As the youngest of the Millennial Generation come of age, it is clear what a powerful and important population this is for advertisers.
It is the first true digital generation, one that by 2019 will number 17 million people in the UK.
But how much do we really know about them, and how can brands better seek to engage the one-in-four UK adults who form the Millennial Generation?
Millennials have come close to being one of the most studied generations ever, with brands desperate to understand lives shaped by the internet and to determine the role they can play within them.
Huge amounts of research has already been devoted to this over-sharing internet generation but it has far too often presented Millennials as one all-encompassing, homogenous group.
So when Bauer Media sat down more than a year ago to plan one of its largest research projects to date, Bauer Knowledge: The Millennials Chapter, it knew it would have to dig far deeper to get to the heart of this incredibly diverse group.
The goal was to provide an unparalleled, in-depth analysis of Millennial behaviours and the implications for the brands that wanted to engage them.
For Bauer Media, whose brands include Heat, KISS, Grazia, Kerrang! and 4Music (a 50-50 venture with Channel 4), across print, online, radio and music TV, these 16-to- 34-year-old Millennials form its core audience.
The year-long project kicked off with a workshop with around 40 of Bauer’s own Millennials to define what’s important to them, such as entertainment, information, trends and brands. Using TGI Clickstream it then segmented the 16-to 34-year-old audience attitudinally and found five very distinct segments (see box-out below). From there, more Millennials were invited to join an innovative online hub where they took part in over 50 tasks generating thousands of posts. In-depth interviews and innovation workshops followed.
The results paint an intriguing picture with implications for agencies, advertisers and Bauer itself. The project forms the basis of a joint collaboration with The Drum, the Bauer Knowledge – The Millennial Chapter hub on thedrum.com. Over the next three months, the hub will delve deep into understanding this generation, building a comprehensive resource of knowledge, inspiration and insight.
On a macro level the research found two core pressures impacting today’s 16-to-34-year-olds: the post-recession economy and the digital world.
In a post-recession economy money is tight and good jobs hard to find, so Millennials need to think differently to get on. Two-thirds (67%) agree that it is ‘harder than ever to find a desirable job’ and 42% ‘struggle with their finances’.
The digital world brings with it an ‘always on’ culture and fear of missing out (FOMO). Bauer insight and research director Martin Diamond suggests that FOMO has always been a key driver for this youthful demographic, however the digital world – with factors such as the recent proliferation of smartphone ownership - exacerbates it further.
Living their lives online means that for this audience self-esteem is both pressurised and exposed. More than half (56%) constantly check their social media to make sure they’re up-to-date, yet 42% also feel that they are constantly bombarded by updates from friends or news sources.
It’s something that Jessica Vince, Grazia digital editor, recognises. She says: “We want to be everything today: successful in our careers, have a really good network of friends who we can support and help, and be brilliantly active in social media. As well as being physically fit, looking the right way and being healthy.
“There are so many pressures from all different angles today that weren’t necessarily there 10 or even five years ago.”
Heat’s editor-in-chief Lucie Cave agrees: “There’s too much going on in their world – they’re bombarded."
A similar attitude is shown to media brands. While Millennials love media brands and rely on them throughout the day, they hate the sense of compulsion that can creep in. Advertisers must be aware that in this hyper-connected, pressure-packed world relief is demanded: they should constantly look to entertain and inspire.
Dear MailOnline, I hate you so much. I hate your right wing views - I hate your constant woman bashing and your shaming of almost anyone who sticks their head above the parapet. But most of all - most of all - I hate you because I can’t stop visiting you. Exactly like picking a scab. Female, 24, Grazia, Influencer
From the Love Letters to Your Favourite Brands task
Their immersion in digital media has led to two distinct types of knowledge becoming their new social currency: shallow or general, and deep or niche. Shallow knowledge helps them keep up or fit in; for instance, event TV such as Britain’s Got Talent or The Voice, while listicles or tweets can give readers fast-facts to impress their friends with. Deep and niche knowledge helps today’s Millennials progress, whether by standing out from the crowd or bonding with kindred spirits.
Crucially, experience, the research project uncovers, is the new status symbol, with 71% of the audience agreeing “I’d rather tell people about something I’ve done than something I’ve got”.
For Diamond this has important ramifications for brands. “People are less likely now to shout about their new MacBook. Experience is increasingly valued and potentially this can be more important than ownership," he says.
So to play a role in their lives, brands must help empower this audience, allowing them to do, feel and share, if they are to remain a relevant, appreciated part of Millennials’ lives.
The other major initial take-out of the research for Diamond is that this generation is operating in a new era of pragmatism. “My generation went to university, had a great time and hopefully got a 2.1 degree. Then it was onto a job and the first 5 years were about socialising and enjoying yourself. I look at young people within my own team and they’re much more conscious about health, exercise and career development," he says.
Resilience, flexibility and resourcefulness among Millennials is on the rise as they adapt to the pressures they are under with a sensible, functional approach to life. They want to innovate and look to work for companies that reflect this in their culture, while entrepreneurship is on the rise – adopting a ‘hacker’ mindset to find unexpected routes to success.
Brands marketing to Millennials, or those seeking to employ them, must both be aware of this need for experience and appeal to their pragmatic, resourceful nature. “It is key for Millennials to know the ethos of the brand, for it to have a clear purpose,” Diamond adds.
Understanding this fascinating, complex generation isn’t easy but the rewards for those brands that take time to invest in doing so will be strong relationships with those that are building the future of our entire society.
Meet the Millennials:
Five very distinct tribes, or segments, were identified.
The Influencers, 1.7m (11%), have high media usage and are more likely to be male. They have a unique voice and like it to be heard – especially online.
The Adopters, 4.5m (28%), have high media usage and are more likely to be ABC1. Peer respect is key; they use knowledge and appearance to stand out.
The Apprentices, 1.8m (12%), are younger and more likely to live in London. They are focused on self-progression rather than keeping up with trends.
The Entertained, 5.0m (32%), are older, more likely to have children, and more likely to be ABC1. Personal relationships are key, they look to media brands primarily to entertain.
The Contented, 2.7m (17%), are older, more likely to have children, and are more rural living. They are satisfied with life and don’t chase the latest trends.
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