Non toxic youth

October 19, 2013

Steve's experience of researching Millennials was used as the basis for the first top 10 tips about marketing to Millennials in 2009, which received a 95% recommendation rating on You Talk Marketing.


This year I’ve had tons of conversations both online and offline with the Millennial target across a range of different categories and markets. The following top 10 is a refreshed summary of the emerging characteristics of this generation.


1, They are non-toxic. In the UK this generation take less drugs, drink less alcohol, commit less crime and smoke less than preceding generations. Healthiness is now a social currency, fashion is smart and safe (versus edgy Gen X Modern Romantic or Punk scenes), and attitudes tend to be conservative.


2, They are positive. Cynical is a word that has never been used to describe Millennials – in contrast, Generation X is known for this trait. On the whole, the millennial generation are emerging as a good natured and friendly bunch. This has spilled over from a passive characteristic into actual behaviour - for example, random acts of kindness that have permeated Facebook. This really epitomises the difference between Millennials and Gen X.


3, Difficult to impress with technology. When compared to older age groups who are more impressed by novel new technology approaches, Millennials tend to be rather difficult to impress. They can come across as non-committal to brands or be incredibly demanding of new products. Additionally, they will absorb messages very quickly and sometimes fail to show that they have been moved by the experience. Products that fail to quickly connect with them with relevant messages can be ignored.


4, Millennials are impatient. Admittedly this is bit of a sweeping statement (and can be a character trait!), but I find that when young people come into contact with brands, especially online, they are less prepared to give that brand the time that Gen X or Boomers will. Keep in mind that young people have on demand lives, with content, friends and services all just one phone tap away. They love messages that are quickly and visually communicated.


5, They click quickly. Millennials tend to click around websites and scan information more speedily than older generations. This stems from being accustomed to websites architecture and a natural tendency to be interested in how technology works. They don’t spend as much time on websites (other than Facebook) and can miss content that older generations will pay facetime to.


6, Twitter is perfect for 4 and 5. We all know that Mum is on Facebook, so Millennials have moved to Twitter to avoid her. Twitter is perfect for immediacy and sharing amongst Millennials. It also has a code of hash tags, shares and re-tweets that alienates older generations. Brands that use it wisely (like @ASOS and @MTVUK) will have a closer on demand connection.


7, Millennials are brand consultants. Children study marketing from the age of 8 in the UK and Millennials have a love of discussing brands. This means they recognise when a brand sponsorship arrangement doesn’t fit the show, or when social media is used unwisely, or when a brand attempts to appeal to them in a contrived way.


8, Male and Female Millennials are diverging. Girls in the UK have outperformed boys in school for over a decade and young women under 30 now earn more than men (for the first time in history). Female Millennials are confident and self-assured of their own knowledge and skills. They can have high expectations of products, people and business interactions. Millennial men also have high expectations, but I find they are much more relaxed and laid-back when interacting with services and brands.


9, Millennials want brands to be careful. Globalisation has shaped the awareness about the world and how companies operate. Millennials can react negatively to materialism and the companies that stray too far into this territory. They take notice of how ethical a business is – for example its attitude towards recycling, where products are sourced, how waste is dealt with and the charities it contributes to. A CSR code is no longer optional for mainstream brands.


10, Finally Millennials are financially cautious. They have seen how previous generations have got into debt. The credit culture that Gen X spawned does not sit well with Millennials who are far too sensible! The financial industry will need to adjust its practices, products and communication to persuade Millennials to borrow in the same way that older generations have.


The underlying trend is of a generation of young adults who are friendly, sensible and risk adverse - in contrast with previous generations. What does this mean for business?


  • Your brand will really stand out from the crowd if it has a rebellious, dangerous or challenging tonality.


  • The need for immediacy and excellence means your digital designs should use copy bursts and interactivity to generate facetime.


  • Gender distinct brand comms. might make sense in future - with tonality adopted to appeal to those high performing females, and less demanding males.

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