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25 February 2016

Millennials - are they worth all the chat?

Written by: Mia O'Brien, Edelman Apprentice 2015 at Edelman

Consumer Trends & Insight, Financial, Technology

Recently the Financial Times released a double page spread on millenials’ consumer habits and their lack of financial planning when it comes to pensions and property. The article paints a picture of “digital natives” who are said to be splashing low income on a footloose lifestyle (saving no further ahead than their next Airbnb).

The question for the Communications industry is how do brands squeeze into these short-term priorities? Is it simply a case of staying up to speed on Snapchat, sprucing up hashtags and adjusting the character count of their tweets? Recent research suggests a broader shift in messaging is necessary, especially if brands are to hold their attention for more than a Tinder swipe.

So why does this matter? It matters because millennials are the bedrock of tomorrow’s economy. They make up the generation of those aged between 18 – 35, also known as Generation Y, mostly those who endured the woes of S Club’s demise and later finished University following the global financial crisis. According to Pew Research Centre, this demographic makes up the largest segment of the US workforce, after surpassing the baby boomers last year with over 53.5 millennial workers.

If they are so frivolous then where is their income going? Since the early 2000s, a soaring number of millennials have chosen to stay at home rather than buy into the housing market. This in turn, has freed up more money for quick gains such as travel and retail. On top of being snug in the nest, millennials are less likely to own items such as cars, music and luxury goods. Instead, their affinity for technology has given them access to new services where they too can participate as budding entrepreneurs in the so-called “sharing economy”.

While some may say the millennial is “ripping up the financial rule book”, one cannot deny that they are doing it in a savvy way. Thanks to instant product information, reviews and price comparisons, these buyers will settle for nothing less than maximum convenience at its lowest cost. More and more millennials are clicking to buy; turning to online networks to make their decisions; all the while searching for top value.

More than any preceding generation, brands need to win the love of the millennial. Not only does this mean staying up to speed with online habits, it also means quenching their thirst for something different and something with purpose. At the crux of this challenge is harnessing the millenials’ lofty expectations. Unlike prior brands that could focus on current consumer need, brands must now target consumer ambition.

The Communications industry has a key role to play in understanding these millennial goals, as wild and bold as they may be. Most importantly, it is our industry that must provide compelling stories on how these goals can be chased, seized and ‘Liked’ online.

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