We already know that Millennials are an extremely digitally savvy and mobile-forward generation, but how does that affect the rest of the consumer market? As Millennials are quickly becoming the largest generation in the U.S. today, the way they interact with brands has impacted the way consumers above the age of 55 behave in the market as well. This influence has fueled the evolution of the “Millennial Mind-set Consumer.” A Millennial Mind-set Consumer is not a Millennial by definition but still behaves in a way that is reflective of common Millennial trends. For example, a 50-year-old woman standing in line at Starbucks may not be a Millennial as defined by her age, but she still pays for her caramel macchiato using her My Starbucks Rewards app on her iPhone.
For brands aiming to connect with Millennials and Boomers, the evolution of the Millennial Mind-set Consumer has established many common threads between the two generations that are both identifiable and actionable.
Here are five major trends that brand strategy professionals should watch out for that resonate with both Millennials and Millennial Mind-set Consumers.
Trend 1: Millennials are the tech-testers, Boomers are the tech-nesters.
Like most new technology, there is always a beta phase before anything catches on with the general population. That testing usually occurs among the Millennial generation, as they are more likely to be early adopters of new tech than consumers from previous generations. However, that is not to say that once the testing has become validated, Boomers won’t catch on. Like most innovations, Millennials tend to be the testers while Boomers are the nesters — the ones who settle into the tech once it has been validated and justified.
Trend 2: Feed consumers snackable content.
In a world with infinite brand choice, content enables Millennial Mind-set Consumers to become active prosumers that can engage in conversation with a brand, share, trade or rapidly curate information. In an era where all consumers, despite age differences, have complete access to a brand’s ecosystem through digital channels, the curation of snackable content is the most efficient way to share a brand story.
When we talk about snackable content, we are referring to content that is easily absorbed — videos, tweets, posts. We live in an age where a message must fit in 140 characters or less. Even Boomers, who grew up reading the lengthy articles in The New York Times every day, agree that their favorite way to consume content is through images.
Trend 3: Embrace new schemas that drive utility.
Millennial Mind-set Consumers across the board embrace the mentality that useful is the new cool. Boomers and Millennials alike agree that they are more likely to have a favorable view of brands if they help them make their lives better. For brands, this typically means moving away from old business models that do not offer the necessary utility in today’s market. Uber, Airbnb, TaskRabbit, Ritani and TopGolf are all great examples of brands that have embraced new business by disrupting the market and are experiencing high success with Millennial Mind-set Consumers as a result.
“These digital natives [Millennials] expect technology/utility at every step along the buyer’s journey — both online and off,” said Mark Keeney, vice president of marketing at Ritani. “It helps provide a level of comfort and reassurance in making informed discoveries/purchases.”
Ritani recently introduced new in-store technology featuring RFID (radio-frequency identification) that pulls up data about each ring that is taken out of the display for the customer to try on. Now, as shoppers are physically trying the ring on, they will also be able to digitally see the ring in real-time in different weights, colors and shapes. This type of utility will become increasingly more popular within the retail industry.
Trend 4: Value does not always mean dollars.
For every generation, there is a set of behavioral differences that defines who those consumers are on a generational level. For Millennials, these behaviors consist of tech savvy, cultural diversity and realistic consumerism. Gen-Xer behavioral traits are respect, strong work ethic and pragmatism. Boomers value high morals and equal opportunities. Whatever the value code may be, consumers across the board expect brands to align their marketing messages with their value sets and ultimately stand for more than their bottom lines. Brands that accomplish this will experience greater brand participation among Millennial Mind-set Consumers and others will lose brand fans.
According to Mike Swenson, president of Crossroads Communication in Kansas City, “The brands that will win in the 21st century are those that understand two things about Millennial Mind-set Consumers. They want to work for companies that care and give back and they want to do business with brands that care and give back. When a brand can create this type of environment, everybody wins — especially society.”
Trend 5: Require Brand Proof in an Era of StoryLiving.
The most inspired brands in our modern market today are the ones that are not just telling their story, but living it. There is a lot of noise today and brands must work harder than ever to break through. The best way to do this is to create an authentic story and instead of telling that story by shotgunning messages through tried-and-true channels, Millennial Mind-set Consumers expect to live that story with their favorite brands.
For example, we used to see brands tell stories about giving back, now we are seeing entire movements created by brands to encourage positive behavior (think about the Coca Cola spot, #MakeItHappy). These brands are living their stories, not just telling them. It’s no longer enough to simply create a funny commercial. Consumers today demand more from their favorite brands, which is why proving their message through StoryLiving is becoming so important.
Thinking about modern consumers today, the conversation is typically centered on Millennials. As a generation that was born into the digital boom, brands tend to think that they are the only digitally driven consumers out there. While it is true that digital, mobile and social behaviors are more native for Millennials, Boomers and Gen-Xers were still influenced by the influx of digital innovation at its prime. Consumers across the board require more interaction from brands that embrace new trends influenced by Millennial Mind-set Consumers in our market today.
Jeff Fromm is president of FutureCast and author of two books on Millennial marketing, innovation and consumer trends. Jfromm@thefuturecast.com or @jefffromm. Leah Swartz, content specialist at FutureCast, contributed to this article.