Mountains of research can attest to what experts say Gen Y has in common, from passion for the environment to tech love. But new research from the Boston Consulting Group breaks this massive block of humanity, some 79 million strong in the U.S., into six distinct groups. And about 50% defy the stereotypes most marketers live by.
“Our research reaffirmed the historic optimism of Millennials,” Christine Barton, a partner at the Boston Consulting Group in Dallas and an author of its report on Millennial Consumers, tells Marketing Daily in an email. But it would be a mistake to take that generalization too far.
“If there is an average media image of U.S. Millennials as sheltered, civic-minded, team-oriented, less consumptive, and socially conscious, that describes at most three of our segments, or about 50% of our Millennial respondents. Not all offerings and marketing images and messages will universally appeal to Millennials.”
It characterizes the largest group, at 29%, as Hip-ennials, sheltered under the umbrella statement of “I can make the world a better place.” Despite that optimism, they are cautious consumers, hungry for information, and female-dominated, including many students and homemakers.
The next-largest group is Millennial Moms, accounting for 22%. This segment is both the oldest and the most affluent, with a high online intensity, and commitment to working out, traveling, and pampering their children.
About 16% fall into Anti-Millennials, the third-largest group and one that runs counter to many of the generation’s stereotypes: They’re conservative, for example, won’t spend more for green products, and are best typified by the statement: “I’m too busy taking care of my business and my family to worry about much else."
And despite that the cell phone commercials would have you believe, just 13% can be classed as true Gadget Gurus. Characterized by “It’s a great day to be me,” this group is affluent, well-wired, and most likely to be male. They are also likely to be single, and to believe this is his best decade.
The most environmentally concerned are classed as Clean and Green Millennials, who account for just 10% of Gen Y. Cause-driven, green, and positive, they are also the most likely to contribute content, the youngest, and more likely to be male or Hispanic.
And finally, the consulting company discerns a group it calls Old School Millennials, also about 10% of the Gen Y population, that is far less tech-involved than others. They read the most, are older, and while they are also cautious in purchases, are confident, optimistic and self-directed, and would rather meet friends for coffee than over Facebook.
Overall, she says, “the good news for companies is we didn't find a generation fundamentally less interested in consuming. In fact, we found a generation vocal in its self-perceived knowledge of categories and brands, of its enjoyment of spending, and of its influence on the spending of parents, siblings and friends.”
There is bad news, however, in that the research -- which included 4,000 people between 16 and 34 as well as 1,000 non-Millennials, ages 35 to 74 -- found that those in the 35-plus segment don’t like Gen Y all that much. “We saw much more negative and dismissive impressions of the generation by those over 35 years old, raising the question: If executives feel as negatively about Millennials as their counterparts, how will they bring authentic, relevant and resonant products that understand and meet Millennials' needs?”
Barton says she was also surprised by how strongly Gen Y is influenced by its generation, as opposed to lifestage. “When we looked at the attitudes of Millennials with more discretionary income, or that were older, or that were in structured jobs, or that were married, or that had children” she says, “they had more in common with Millennials than with non-Millennials sharing their life stage.”