Generation demographic tagging has been a popular method for categorising social and consumer behaviour for some time. Traditionalists, baby boomers and generation X (which span the 1920s-1980s) all showed progressive change in social expectation and work and lifestyle attitudes. These attitudes have been typically shaped by commercial opportunity, the level of financial security and of course political status, including war and states of conflict. The rise of Generation Y otherwise popularly known as the ‘Millennials’, has shown that it is now primarily technological advancements which shape society and change the state of the market place.
While exact dates will vary from source to source, on average the Millennial demographic is typically composed of those born 1985-2000. The defining factor for the Millennial being that while childhoods may differ, all of those individuals lived in a world powered by fast access to information via the Internet and consumer affordable technology including PCs, mobile phones, laptops and later, tablet devices by the time they reached adolescence.
The generations from 1920-1960 generally represented a society which conformed on mass. They typically had a strong work ethic connected to personal improvement and an understanding of the value of hard work. This is what allowed them to attain their desired standard of living.
Generation X (which preceded the Millennials) was considered less responsible. There was a shift towards a higher standard of living as a result of borrowing rather than earning. The Millennials have been highly criticised for magnifying some of those traits. They are generally considered to be confident and empowered as a generation- characteristics fuelled by easy access to information and high technological intuition- but they have also become far more self-absorbed, overtly entrepreneurial and even narcissistic. Aided of course by the rise of social media.
While we could linger on the sociological impact of the Millennial generation and even their struggle in the work place, we’re marketers and as such, understanding the changes the Millennials brought to the industry as an evolved and increasingly empowered consumer group is where we turn our attention. More importantly, understanding the Millennials can help us prepare for the impending rise of Generation Z.
The arrival of the Millennials
The arrival of the Millennials marked a major decline in brand loyalty by favouring a more open and varied marketplace. This is not surprising given that the volume of consumer media touchpoints and the frequency of their use rocketed with the rise of affordable smartphones, widely available high-speed Internet (including mobile connectivity) and cloud technology. Modern consumers are exposed to more media and advertising than any generation before them – meaning they have more choice than ever before. In 2016, the average Millennial spent six hours per week on social media alone according to Nielsen figures, and 7.5 hours a day or 53 hours per week online (10 more hours than Generation X) according to a 2016 Ipsos poll.
Pros and Cons
The increased scale, volume and frequency of touchpoints associated with the rise and maturity of social media alongside the proliferation of video streaming services, digital TV and mobile app usage is full of pros and cons for marketers.
On one hand digital media consumption makes for highly targetable advertising opportunities. User information sharing, cookie tracking and even cross device user association gives advertisers lots of opportunities to get to know their Millennial customers and create targeted campaigns accordingly. Marketing on a budget has never been more accessible – as long as you know and understand who your audience is. It is easier than ever for small businesses to deliver cost effective marketing campaigns to only the audience who really matters to that brand.
The darker side of the coin for marketers is that naturally, when you increase the scale of media consumption to the level that the Millennials and upcoming Generation Z is now consuming, it becomes nearly impossible for any single brand to be ever present and in front of its consumers at all times.
Monopolising the market and genuinely standing out from the crowd has never been a more daunting or near impossible seeming task. Even with a relatively well conceived consumer target audience, being present on all relevant platforms and technologies with power ads and messaging across the 24-hour media consumption spectrum just isn’t a realistic goal.
Picking the right battles with precise timing and an intelligent channel approach is vital to scaling your marketing success.
Generation Z: What’s Next?
Where does Generation Z take us from here? With the Post 1995 Gen Z arriving at adulthood, do we expect to see significant changes in consumer behaviour versus that what we are accustomed to from Millennials? What actually separates Gen Z and Gen Y? While many Millennials witnessed a surge in technological advancements, internet and social media, Gen Z has been born into a world where these things are already taken for granted. As such, Gen Z is expected to be our most natively technologically advanced generation yet. All of the advances we have witnessed in the last 30-years are available at their fingertips from a young age.
In reality, what we are most likely to experience rather than another period of rapid behaviour change, is a case of a continued exaggeration of the behaviours already seen from the Millennials.
- Mobile device web browsing will continue to soar
- Social media use will continue to rise and consume even more of this generation’s time
- A continued rejection of traditional values versus personal discovery will take place online and via social media channels
- Increased sense of personal entitlement
- A constant expectation of a personalised and tailored service and experience via digital touchpoints
- Demand for convenience from both tech and services that work around increasingly busy, self-absorbed lives
As a marketer the challenge will be much as it has been. Being able to adapt and be flexible with your media, messaging and creative. Being able to deliver compelling campaigns and ad delivery to the right audience, at the right time. Ensuring that your services and digital assets are mobile device first in their approach and that where ever possible, you seek out new and innovative ways to treat customers and clients as individuals.
Look for exaggeration and continuation rather than significant shifts in behaviour as we start to witness the rise of Generation Z.