Understanding the Millennial generation – exploring its diversity

A fairly new term that’s already become bound up in cliché, the millennial generation is often misunderstood by advertisers, who fail to grasp the diversity of this wide-ranging group. In the first of a series defining millennials, The Drum delves into the results of research by Bauer Media into the different types of millennial personality.

Meet Kim, 34. She’s a prolific user of social media, tweeting and posting on Instagram continuously. She’s entrepreneurial – a modern self-made woman, and craves the respect of her peers. She’s your typical millennial.

Malala, at 17, is half Kim’s age. She’s less interested in keeping up with the newest trends, and more likely to be focused on self-progression. She’s aspirational, vocal and influential. She’s also a typical millennial.

Reality star Kardashian and Nobel peace prize-winner Malala Yousafzai, along with MP Pamela Nash, all share a generational tag, they’re in the same 16-to-34 group that advertisers target, but they couldn’t be more different. It’s this that Bauer Media wanted to examine – just who are Millennial Generation, really?

Accounting for one in four British adults today, the Millennial Generation is not as simple as the Hoxton Hipster caricature of media lore. As you’d expect from a population commonly accepted to number around 15.8 million men and women, they’re a diverse bunch, not the one homogenous group they are frequently presented.

Huge amounts of research has already been devoted to these over-sharing digital natives but it has far too often presented millennials as one all encompassing, homogenous group.

So when Bauer Media sat down over a year ago to plan one of its largest research projects to date, Bauer Knowledge: The Millennial Chapter, it knew it would have to dig far deeper to get to the heart of this incredibly diverse group.

The year-long project featured millennials joining an innovative online hub where they took part in a long term engagement with over 50 tasks generating thousands of posts. In-depth interviews and innovation workshops followed.

Five distinct segments are identified in the study – the influencers, adopters, apprentices, entertained and contented – each as different as they are alike.

The influencers are the smallest group identified by Bauer. They account for just 11 per cent of millennials (1.7 million) and are more likely to be male. With the highest media consumption of any segment, at an average 66 hours a week, they also exhibit the widest range of media behaviours.

It’s an audience online magazine The Debrief believes it captures. By talking with – rather than to – their readers, acting deputy editor Lena de Casparis says the brand is learning with its audience. Commercially it looks to partner with brands on native content, something the research suggests resonates with this audience.

Adopters are also heavy users of media and are particularly prolific on social media. Peer respect is key for these 4.5 million millennials (28 per cent); they seek knowledge that sets them apart and use appearance to stand out. All segments are hyper aware of their online presence, but the adopters in particular take great care to fine-tune their online personas. Self esteem and social media are key drivers.

Younger than the average, accounting for a higher percentage of students, apprentices are more likely to live in London. These 1.8 million (12 per cent) are focused on self-progression rather than keeping up with the trends. They use online media primarily but rue the screen fatigue and time-wasting it can bring. Theirs is an inward focus; they concentrate more on reaching their goals and less on following fads.

The five million entertaineds account for nearly a third (32 per cent) of all UK millennials. They’re older, more likely to have children and more likely to be ABC1. They lead busy lives so media needs to compete for their time. When they do consume media (an average 63 hours a week) they want to be entertained; celebrity and real-life content are prioritised over news.

The contented account for 17 per cent of the generation (2.3 million) and are happy with their lives as they are. They are at a stable place in their careers and don’t feel the need to be at the forefront of trends. Older than average, they are more likely to have children and live in a rural area. Big users of ondemand entertainment, they love to create their own TV schedules, picking and choosing from trusted favourites.They’re also the first to switch off from advertising, preferring instead to rely on independent content.

Three core truths come out of The Millennials Chapter, each with defining implications for advertisers.

Relief is demanded, so brands must entertain and inspire the millennials. FHM editor Joe Barnes says the insight and brand implications underlines his editorial “hunch” of who his audience is, and what they want from the brand.

Barnes says: “Most millennials are open to advertising – they enjoy it and engage with it.” He says commercial partnerships, such as a recent Road Trip campaign with spirit brand Jaegermeister, allow it to produce bigger, better and more immersive content. “We don’t mind [that commercial collaboration], our readers don’t mind. They know how the world works. They love a lot of brands, it reflects who they are.”

Secondly, the always-on immersion in digital has made the millennial an expert knowledge gatherer, both shallow to keep on top of the news and their friends’ lives, and deep, or niche, which adopters in particular relish harvesting.

The third core conclusion the Bauer research insight draws is that ‘experience’ is the new status symbol. Media owners and brands that recognise and act on this can empower the millennial consumers to do, feel and share. They can become an intrinsic part of that experience; an enabler in their lives.

Engaging with young people through media used to be relatively straightforward, a matter of simply selecting the media your target audience read. The complexity of the Millennial Generation means that today, a deep understanding of the often conflicting behaviours of this entire audience is crucial.

This project forms the basis of a joint collaboration between The Drum and Bauer Media, with the Bauer Knowledge – The Millennial Chapter hub. Over the next three months, the hub will delve deep into understanding this generation, building a comprehensive resource of knowledge, inspiration and insight, with analysis from agencies, brands and media companies. The results of The Millennial Chapter paint an intriguing picture; the good news for brands is that far from being ad-averse, the Millennial Generation value advertising – done well. The hub will explore how brands can most effectively engage them.

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