For years Millennials were all the rage in marketing circles as businesses rushed to understand this demographic, both as customers and as employees. When, in 2019, Millennials overtook Baby Boomers as the largest generation group, people’s interest in this generational segment peaked. Millennials’ stay at the top was short-lived, however, as Generation Z has already overtaken them as the largest generation and the buzz has shifted to this new group. However, as the older Millennials are now reaching their 40’s and even the youngest Millennials are approaching their 30’s, the buying power of this cohort is coming to fruition. That means it’s the perfect time to start paying greater attention to this group. Taking a look at Millennials now, what can we learn?
Trendiness is a Youth Thing
Millennials were the social media pioneers. They were on MySpace and Facebook from a relatively early age and pushed those platforms into the mainstream. Millennials were on the cutting edge of the latest social media trends. They were always upgrading to the latest high-tech gadgets as the explosion of smart phones swept across the country. Would this early exposure to social media and technology result in Millennials remaining as early adopters of the latest trends indefinitely? Not really.
Among Millennials, Facebook is still the most popular social media platform, as it has been for the last 15 years. For Generation Z, Facebook has slipped to 5th on their list. As this younger Gen Z cohort flocks to the latest platforms (first SnapChat and then TikTok, and so on), Millennials stay put with what they are comfortable with from their previous youth experiences. This should be no surprise, as the trends have been similar in other categories throughout many generations. Who hasn’t noticed the tendency for people, regardless of age, to stick to the music they listened to in their youth while decrying the latest songs as mere noise?
This means some of the things we tend to attribute to a certain generation actually have more to do with their current age, rather than something that could be seen as a permanent marker.
As savvy marketers, it is important we stay up-to-date on how generational cohorts mature, rather than taking a snapshot of them at a young age and continuing to apply those stereotypes indefinitely.
Another example of a fading Millennial trend is the previous finding that they were not interested in owning homes and cars. This was true for a significant percent of Millennials when they were in their 20’s, but not so much when they reached their 30’s. For years this was highlighted as an emerging trend that was going to shake up the marketplace for good. While ride sharing is still a growing business opportunity, it didn’t hit the peak with Millennials that many were projecting. Instead, it turned out Millennials delayed adopting the car and home ownership goals of earlier generations, but did not abandon those goals for good (https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/student-debt-delaying-millennial-homeownership-by-7-years-300521133.html).
From a marketing perspective, the lesson is to remain flexible in your views and to continually research the latest data. The things that differentiate a youthful generation from others may not hold up once that generation matures.
Please see our next two blog posts for information on two more current Millennial insights.