Millennials Pushing Marketers to Rethink

Boston Consulting Group (BCG) research, reported by Christine Barton, Lara Koslow and Christine Beauchamp, acknowledges that success in marketing to U.S. Millennials, those 18 to 34 years old, will be critical to companies across product and service categories. Millennials represent the consumer market of the future, accounting for an estimated $1.3 trillion in direct annual spending. This sum will increase dramatically, says the report, as the first Millennials reach peak buying power. By 2030, U.S. Millennials will outnumber baby boomers 78 million to 56 million and are forming lifelong shopping preferences and habits.

This generation, says the report, is transforming consumer marketing as they are distinguished from older generations by their spending habits, brand preferences, values, personalities, and general outlook on life. They engage with brands far more extensively, personally, and emotionally in entirely different ways than have other generations.

Identified as the “reciprocity principle” by the writers, Millennials expect mutual relationship with companies and their brands. Through the feedback they express both offline and online, Millennials influence the purchases of other customers and potential customers. They also help define the brand itself. The Internet, social media, and mobile devices greatly amplify Millennials’ opinions and accelerate their impact. Companies can expect that a positive brand experience will prompt Millennials to take favorable public action on behalf of their brand. A bad, or even just disappointing, experience can turn a Millennial into a vocal critic who will spread the negative word through social media, reviews, and blogs. And that criticism can go viral.

Brand Engagement Attitude by Generation (% of US Respondents)

Brand Attitude

Millennials 18-24

Millennials  25-34

GenX 35-49

Boomers 50-69

Silents  0+

Brands identify who I am, my values






People seek me for knowledge and brand opinion






I take positive action on brands that I like






Willing to share my brand preferences online or social media 






Source: Boston Consulting Group, January 2014

Millennials, says the report, are leading indicators of large-scale changes in future consumer behavior. They are influencing and accelerating shifts in consumer attitudes, spending habits, and brand perceptions and preferences among Gen-Xers and baby boomers. As a result, opines the report, this generational transition is ushering in the end of consumer marketing as we have long known it.

The conventional, linear framework that most companies have used to manage brand engagement no longer holds. Executives and marketers must embrace the reality that marketing is an ecosystem of multidirectional engagement rather than a process that is controlled and pushed by the company.

The report concludes that executives and marketers will need a comprehensive, intimate view of Millennials across channels and media. Companies must place a high priority on transforming their marketing functions by breaking down organizational silos and building the capabilities and partnerships needed to succeed in the new reciprocal-marketing ecosystem.

For additional information, please visit BCG here.



1 comment about "Millennials Pushing Marketers to Rethink".
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  1. Tom Francoeur from Communispace, January 28, 2014 at 2:39 p.m.

    Interesting research, and helpful to marketers. But I don't buy the supposition that Millennials are inherently different. Technology has enabled new ways for Millennials and everyone to interact with brands. That's what has changed. So brands need to take a new approach to brand engagement across the board - not just with Millennials.

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