Be Smart And Go To The Head Of The Millennial Class

By now, kids everywhere have gone back to school and Millennials have gone back to campus. Which means it’s the perfect time for marketers to have a little study session of their own. 

First, let’s take a quick assessment. At your high school, was it “cool” to be smart and get good grades, or was it more like the all-too-common plot in TV and movies—A-plus student is a nerd and socially awkward and so he/she gets picked on by the far-from-A-student, popular jocks and cheerleaders? Chances are, if you graduated before the year 2000 (i.e., you’re not a Millennial), getting good grades was closer to the movie plot than a catalyst to get you elected Homecoming Queen. 

Marketers, it’s time to leave high school behind. 

You’re already smart enough to know you need to target Millennials. You know that, at 87 million strong, and nearly 120 million when you count their children, Generation Y can’t be ignored. Now become even smarter by understanding the relevance of “smart” in their world. 



School’s In Session

Generation Y’s attitude about school and being smart has always been one of their key distinguishing traits from Generation X. When Gen Xers were high school, there was an upward trend in drug abuse, teen pregnancies and teen suicides. As Millennials have been America’s high school students, test scores have continued to rise, and drug abuse, teen pregnancies and teen suicides have fallen. Additionally, our research over the past seven years illustrates how Millennials care more about typical “smart” than typical “cool.” For instance, in 2011, 15- to 17-year-olds were more than twice as likely to care “a lot” about their grades than the way they dress. They were also over three times more likely to care “a lot” about their grades than what others thought of them. 

Now that the majority of Millennials are past the “getting good grades” stage of life, their acceptance and eagerness for “smart” goes deeper than the hipster attitude that “smart is cool.” Smart is now a driving factor in many of the things Millennials like so much.  Two perfect examples are “The Daily Show” with Jon Stewart and the magazine Mental Floss

Smart Humor – Comedy Central’s mock-news programs resonate with Generation Y for a number of reasons, but most importantly because the shows are built around intelligent humor. “The Daily Show” is news and information, but in a completely entertaining way. At the end of the show you have laughed and maybe even learned something about the world around you. 

Smart is not only cool, but a reason for tuning in.  

Make Me Smarter – Mental Floss magazine is exactly what its name implies. Just as flossing your teeth reaches into the nooks and crannies to supplement brushing, Mental Floss provides little nuggets of information, fun facts and trivia to fill up the nooks and crannies of your mind missed by general knowledge. Their strong readership of men aged 18-34 speaks volumes. Millennials like Mental Floss because it’s easily digestible and fun, but possibly more importantly because when they close the magazine, or leave the website, they are a little smarter. 

Final Exam

So Millennials like smart things. What does that mean for marketers? 

Ultimately, it is a huge indicator of how you want to present your messaging and where you want to place it. 

  • Align your brand and place advertisements with “smart” content and Millennials will find you. 
  • Incorporate smart, not banal, humor into your advertising campaign and Millennials will remember you. 

Class dismissed. 

Now be “smart” and go to the head of the Millennial class. 

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