A Force To Be Reckoned With

According to Vision Critical findings, in partnership with Maru/VCR&C in a study of this generation, the growing impact of Millennials on society and every industry is why Millennials are a force to be reckoned with.

Known as Generation Y, the Net Generation and the Me Generation, Millennials have been the subject of intense scrutiny from the moment they arrived on the scene. The increasingly influential offspring of the Baby Boomers were born between the years 1980 to 1995, which means that, today, they fit near-perfectly into the demographic most coveted by marketers: 18 to 35 years old. They number roughly 80 million in the United States, says the report.

They outnumber Generation X and they outnumber their Boomer parents as well. Both in raw numbers and in the workforce, Millennials top the demographic ladder. They currently control more than $600 billion in annual customer spending, and they have already used it to transform entire economic sectors and even hobble the balance sheets of industry behemoths.

The report discusses in detail these findings in the Millennial Executive Summary report:

  • Millennials are a remarkably optimistic generation whose impact has already been deeply felt in politics, society and the economy
  • They’re eager adopters of new technology, especially when it gives them more control over their time and their lives
  • They hold social causes dear, and seek out opportunities to support them
  • They dislike traditional advertising, to the point of actively avoiding it
  • They prefer to research products and services on their own time, through their own pathways, to draw their own conclusions
  • They rely strongly upon social networks for referrals on the best products, services, travel destinations and food
  • They’re an active generation that believes good health is both a personal and social responsibility
  • They’re big spenders who will pay a premium for a better, more socially responsible product, but they most want goods that are high quality, affordable and ethical all at once
  • They’re ambitious for themselves and for the world they live in
  • They seek employment in workplaces that give them opportunities to make their mark, demonstrate leadership, and give back to society

Millennials are the most extensively- researched generation in history, the subject of countless studies, papers, TED Talks, theses and reports. A recent Gallup study showed that young adults were spending $13 less in 2015 than they spent in 2008, and concluded that Millennials’ miserly behavior “costs the economy at least $949 million each day.” The Atlantic Monthly recently branded them “The Cheapest Generation” for their refusal to buy homes and cars.

To succeed, businesses need to come to terms with Millennials, and appreciate how they're motivated by different values and display different behaviors than previous generations of customers. Millennials are fast becoming the driving force in the national and global economy. No business can afford to plan its future based upon media-driven stereotypes and caricatures of the generation whose purchasing power will soon dwarf all others.

As Millennials grow older and their consumer needs expand into housing, automobiles, home entertainment, financial services, products for their children, and beyond, says the report, they will transform those industries as well. And in addition to their own growing salaries, they stand to inherit more than $30 trillion from their Boomer parents, giving them unparalleled consumer influence.

According to the Pew Research Center, only one in five Millennials thinks most people can be trusted. Few actually believe social security will provide them with full assistance when they need it, and 84% of them don’t trust advertising either, according to a study by the McCarthy Group.

According to the study results, the most common words they use to describe their current situation are happy, excited and confident. All told, 86% of Millennials are very optimistic about their future, while 64% and 55%, respectively, are upbeat about their children’s and their country’s future.

It’s the sunniest outlook of any generation. And it persists despite the fact that younger Millennials live paycheck to paycheck, and many still receive financial assistance from their parents, says the report. Their sense of hope endures despite living through the Great Recession and climate change; they’re convinced that better days lie ahead. It’s even rubbed off on the younger people coming up behind them: Generation Z is even more confident about their own personal prospects than Generation Y.  If anything, Millennials’ shared sense of optimism is the product of a strong and broadly-based social cohesion, one that firms will need to integrate themselves into as they plan for a future where Millennials make up most of their customers.

They’re In A Really Good Mood Says The Report:

  • Happy  30%
  • Excited  28%
  • Optimistic  26%
  • Confident  24%
  • Motivated  23%
  • Content  22%          
  • Tired  22%
  • Cautious  19%
  • Annoyed  14%

They See A Brighter Future Than Gen X And Boomers When Asked “Are You Optimistic About…”


Percent Positively Optimistic

The Future


Gen X


My own personal future




The future of my children




The environment




The U.S economy




The world economy





Millennials are also old enough to remember the days before the Internet existed and still value face-to-face interaction, says the report. They are best described as having one foot in the digital world and another in the analog one. They agree that technology can cause as many problems as solves. They are comfortable adopting new technology and shaping it to their own ends, and letting companies, in turn, adapt to them.

The media and entertainment industries are at the peak of their disruption, and all the traditional measures of success are in decline, says the report. Millennials, with their preference for technologies that give them greater control, have fueled the emergence of digital content and on-demand streaming. They’re cord- cutters, file-sharers and avid streamers.

This shift is not just a problem for traditional media companies, but for the entire advertising industry and its clients, who have long relied upon the old formats to deliver large and growing audiences, says the report. Millennials spend less than 15 hours per week watching television, nearly 10 hours less than Boomers. Meanwhile, they spend more time in front of other screens: 16.4 hours a week on desktop computers and another 14.8 hours on their smartphone.

Overall, 75% of Millennials believe advertising is disruptive, and they believe the world would be a better place without it, explaining why they have become major adopters of ad-blocking software, says the report.

But that doesn’t mean they don’t find advertising useful. As part of their voracious research habits, 53% of Millennials say they will seek out advertising in their searches. It’s about control, says the report: they don’t want advertising to interrupt their programming, but they’ll make it part of their own streaming when it suits them. They’ll also share a good ad campaign with their social networks, which is the nature of “viral marketing”: instead of a broadcaster or publication delivering audiences, Millennials will do it for you themselves.

To connect with Millennials, advertising firms and their clients need to rethink the very nature of their customer engagement. They need to understand the cultural values and narratives of Millennials, and what makes them smile and laugh. And they have to explore emerging channels to reach out to them, so that their content is easy for them to find when they need it.

Meanwhile, Millennials’ pathway through five social milestones of life, completing school, leaving home, financial independence, marriage and parenthood, is far more meandering than previous generations: fewer than 15% of Millennials have completed all five milestones by age 30. In terms of relationships, Millennials often opt for some form of cohabitation, also known as a “starter marriage” or “beta marriage,” before saying “I do.”

Their every choice impacts entire sectors of the economy. Their shifting tastes and preferences can make or break a company, which is why it’s imperative that business leaders continue to build their Millennial expertise, says the report. The opportunity couldn’t be greater for those leaders who engage with Millennials, and make a priority of understanding Millennials’ wants and expectations. The Millennials have arrived, and it's their world now, concludes the report.

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