Millennials Buck Expectations by Doing What’s Expected


Pretend it’s 1980 and get out your pads and pencils for a pop-quiz. Can you guess the generation? 80% of them plan to buy a house or apartment one day. They are parents to 80% of the four million children born in the U.S.A. annually. Almost two-thirds of them plan to start their own businesses.

This is no data snapshot of a mullet-rocking Baby Boomer in a Members Only jacket. It’s not even the grunge-loving Generation Xer at the top of his or her flannel-covered game. It turns out, Millennials: They’re Just Like Us!

Millennials, or people born from 1981 to 1997, are by and large hoping to settle down and run the world as quickly as possible, making them virtually indistinguishable from their predecessors. Consumer Affairs reports on a recent study by the Federal Reserve, concluding that Millennials “are pretty much like every other generation. They might not engage in as much spending, but it’s not because they don’t have the desire. They just don’t have the money.”

Still, despite what the Federal Reserve might say, Millennials do want their authentic travels, delicious dinners, and music festivals, along with the traditional trappings of “adulting.” Yet another study shows that close to 80% (what is it about the number 80 and Millennials?) would rather have a memorable experience than buy something they really want.

The lesson for marketers? Millennials want huge, memory-making experiences. They care more about the environment, fair trade, and reducing waste than previous generations, all while facing daunting costs and smaller salaries than their parents. They lived through the Great Recession as impressionable children who felt the bottomed-out reality of unchecked capitalism, so it’s no wonder their values aspire to a better world.

Companies would be better served to acknowledge the true realities of an aging Millennial population—that they want more control over their lives with home ownership, parenthood, and business opportunities.

Millennials place a tremendous value on living in the moment. There’s a duality in living a life driven by social media and the simultaneous desire for authentic lived experiences. So much of the Millennial daily life exists inside a smart phone, planting a deep craving for moments where one feels truly alive. Thus, the power of experiential marketing to Millennials.

At the same time, as any harried Gen X parent or Baby Boomer living on a budget will tell you, there is nothing like a mortgage or marriage to make everything suddenly as real as a hot flash on the surface of the sun. There’s no reason why the impulse for experience and the impulse for stability must contradict each other. Rather, we think they are as complimentary as a moonlight stroll along the Nile—which a Millennial will be the first in line to experience.

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