Dopamine or Serotonin, Millennials or Boomers

According to a new Nielsen study, Boomers and Millennials exhibit vastly different behaviors and habits, from their money to their media. Despite being born 30 years apart, these two mega-generations are in demand by advertisers wishing to attract their attention and their dollars. Understanding how to reach these consumers and capture their hearts with appropriate creative is crucial, says the report.

In the U.S., Millennials and Boomers represent roughly the same number of consumers, but that might be where the similarities end. Baby Boomers were born between 1946 and 1964, the result of a post-World War II baby boom. Boomers are the wealthiest generation, controlling 70% of disposable income in the U.S. They account for nearly 50% of all consumer packaged goods (CPG) sales, 77% of prescription drug sales, 80% of leisure travel spending and 41% of all new car purchases.

Millennials are most broadly defined as ages 19-36.Coming of age during the Great Recession, Millennials spend 82% of their income and are facing hefty student loan repayment. The average student loan for the graduating class of 2011 was $26,600.

In many developing economies, Millennials dominate. In India, Millennials comprise almost 30% of the population, while Boomers comprise 14%.

Boomers and Millennials both have high rates of technology adoption, but it’s how they use it that’s of interest. Boomers are more likely to use a desktop computer, have a landline and watch traditional TV. They spend 174 hours per month watching TV (significantly more than Millennials’ 107 hours per month) and are the dominant audience in 16 of the top 25 shows.

Millennials are driving technology. 76% of Millennials own a smartphone, 73% own a laptop and 68% own a game console. However, unlike their Boomer parents, Millennials are untethered. They are less likely to have ever had a land line, are more likely to have a laptop and they watch all types of content on their phones, laptops and tablets. Interestingly, the No. 1 TV show for Boomers isn’t even in the top 30 for Millennials.

Nielsen NeuroFocus research shows that neurological changes that come with age result in certain types of communication being more effective. The report opines that these two import market segments are hardwired to be different!

Real changes to the brain begin in the mid-50s when distraction suppression mechanisms are weakened, explains the report. But as early as the mid-40s there are severe and dramatic drops in neurotransmitter levels, dopamine and serotonin in particular. Dopamine drops lead to thrill-seeking behaviors to compensate. Serotonin drops lead to the feeling that something is missing, typical for midlife crises of career and relationship.

Boomers The aging brain likes repetitions—and will believe information that is familiar to be true
Millennials Younger brains are most stimulated (better attention capture, engagement, and memorability) with elements of dynamism such as rich media, lighting or rotations, to cut through their perception threshold.

Boomers:The aging brain is more easily distracted—as the brain ages it slowly loses the ability to suppress distraction.
Millennials: Millennials can equally deal with the bleeding-over communication we see in most dynamic banner ads on Web portals, while older generations need a clear-framed separated communication to be able to engage.

Boomers: However, the aging brain has a broader attention span and is open to more information.
Millennials: Younger brains have high multi-sensory processing capacity—which makes them very amenable to (and almost seek) multi-sensory communications, especially with interaction—such as search tasks, interactive sites

Boomers: Contrast is the preference vs. color for online ads
Millennials: Millennials responded better to an intense color palette for online ads.

Source: Nielsen, June 2013

And Nielsen concludes by describing characteristics in order to better understand the differences and similarities:

Nielsen research, focusing on Boomers, finds that they prefer clever, light-hearted humor (rather than mean-spirited) and relatable characters who are Boomers themselves or not much younger. The tone should be positive, avoiding words like “don’t.” For Boomer males, clever wit and calm dialogue-driven storylines work. For Boomer females, family-friendly humor and sentimental themes resonate best.

And, the research focusing on Millennials, shows that they prefer off-beat, sarcastic and slapstick humor. Like Boomers, they respond to characters that are relatable to them and their life stage. Highly arresting visuals (special effects, unexpected visual elements) will best capture their attention. For Millennial males, extreme, off-beat and sports-related situations really resonate. For Millennial females, aspirational themes (female celebs, having fun) resonate strongly.

From how to reach them to how to resonate with them, Millennials and Boomers represent two very different consumer segments. For advertisers, understanding their differences, and similarities, is essential, concludes the report.

For more information, please visit Nielsen here.


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