It would be an understatement to say that as Millennials (those born between 1977 and 1994) come of age, the rest of population is taken aback. Who are these young people with such ambition and fresh-faced optimism?
Millennials are positive, confident, and in firm grasp of their value system—everything we wished we were at that age. There are a variety of reasons for this character. They grew up in an era of renewed faith in the family unit and have led highly scheduled, prioritized lives. Their baby-boomer parents thought they deserved the best, and in turn, Millennials picked up the sentiment: It is their due for the endless hours of homework, varsity-team tryouts, and time logged in community service.
Yet again, the marketing industry is faced with the task of uncovering the habits and trends among a very large segment of the population -roughly 76 million Millennials (about on par with boomers). Here are some hints at what lies ahead:
Personal creativity Millennials are expansive and creative people who demand far more from a career than just a job. They feel entitled to high pay and interesting work, and they seek freedom in their schedule. Who says you can’t run a surf shop, DJ, and do graphic design? Employers are finding themselves in the position of jumping through hoops to keep recruits satisfied.
Volunteerism Giving back to the community is a priority. Whether it’s driven by a desire to get into a good college or by pure altruism, Millennials volunteer. Witness the new Polo Jeans ads with comely young “real people” wearing the latest designs: “G.I.V.E. Get Involved. Volunteer. Exceed.” Alongside the images is a brief bio about each person’s big-hearted work.
Stress Even the younger Millennials suffer from a level of stress we typically attribute to adulthood; these are overscheduled, heavily monitored young people. And these kids may well be more medicated than any previous generation. What’s more, the pressure to get into a good college has made Ritalin and over-the-counter drugs such as NoDoz casually used items.
Team players Highly social, Millennials greatly value time with friends and place great emphasis on working with people they like. They also tend to be very inclusive and proud to be accepting of all ethnicities.
Authenticism Millennials hold sacred the freedom to just be who they are. While they pay close attention to fashion, they simultaneously seek to surprise and stand out. Think of the Olsen twins or Jessica Simpson or Sienna Miller: boho, supertrendy, but also a little off-color and quirky.
Technology as sustenance Technology is a way of life. How does this translate into marketing parlance? Millennials associate high-tech with cool.
IQ rules Smart is cool too. But smart must be more substantive than a fancy education. Millennials admire individuals who are street smart. Wisdom and experience are equivalent to sophistication and stylishness.
Life quality While they embrace a go-go-go lifestyle, they want quality of life and are not willing to sacrifice social time just to get ahead.
Optimism Shiny happy people! Millennials hate Gen X angst; they’re sick of hearing that the world’s gone to pot.
Conservativism Millennials are more conservative than their parents. They are stand-up people, not rebellious; they hold the moral center. While they seek adventure, they’re not reckless.
Will Millennials be able to maintain their upbeat attitude in the face of our modern trials and tribulations? It seems to be their specialty.
Cheryl Swanson is principal of Toniq (www.toniq.com), a New York-based brand strategy firm.