Millennials Are Growing Up


Editor’s Note: Today I’m pleased to introduce a new Research Access author: Gayle Vogel, Vice President at Edge Research, a full service marketing research firm that specializes in connecting research results with actionable insights.

We’ve been conducting generational research for years, capturing the emotional and rational thought processes that motivate individuals along the life stage continuum.  But in recent focus groups with Millennials (Gen Y), we were particularly struck by how marketing savvy these young people are.  They can instinctively spot a marketing come-on from a mile away. They are skeptical of nearly any overture – including research-based – unless it has a clear pay-off for them.  These behaviors have caused the unflattering nickname “the ME generation,” originally coined for Boomers in the 1970s, to be transferred to Millennials; but we question whether this narcissistic designation reflects their self-centeredness (as some say) or self-preservation?

Millennials have grown up in corporate America being constantly bombarded by marketing propositions…is it any wonder they have developed a cynical and guarded veneer against these non-stop advances?  They are not only more likely to ask, “What’s in it for me?” but “What’s in it for you?  What am I giving up? Am I compromising my values?”  This idea isn’t entirely new as Seth Godin’s book Permission Marketing outlined some of these tenets a decade ago.  Born into the information age, Millennials know their hearts and minds have value.  They are willing to open up for the right reasons…on their terms.

How can we ensure that we are hearing candidly from a broad cross-section of Millennials when there is a reflexive skepticism and guardedness not seen (at the same level) among other generations?

Demonstrate Value.  Demonstrating a clear connection to value is a challenge not only for our clients looking to offer services to this generation, but for us, as market researchers trying to connect with and mine genuine insights from Gen Y’ers.  What’s in it for them?  This can be something tangible, such as a sweepstakes entry for the latest iPhone or iPad, to an explanation of how their feedback, collectively, will inform the products and services they buy.

Be real.  As strong believers in following industry privacy guidelines, our introductions are always straightforward about the purpose of the research, but Millennials may need additional assurances about confidentiality, anonymity, and to what they are contributing.  As natural skeptics, Millennials look for a hidden motive or a “gotcha!” so it is harder to use a generic opening to convince them to talk to us.  Our motives are transparent at best, suspect at worse, so we should embrace transparency and be succinct about what we are asking of them, not vague (to the extent we can do so without compromising or leading the research).

Be inclusive.  Explain how Millennials are contributing to something larger than themselves by participating in a research study.  Explain their role; replace the royal “we” with “you.” What is the intention or outcome and how will it benefit them or others, even if indirectly?

Engage. We know that younger generations are “doers” — they are interested in personal and meaningful engagement, not impersonal transactions.  Surveys and group discussions should be interesting and thought-provoking rather than limited to dry five-point satisfaction scales and never-ending attribute batteries.  This is true for every age cohort, but we find it is more true for holding the attention of Millennials.

Integrate Digital into Your Data Collection.  Just as we tell our clients they must move toward an integrated communications strategy to engage the “next generation” of consumers, so too must market researchers with our data collection strategies.  Among Millennials, we are seeing a shift from tethered and big screen devices (landline phones, TVs, PCs, and laptops) toward small screens that can be accessed anywhere (smart phones and tablets) and our data collection methodologies should reflect this.  Over half of Millennials live in wireless-only households — the tethered connection is quickly becoming obsolete among this demographic.

About Gayle Vogel

Gayle Vogel is a Vice President at Edge Research, a full service marketing research firm that specializes in connecting research results with actionable insights.


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