It seems like everyone has a problem with the youth of today, but in the business world, Millennials are golden. Brands like Supreme and Express have seen meteoric rises in recent years thanks to their popularity among young people. Social media influencers - and social media platforms more broadly - have helped fashion, food, and fitness companies reach new audiences fast.
They’re the generation that every brand wants to reach - but what do Millennials actually care about, and how can you break through to them?
In this post, we’re going to look at why Millennials are so valuable to companies, then we’re going to take a close look at what makes Millennials tick - and more importantly, how you can find this information for your own business.
Who are Millennials?
Also known (sometimes) as Gen Y, the only real requirement to be a Millennial is age. There are varying interpretations, but Millennials are generally considered to be those born between 1981 and 1996. So even though you’re probably thinking of Justin Bieber or Miley Cyrus, Millennials today can be anywhere from 18-37.
But more than just an age, the term "Millennial" has become a code word for a certain type of young person.
Typical Millennial stereotypes include:
- A sense of entitlement - Especially within the workplace
- A need for approval - Even when what they’ve done isn’t particularly impressive
- A tendency to get distracted - Usually blamed on new technologies
- An obsession with “me” - Selfie culture is often brought up as a major symptom in this respect
Turn on the TV news, and you’re never far away from a particular problem or issue being blamed on this group - yet, despite all the negativity, there are plenty of people who love Millennials. In particular, advertisers and marketers know that if they can reach this generation, it’ll be great for business.
Why are Millennials so valuable to brands?
18-34 year-olds have long been considered the most coveted demographic for advertisers. They’re all of working age (unlike the younger Gen Z), less likely to have mortgages, and therefore, more likely to have disposable income.
And for social media marketers, there’s an added bonus - they’re pretty much all on social media. 92% of American Millennials own a smartphone, and 85% of them have a social media profile.
This makes social data especially interesting to marketers. If we want to know what Millennials think, social media is a great place to find out, and then to reach them with branded messaging.
And there are a few other things that make Millennials interesting to brands:
They’re now the largest working generation
According to the Pew Research Center, Millennials now make up the largest generation in the United States workforce. As of 2017, 35% of the US workforce was made up of Millennials, compared with the 33% from Gen X, and 25% who are Baby Boomers.
Of course, some of these workers have only just turned 18, so their salaries will be relatively low, and their shopping choices are largely be dictated by price. But these young people are going to be working for roughly the next 50 years. For brands, there’s the sense that if they can encourage loyalty in young buyers now, it may last for the rest of their lives.
They’ll soon be the largest living adult generation
Millennials are projected to make up the largest generation in the United States as soon as 2019. This is despite the fact that the last Millennial was born in 1996. We can’t make any new ones.
Some of this growth is thanks to immigration - more Millennials arrive in the country each year than any other group. At the same time, older citizens are dying, thinning out other generations.
Interestingly, the current largest group is actually Baby Boomers. Millennials have already overtaken Gen X (the closest generation in terms of age), and will soon close the gap with their parents and grandparents.
Naturally, brands are looking for large market segments they can appeal to, and the Millennial segment is only getting bigger.
They’re nearly the largest voting generation
It’s not only brands that need to think about appealing to Millennials - much has also been made in recent years about the lack of young people voting, and the potential impact this could have global politics.
Millennials make up 27% of the voting eligible population, versus 31% for Boomers. So when polls find that 62% of young people are “looking forward” to voting in an election - up from 46% a few years prior - this represents a huge political gain for some actors. That’s tens of millions more voters showing up.
Politicians know that there are specific values that matter more to Millennials, and thus, anyone hoping to advance one of those issues needs to find a way to coax young people into polling booths.
In the same way, any brand hoping to encourage Millennials to shop might also consider appealing to those values - which brings us to our next section.
What matters to Millennials?
If marketers want to reach Millennials, it pays to know what they’re interested in. Thankfully, social media users are constantly telling us what they want, what they buy, and what they love - and we now have the skills and technology to utilize all this information.
We asked the Linkfluence research team to find out what matters most to Millennials. They used social media analysis to delve into conversations across all the major social platforms.
The team landed upon seven key values that seem to matter most:
These won’t be a surprise to most readers. But in analyzing these conversations, the Linkfluence team was able to learn more about the nuances in opinion between social media users - because not all Millennials are the same
You even hear the word “Millennials” used as though this group is a monolith. In fact, there are important differences between young people, often depending on their background, their location, and their interests.
Here are the three most interesting takeaways.
1. Geography matters
Just as you might expect a European Baby Boomer to have different views from their African or Asian neighbors, it’s no different for Millennials. In fact, although all of the above are considered classic “Millennial values,” where people live in the world seems to have a large influence on which they care more about.
Here’s a perfect example - we probably all think of animal rights as being a central issue for Millennials. Veganism is rising, and it’s catching on fastest with people under 35 years old.
So do young people everywhere care about animal welfare to the same degree? Not even close.
Our research found that, for English-speaking late Millennials, animal rights is the top value. It’s the most talked-about issue for this subgroup. But for French and Chinese-speaking Millennials of all ages, it’s dead last.
What we in the western world may think of as a tidal wave of pro-animal voices, barely registers outside of English markets.
2. Age is important
We saw above that “Millennial” covers everyone from ages 18 to 34, and even though we often put them in the same bucket, 18 and 34 year-olds tend to have quite different views.
For early Millennials in the US, racism (and how to combat racism) is the top value of our seven.
Late Millennials instead tend to care more about animal rights, with racism only the fifth most talked about value for them.
So again, while it’s tempting to look for the perfect “all-in-one Millennial message,” marketers need to remember that this group is diverse. Instead, you need to look for key segments within the Millennial market, and build messages that suit them.
3. Some online topics are dominated by millennials (and younger)
Our researchers discovered another interesting trend - while not all Millennial segments are equal, there are some topics on social media that seem to only matter to younger people.
Over 80% of social media posts about LGBT rights, animal welfare, and inclusiveness come from Millennials.
This is not the case for all of the seven values we looked at. Sustainability and environmental protection have a roughly 50/50 split between people over 35 and those under.
So if you care about reaching Millennials on social media, the three topics above matter more to them than to any other group. Create interesting products and content around these topics - without looking exploitative - and you stand a good chance of appealing to this key market.
Where does this data come from?
The sheer amount of social media data available has made market research easier. For this study, Linkfluence researchers looked at posts on the major social platforms over a one-year period.
That’s hundreds of millions of posts.
Social listening lets us collect mentions on each platform, then analyze these to find trends. Our tools group these mentions together by theme (such as our seven values above), even when the number of mentions is enormous.
Once the mentions are grouped, it’s easy to find important demographic information such as age, location, gender, and language.
This is simple to do (thanks to technology), and works in real time. So if we want to know who’s talking about our brand today, in this location and in this language, we just have to look at a dashboard.
For brands, being able to conduct research at this scale, this easily, is too valuable to pass up.
The secrets of marketing to Millennials
As we’ve seen, Millennials are considered the single most important generation for brands to reach. But any brand that treats all Millennials the same, does so at its own risk.
Social media data proves that this powerful group needs to be segmented further, especially depending on:
- Where in the world you’re trying to appeal to Millennials
- The language you speak to them in
- Their age range
- The topics you build your messaging around
Instead of targeting all of the 18-37 age bracket as one, marketers can now identify subgroups quickly and find the subject matter that appeals most to them. This creates more tailored campaigns, and brands can then be more confident that they’re creating the right products for each specific market.