Millennials' Open Source Attitude

Not a day goes by that we don't see some evidence of Millennials' collaborative nature, whether when we're researching an answer to a tech problem (thank you, Android developer forums!) or just listening to music (the song Matt & Kim, Soulja Boy, and Andrew W.K. did for Converse). Perhaps because they came of age in the most connected time in history, Millennials share freely and help others every chance they get.

Why? To help others also helps them, both directly and indirectly. Collaborating with others builds a network of peers they can turn to when they need help. Moreover, by adding to the world's collective knowledge -- à la Wikipedia for example -- they are helping make the world a better place, which is important to Millennials. Getting credit is enough compensation for their efforts; they want to be known as the person who solved a problem or answered a question or told their friends about the next big thing.

Millennials' collaborative nature is important for marketers and advertisers to consider when reaching out to them. Here are a few examples:



They want to be the first to discover new things and share them with their friends. When Millennials find out about something new, they don't hoard that knowledge as a competitive advantage; they pass it on, not only to friends, but to anyone who might find it useful. This is reason enough for brands to be active on social networks and sharing information with fans. Telling them first about products or announcements helps Millennials maintain their role as an "in-the-know expert" and makes them feel special when they can share information about their favorite brands.

They're individuals, but appreciate the wisdom and opinions of the collective. This is the paradox of Millennials; they want to be seen as unique, but they're more than willing to learn from others. They adopt new opinions, styles, slang -- whatever they find useful -- and blend it with what they already know and do.

Because they're so willing to share and learn, Millennials don't easily fit into common youth stereotypes -- athlete, drama club kid, computer geek, etc. -- rather, they're a blend of many of these types. The athlete can also be a hipster; the trendy girl can also be a computer geek. Addressing Millennials based on a singular interest or attitude ignores a large part of who they are. The Converse collaboration is a great example, blending the sounds of indie rockers, a rapper, and a metal act; Millennials wouldn't limit themselves to listening to just one of those genres because they can find something of interest in each.

They share with marketers and brands they care about, and want to see that their advice is being heard. Young consumers aren't shy about sharing their opinions because they want to help their favorite brands be even better. But simply speaking up isn't enough for this group. They want evidence they're getting through. That can be as simple as replying to the comments they post on Facebook (which they expect, by the way).

What's more, sharing is a two-way street, which makes Millennials skeptical of brands that don't share with them. They'll avoid companies that are secretive or seem shady in their marketing practices. Millennials' expect companies to be as open to sharing as they are.

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