the bus or they’ll be left in the dust.

    One difference between generations that I’m interested in is the idea of “instant.” We expect, desire, and need instant feedback, instant customer service, instant answers. We expect that we’ll instantly be able to consume any media we want. They’re used to and comfortable with waiting, and we aren’t.

    Getting brands to adapt to this is no easy task. Some are better than others at providing instant customer feedback, like Comcast or the Best Buy Twelpforce, but many aren’t. So many institutions, however, have to wade through red tape and rigid hierarchies, which prevent providing instant communication to customers. I think this is going to have to change to cater to our desires.

  2. Kim Bruning

    Isn’t it more accurate to characterize millenials as “prosumers” (producer-consumers) rather than merely super-consumers? Or am I mixing up my generations?

  3. Christoph

    The Generations, Ultra Condensed Version

    Greatest – Won war, saved America and capitalism, horrible parents.

    Boomers – Brats on Drugs. Peace, Love, Understanding, and oh yeah, 2 Beamers and a 950K house. Yuppie Scum, on $5 cups of coffeee. Raised Alex P. Keatons, the GenX rebellion.

    GenX – Eisenhower era values, Reagan Revolution, but produced dot.conners, and shortcut kids. American Dream ahoy even so. Establishment, and we want it now. Culture, art and music explosion alive.

    Millennials Y/Z (Shampoo Planets) – The ‘un’ Generation, not even an ‘anti’. Everything before yet nothing themselves, mass culture are us. Eternally Mopey, just in some hazy vague way about it. Keyboard before pacifier, IM and interactivity, always in a state of half-there multitasking.

  4. Clutter | Jacapps

    [...] now, I think it’s pretty clear to most of us in media that if you want to know what adults will be doing and thinking in a couple of years, follow a high school or college student [...]


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