Millennial behavior influences older generations, according to study

Millennials have become a key demographic for marketers who are looking to reach a younger and more digital-savvy audience, but new research has found that millennial spending behavior has the power to influence that of baby boomers and Generation X as well.

According to a study from FutureCast, a marketing consultancy within Kansas City-based independent agency Barkley, the six pillars that are most important to millennials when evaluating a brand include: social circle (friends and acquaintances advocate for a brand), self (brand’s purpose aligns with personal beliefs and sense of self), innovation (brand constantly improves and reinvents) trust (brand puts consumers first), purpose (brand adds good to self, society or planet) and accessibility (brand is useful and convenient).

But the study, which interviewed more than 2,500 people, found that Generation X (those born between the early 1960s and mid 1970s) places nearly equal value on those same pillars, leading FutureCast to believe that millennials are the first generation to “influence up.”

“The myth is that millennials are broke and living in their parents’ basements,” said Jeff Fromm, president of Futurecast, “and that myth fails to understand millennial’s purchasing power and influence on consumption across generations.”

The research also found that what a respondent says about what influences their purchasing power doesn't always line up with their real-life purchases.

For example, when asked to state personal importance for each pillar, respondents said that “accessibility” and “trust” mattered most when it comes to deciding on a purchase.

Yet when mapped against actual spending data, the study found that “social circle” – the lowest-rated pillar on the personal importance scale – actually has the most swaying power when it comes to spending behavior.

According to the research, which was conducted in partnership with The Cambridge Group, 42 per cent of respondents said that Amazon closely matches millennial preferences, while 37 per cent said the same for Apple and 31 per cent for Netflix.

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Minda Smiley

Minda Smiley is a reporter at The Drum covering creativity and advertising. Based in Philadelphia, she primarily covers independent agencies and B2B marketing. She also oversees The Drum’s “Independent Influence,” a weekly series that spotlights the work, perspectives and inspirations behind independent agencies. During her time at The Drum, she has covered industry events including SXSW, ANA Masters of Marketing, 4A’s Transformation and C2 Montréal. She is a graduate of the City University of New York’s Graduate School of Journalism.

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