“Millennials.” You’ve heard the term thrown around for years, but who are they really? And why should we care about them?
Making up one third of the global population, millennials are the future of your customer base. They like to spend money, and predictions place their expenditure surpassing Baby Boomers by 2018!
In our latest Jack POV, Leading the Millennial Generation, we uncover who millennials are, what’s important to them, and why they matter to your business. Learn the 5 principles you need to engage this influential and growing generation.
Leading the Millennial Generation 1
Leading the Millennial Generation 2
Millennials. The generation that doesn’t know life before mobile
phones, broadband and CDs. The generation that has grown
up on social media and think the word “Google” has always
been in the dictionary. The generation used to easy access, fast
replies, and YouTube celebrities.
The term “millennial” has been thrown around for years (in
addition to “Generation Y” “Generation Next” “Gen Now”
even “Screenagers”—Ugh!), but who are they really? And, as
marketers, why should we care about them?
This POV will answer some of the questions you have about this
fascinating generation. We’ll give you a basic overview of who
they are, help explain some of the elements that make them
very different to previous generations, and talk around some
engagement rules, sharing key learnings that we’ve picked up
over the past few years, to help maximize your interactions with
the “millennial generation.”
Senior Creative Strategist
around for years
(in addition to
“Gen Now” even
Ugh!), but who are
they really? And,
as marketers, why
should we care
Leading the Millennial Generation 3
Officially, the term “millennials” was coined in
1987 by sociologists, Neil Howe and William
Strauss, designed to refer to anyone born
between 1982 and the turn of the millennium.
Generation Y may be a term that you’re used to
hearing—quite simply designed to emphasize a
notable difference in mentality and action from
the generation prior.
These kids (and they are kids) are in their
formative years. They’re currently forging who
they are and what they stand for—as we try
and ‘label’ them.
2012 – ???
1995 – 2012
1980s – 2000
1960s – 1980s
Leading the Millennial Generation 4
Because of the confusion between various
terms, and because even the term “millennials”
is still vague, we’ll focus on the term “Next
Generation Youth” or NGY—a consolidation of
all of the key learnings/traits that we’re seeing
in the younger age groups. This age group
is more demanding, cynical, and savvy of
marketing/advertising than any before.
+ Gen Z
(Next Generation Youth)
Leading the Millennial Generation 5
13 million in the UK
80 million in the US
200 million in Africa
400 million in China
Quite simply, they’re the
future of your customer
base. And they show some
interesting traits that are vastly
different to the generations
before them. These traits
affect the way that they think,
interact, behave, and spend.
As a general overview,
they like to spend money,
and predictions place their
expenditure surpassing Baby
Boomers by 2018 (that’s less
than three years away!).
And they’re all far more
globally connected than any
other generation before.1
Leading the Millennial Generation 6
As we mentioned before,
these teens are in their
formative years. And
realizing the ramifications
of this has been one of the
hardest lessons that we’ve had
to learn over the past years.
As NGY embrace, adapt,
and move with technologies
and platforms, we too have
to readdress how we interact
and help them participate.
Campaigns need to have a
considerably smaller learning
loop. No longer can we
wait until the very end of a
campaign to collect learnings.
Instead we need to listen,
watch, connect, and crucially
react in timeframes nearer to
how they would.
NGY are constantly growing,
changing, exploring, and
trying to define themselves as
individuals. As a consequence,
communications need to
be assessed on a channel
by channel basis regularly.
For example, television
commercials tend to become
white noise in comparison with
more interactive experiences on
Leading the Millennial Generation 7
It’s sad but true that the backdrop for NGY
could be described as a little more bleak
than prior generations, with global warming,
terrorism, and rippling economic issues being a
part of their everyday lives.
Even away from these global issues, there are
other issues that affect them: a social life that
is increasingly stitched into the fabric of the
internet, allowing peers to see deeper into
their personal lives. And, they’re increasingly
exposed to the realities of the world at a young
age, despite their development. This is what
they know and what has/is/will form them as a
2015 university graduates
in China—all time high.
27% in Beijing and 30% in
Shanghai have jobs lined
up—all time low.2
Leading the Millennial Generation 8
Remember the sound of a modem connecting?
