Millennials: Wanderers Or Trailblazers?

Modern methods of marketing and advertising depend heavily on content engagement online. As a result, experts in these fields are constantly seeking out information on how they can reach their target audiences in the digital space.

Our recent survey of 1,000 respondents, based in the U.S. and UK, confirmed one of the most frequently made assumptions about internet users — that a younger demographic has a higher level of online engagement. But the data also confirm a predictable caveat: millennials are the leaders of online practices but they are by no means the exclusive users. Many brands believe that online marketing is best designed to reach millennials, but this approach assumes that millennial behavior is an anomaly, as opposed to a predictor of broader trends. Our data indicates that millennials are not merely wandering from traditional behaviors; rather they are setting the new course for older and younger generations to follow.

Right Place, Right Time



A primary concern for marketers is finding where their target consumer will be and when they will be there. When it comes to digital platforms that serve advertisements prior to use, such as Pandora, Spotify and YouTube, 89% of millennial respondents stated they use these websites frequently – compared to 63% of non-millennials. A similar pattern was observed with other online streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime. 

True, the millennials are disproportionately represented as users of these services, but significantly more than half of non-millennials are users as well. This supports the idea of the millennial trendsetter. Their adoption of new technology and platforms is quicker and broader, but ultimately older generations are interested in these spaces as well, and should not be excluded from marketing considerations. 

It stands to reason that advertisers can use millennials’ behaviors as a predictive model for where the general population is moving. Younger generations will likely take on this role as time passes, but for now, market research on millennials can inform brands where their future investments will likely be.

Amplifying the Message

In the era of digital sharing and social media, it is rare for advertisers to invest in a TV spot and expect only the viewers of the target channel to see the advertisement. Strategic social media sponsorships and placements are designed to create message amplification. Why pay for your content to reach 10,000 people if you can pay to reach one person who will share it with their 10,000 followers for free? Ideally, advertisers can create content that consumers will want to share with one another. To leverage the digital social network, advertisers must understand what creative concepts and messages resonate with their audience and ultimately lead to greater amplification.

It’s no surprise that millennials have a greater presence on social media than their older peers. However, our data uncovered some notable trends in amplified branded content. A larger number of millennial respondents (42%) said they had shared an advertisement via social media. Still, almost a quarter of their non-millennial counterparts had shared such content on social media as well. The discrepancy is proportionate to the amount of time the respective generations spend on social media in general. If millennials are indeed the trendsetters for online behaviors, advertisers may expect to see an upswing in these practices across the general population in the coming years.

While in some spaces millennials act as predictors of general population behavior, in other domains they tend to fall in line with more traditional practices. Our data shows that, with regards to advertising engagement, millennials and the general population are well aligned on their preferences. Across ages, 68% of respondents agreed that humorous ads are the best way to make an advertisement more effective, and more memorable. This alignment indicates that even though the advertising world is dynamic and fast-paced, practitioners can still look for patterns and preferences that stand the test of time. 

From Theory to Practice

Data can provide infinite insights into consumers across the globe. Too often, researchers take a quick pass at the numbers and miss the deeper meaning lying beneath the surface. Market research for the past several years has unanimously reported that millennials are unique in their widespread utilization of the social network and the digital economy. While this is indisputable, it would be a mistake to overlook the trend of older generations migrating towards millennial behavior. When considering how this data should direct their strategy, advertisers should look to millennials’ behavior as a predictor of things to come on a broader scale.

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