It is hard to underestimate the impact that ‘Millennials’ (born between 1980 and 2000) are having on business generally, and marketing specifically. Every day we see exhortations such as, “Millennials are a major target … Reaching them via digital is critical.”
Interestingly, we might already know a fair bit about this demographic from personal experience.
What’s familiar about this?
What are the characteristics of Millennials that are different from past generations? According to Outlaw Consulting’s President, Barbara Bylenga:
- “They seem to feel more empowered – and more entitled…
- “They have an innate team orientation that makes them excellent collaborators…
- “ideas about issues like marriage and career are radically different…
- “Their ‘American dream’ isn’t about the picket fence; it’s a flexible freelance career and a life defined by passion…
- “They see corporations as having lots of power but little heart, and they try to create change by using their dollars.”
With all due respect to Ms. Bylenga, this could have come from the valedictory at my high school graduation. Boomers (born between 1946 and 1964) were loaded with the same entitlement/empowerment baggage, carried similar views on personal and business relationships, and had common career aspirations, and socially focused commerce attitudes.
To put it succinctly, “We have met our successors, and they are us.”
Are they just our clones?
Hardly. Millennials are not just an echo of the Boomers. However, there is an ascendance of some specific values, based on social realities. How the Millennials handle this meta-trend will be their own legacy.
Regardless, these values will drive choices that companies – including insurers and brokers – need to understand. And examining the Boomer experiences can put a lens on possible consequences.
For example: Millennials have a high awareness of the ecological impact of their actions, and the actions of companies that provide goods and services.
Boomers went through an earlier iteration, and supported companies that aligned with their views. One strategy that did NOT work was “greenwashing’ – where organizations made surface changes (using green packaging) without making fundamental changes.
Another example: Millennials are now facing fundamental changes in work. Many forms of traditional employment are being modified or eliminated.
Boomers faced a wave of this which began in the early 1970s with the incursion of foreign manufacturers. For the first half of the 1980s, unemployment rates (and interest/inflation rates) were in the low- to mid- teens.
Millennials are clearly at the forefront of current technology usage. And technology is a critical component for business success, more so now than ever before. Does this mean Millennials are blazing trails not seen by previous generations?
Absolutely and they are welcome to the role. One suggestion: some of us have seen where some previous trails’ end, and can offer some suggestions.
Example: The evolution of the current internet was an amazingly cooperative venture that involved trust and collaboration that is well aligned with Boomer/Millennial sensibilities and was driven by some serious ex-hippies. Once the infrastructure was established, competition returned unscathed.
One of the strengths of, and challenges to, the insurance industry is that change comes slowly. However, the cooperative tendencies inherent in the Millennial/Boomer profile aligns itself well with principles of insurance.
Moreover, as we add increasing doses of technology to the core elements of insurance, there are emerging opportunities to create a new future. See our comments on use of the blockchain (the technology used in bitcoin) for insurance. This is another example of the power of cooperation.
(We will have experts discussing this at the 2015 Insurance-Canada.ca Executive Forum.)
Just an aside… Boomers didn’t discover this world
Millennials, and marketers that follow them, have taken to use the term ‘hipster’ to denote a particular subset of the demographic that have a certain style and music sense.
The original use of ‘hipster’ refers to the demographic just before Boomers that wrote some of the core music and literature that presaged and informed the hippie movement; greats such as Charlie Parker, Alan Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac. We owe them big time.
What do you think?
If you are a Millennial, does this ring with any tone of truth, or do I need to be commended to ‘the home’? If you are a Boomer, when you talk to Millennials, are you seeing images that look like a mirror?