This noise will mean nothing to NGY. The
internet has revolutionized so much in our
lifetimes, but in theirs, it’s an expected
They’ve been able to video chat and swap
pictures in an instant as long as they can
remember. Social Media is a daily part of their
lives, and they enjoy being able to get a large
amount of their entertainment on their own
time, and on the devices they want. When this
doesn't happen, or when a service creates too
much friction for their interaction, they’re not
Many people often mistake this behavior for a
sense of entitlement, but it’s simply the result of
growing up in a world that offers more choices
and possibilities than ever before at the swipe
of a finger.
Personalization and customization are expected
in all products and services, to allow NGY to
interact as their needs, interests, and tastes
change. And innovation isn’t something they
celebrate – it’s something they expect.
billion* How much
online retail giant,
made in one
day during their
latest Singles' Day
on a mobile
Leading the Millennial Generation 9
So, now that we know who they are
and of their importance, how should
marketers approach millennials and
turn them into our customers and
biggest brand advocates?
There are five things to remember...
or don't bother.
Leading the Millennial Generation 10
1As Digital Natives, NGY are used to the
disposability of advertising. Even their own lives
are shared in disposable formats. From Twitter
and Weibo updates that become immediately
lost in an infinite timeline, to the self-destructing
media of Snapchat, Wickr, and FeiFei.
Innovation is expected and NGY respond to
brands that are willing to try new things, play
with technologies, and challenge the expected.
They have also grown with these technologies, and
have had to leap in and understand the rules of the
game as they go. They seek mentors and create/
learn the specific social politics at each level later.
Companies and brands that replicate these traits are
the ones that millennials will feel a connection to.
You won’t get it “right” every time, but the
important thing is that you’ll be seen as
trying. However, this doesn’t give you carte blanche
to do stupid things! There’s one thing to experiment and
innovate, quite another to be stupid, lazy, or sloppy.
Getting it wrong for these reasons will be damaging—
especially at the speed of Social Media. So be
intrepid, and be prepared to fail. When you do, pick
yourself up and go again—it’s the NGY way.
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2Google, Baidu, Duck Duck Goose—
depending on where you are (and
whatever your preference), getting
answers to questions is a fairly easy
process (albeit not always correct!)
within just a few clicks.
But with search engines, online
forums, more interactive websites with
deep databases, and faster, easier
interfaces, any answer to pretty much
any question can be found.
And it works both ways.
Demographics on this target
are easier to obtain now
than ever before thanks to
the incredible amount of
information shared on social
Leading the Millennial Generation 12
or don't bother.
3NGY are considerably more in tune
with modern advertising efforts. As a
consequence, they are considerably
harder to surprise and engage. They
will immediately sense insincerity and
discrepancies in campaigns and across
When launching a campaign, take a
broader view on the mix of marketing
communications you’re planning.
Make sure that you’re speaking
in one voice—the brand voice—
and maintaining genuineness
and authenticity. NGY see
the brands that they align with as
extensions of themselves, and they are
particular about which brands they
allow into their lives.
Leading the Millennial Generation 13
4Philanthropy is an area that indexes
highly with NGY. And more so the
younger generations of NGY (think Gen
Z) than the older (80’s born, Gen Y).
The credit crunch and the following
fallout arrived almost on point with NGY
hitting the workplace. Having seen the
effect of these, it’s no wonder that they
feel that they can do better to make
a difference in the world that they’re
growing up in.
Success stories can be seen in
companies such as TOMS and its
“One for One” giving model, tying
an easily identified benefit to a
purchase; something that the company
has successfully expanded from
footwear, to eyewear, to coffee.
85% of millennials correlate
their purchasing decisions and
their willingness to recommend
a brand to the social good
efforts a company is making.4
Leading the Millennial Generation 14
5Five minutes of fame is of no concern for
NGY. Instead, they see their presence online
as a brand in itself that needs to be managed
closely. In their eyes they are content
creators and are to be heard continuously
However, with such a high amount of
communications (all demanding their attention),
NGY are remarkably adept at filtering the
white noise of advertising out from their
So, driving their engagement effectively isn’t done best
in the current tried and tested methods.
Television commercials (unless big-budget) and email
shots don’t have a notable effect on NGY. Instead, their
attention is focused online, where levels of interaction
are considerably higher, and again—on their terms—
available to access when they wish, on multiple
You need to create something that encourages NGY to
get involved, and actually gives them power to affect
something, for them to become emotionally connected.
Cultivate higher response rates by creating experiences
that stitch both online and offline together, making
something that NGY will care about: experiences that
capture their imagination and that they can explore and
share, on their terms, with their friends.