Millennials have caused quite the controversy in recent years, whether it’s because we’ve killed another industry or we spend too much money on avocado toast.
In 400 BC, Socrates described teens and young adults the same way most people talk about millennials:
The children now love luxury; they have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise.
Children are now tyrants, not the servants of the households. They no longer rise when elders enter the room.
No matter the generation, there will always be a preconceived notion that the “youngsters of today are way different than I was when I was their age.”
In reality, they’re not. The same has been said of Generation X and every generation before it.
However, millennials are a little different than earlier generations due to the fact that they grew up surrounded by technology, with unlimited information at their fingertips.
They’re also the most skeptical and least trusting of large institutions and traditional marketing than any other generation.
Because of this, they are one of the most studied yet misunderstood generations.
In order to address the many myths surrounding millennials, we must first familiarize ourselves with who millennials really are.
Millennials, also known as Generation Y, are people born between ~1980 and 1995.
While there’s no precise window, most demographers and researchers agree on 1980 and 1995, although some go all the way up to 2000.
Millennials are often the children of baby boomers, which is why they’re also sometimes referred to as “echo boomers.”
While I caution you not to put all millennials into one category and to avoid the stereotypes, there are some key characteristics shared by the majority of Generation Y according to research:
They aren’t afraid to job hop.
According to the Pew Research Center, 30% of millennials see themselves working for less than a year at their current company, compared to 21% for Gen X and 17% for baby boomers, who would prefer to stick around longer.
In other words, they aren’t attached to their current roles and are hungry for new experiences.
Based on U.S. job switching activity in 2016, millennials were 50% more likely to relocate and 16% more likely to switch industries for a new job than non-millennials.
However, take this information with a grain of salt. Most millennials are likely just starting out in their careers.
And, most have been forced to take jobs they aren’t happy with due to the next thing I’ll mention.
Most are in debt.
Millennials are the most highly-educated generation ever, but they’ve accrued massive amounts of student debt.
In fact, two-thirds of millennials have at least one source of long-term debt, while one-third have more than one source.
Additionally, millennials have benefited the least from the economic recovery following the Great Recession, as average incomes for this generation have fallen at twice the general adult population’s total drop and are likely to be on a path toward lower incomes for at least another decade. Depressing!
Writer Marc Prensky first coined the term “digital native” to describe younger millennials.
According to Prensky, younger millennials are “native speakers of the digital language of computers, video games and the internet.”
Furthermore, as of 2018 92% of millennials own a smartphone with another 85% being active on social media.
In other words, if you want to learn how to use Airdrop or scan a document, ask a millennial.
Now that you’re more familiar with millennials, it’s time to debunk some common millennial myths that marketers struggle with the most.
Myth #1 | Millennials are self-centered.
In 2013 Time Magazine published an issue with “Millennials: The Me Me Me Generation” splashed across the cover.
Though we do love selfies, millennials happen to be the most ethically- and environmentally-conscious generation ever.
Millennials care deeply about corporate social responsibility and want to buy from companies that are engaged in the betterment of society.
In fact, a majority of millennials are willing to spend more on a product if it comes from a sustainable brand.
But remember, it’s just as important to bring awareness to your CSR program as it is to implement one, so don’t be afraid to toot your own horn.
Myth #2 | Millennials aren’t loyal to brands.
Actually, millennials are one of the most loyal generations.
Even though they tend to job hop, they will remain fiercely loyal to certain brands that offer the brand experience millennials want.
And what do they want? Authenticity, transparency, and a personalized experience.
One of the best ways to encourage brand loyalty is to show customer reviews on your website.
The majority of millennials say that reading consumer reviews has a huge impact on their purchase decision, which explains the rise of peer-review sites like Yelp and Angie’s List.
In his talk at a 2016 convention, entrepreneur (and millennial) Michael Parrish DuDell said:
If you figure out how to win us over, if you figure out how to talk to us in a truly authentic way that we will listen to, this generation will stick with you.
But, he added a warning: “We know how to spot a faker. We know when you are being inauthentic. We know when you are being dishonest. And we turn off.”
Myth #3 | Millennials are hermits.
Millennials crave exceptional experiences and see value in documenting them, just like every generation prior.
According to Berkshire Hathaway Travel Protection (BHTP) president, Dean Sivley, millennials “spent $4,594 on vacations in the past 12 months,” which is an 8% increase from 2016.
Meanwhile, older generations are spending less and less on travels each year.
According to Richard Krulik, CEO of Briggs & Riley, the most important part of travel to a Millennial is the mentality of exploration.
Studies show that the majority of millennials want to explore and learn from other cultures, seeing themselves more as “experience pioneers” than as tourists.
It’s this spirit of discovery that can be harnessed by marketers to make every touch point feel like a new and exclusive experience.
Myth #4 | Millennials have become impervious to advertisements.
This is only partly true.
Millennials see an average of 2,094 banner ads per month, which is a lot.
As a result of constantly being bombarded with advertisements, millennials developed something called “banner blindness.”
Banner blindness happens in conjunction with sensory overload when there’s way too much stuff on one web page.
Millennials have developed a keen sense of what’s an advertisement and what isn’t — and they ignore whatever looks like an ad.
So although Millennials have grown pretty resilient to online advertisements, they aren’t immune to ads altogether.
In fact, television continues to be the channel that has the most influence over millennials.
Television has 70% more influence than other advertising channels, but social media comes to a close second, influencing over 60% of millennials.
Furthermore, 32% of that 60% say that social advertising is more credible when influencing their decisions.
In other words, if your company or brand doesn’t have a social media account, you are missing out on engaging with millennials.
Myth #5 | Millennials only use Facebook and Twitter.
Even though these sites are the most popular, there are a lot of other social media sites out there that millennials are using. To name a few:
- Google Plus
Companies need to branch out when it comes to social media — but only when it makes sense.
For example, it doesn’t make sense for an insurance company to have an Instagram account because insurance doesn’t make for compelling imagery.
But, for a clothing store, an Instagram and Tumblr are a must.
If your company has lots of visual aspects, don’t just rely on Facebook and Twitter.
You need to spread your reach far and wide if you want to get noticed, especially by millennials.
And if your company or brand doesn’t have a social media account at all, you’re missing out on engaging with millennials altogether.
Myth #6 | Forget about desktop when you’re trying to reach millennials — it’s all mobile now.
While it’s true that desktop usage has declined considerably over the past decade, the majority of millennials still use desktop along with mobile and tablet.
Your website and content should be optimized for all three user interfaces.
The fact that millennials are mobile-first does not mean they are mobile-exclusive. Studies show that most millennials use a desktop to browse the web during the daytime and switch over to their phones at night.
Although mobile use is rising, there will always be people on desktop and tablets who shouldn’t have to look at a messed-up website.
While we’re on this topic, consider optimizing your website content for accelerated mobile pages (AMP) using Google Search Console.
Studies show people browsing search results are more likely to click on a story with an AMP icon.
Myth #7 | Companies should create memes to reach millennials. Millennials love memes!
Ugh. While yes, most of us do love memes, this is something that can too easily go wrong.
See exhibits A, B, and C below.Awful, right?
Admittedly, there have been a few successful meme-marketing campaigns, but it’s best to make a cool campaign and just hope it gets meme-ified later.
The last thing you want is to go viral for the wrong reasons and end up being the laughing stock of the internet.
If you’re someone who doesn’t want to adapt and change according to your customers’ interests and behavior, you won’t succeed with this generation.
But, if you find yourself trying new things and embracing change, you can’t lose.