Two core pressures impact millennials today – the post recession economy and the digital world, leading to a rise of resilience and flexibility in their behaviour – two attributes brands themselves must mimic in order to stay relevant, according to industry experts.
The finding is the second key insight from Bauer Knowledge: The Millennials Chapter, a landmark piece of research from Bauer Media. The Drum has been discussing the resulting insight with agencies to understand how it relates to them and the brands they represent.
Lise Pinnell, AnalogFolk London head of planning, says: “Millennials have grown up in a world of juxtapositions. Crisis on the one hand – Iraq, global warming, 9/11, the recession – and opportunity on the other – there’s a bigger global economy to be a part of and a ubiquity of technology.”
Such new world order has led millennials to have very different value expectations, suggests Daria Taylor, co-founder of youth insights agency Talented Heads.
“Creativity, innovation, forward thinking and flexibility are very important to them," she says. “It’s just as important for brands to realise this internally as they hire the next generation of young managers as it is for their external communications.”
In other words, perhaps, companies should practice what they preach from the inside out because for this post-recession generation, the ability to adapt is second nature.
Jen Smith, head of planning at Maxus London, says brands must embrace this flexibility at their core. “Often companies and brands make things and expect them to be used in a certain way, but we know that’s increasingly not the case.”
She points to the adoption of text messaging and later Blackberry Messenger as communications tools as early examples of this growing hack trend, and says brands still have much to learn from these digital “test dummy” millennials.
Smith says there is a push-pull nature to today’s millennial lives: on the one hand young people have the right and opportunity to express themselves as never before, yet equally there is a need for validation and “seeking likes”.
MediaCom’s director of real world research Pauline Robson concurs. “Our own research with this audience corroborates Bauer’s findings,” she says. The proliferation of content and social media updates they are exposed to and feel the need to respond to on a daily basis is huge.”
Robson says this is leading to a huge amount of distraction with nearly half agreeing that technology is a major source of distraction in their lives, adding: “And millennials are actually more likely than the baby boomer generation to agree that they feel overwhelmed by technology.”
For Matt Boffey, founder of strategy and innovation agency London Strategy Unit this generational angst goes beyond the technology itself to the effect it has on their psyches.
“In social media, many millennials are creating an idealized version of themselves,” he says. “But the reality is very different: many are unsure of their place in the world and their internal lives aren’t always reflected in the content they create."
“Commentators used to complain about how advertising promoted feelings of low self esteem - the imagery was unrealistic and the lifestyles impossible to obtain - but, at the same time, everyone knew it was a fantasy created and paid for by some brand. Now social media gives rise to similar uneasy feelings - but they’re not as easy to dismiss."
Bauer Knowledge: The Millennial Chapter is funded by Bauer Media but all content is editorially independent, except pieces labelled "brought to you by". Find out more here