Millennials and Centennials: How Young Generations Will Transform the Years to Come

28 Nov 2016|Added Value France

They are young, active and are taking up more and more space every day: they will soon account for over half of the active population. Millennials, one of the most analyzed generations of all time, are entering a crucial period: they are starting to really shape society. Like the young Boomers, idealists and rebels, impacted the 60’s. Like the ambitious yuppies of Generation X left their mark on the 80’s. The Millennials have reached the age when their values are impacting the era and will leave an indelible trace.

These young adults are building a global mindset, orienting the next innovation trends and completely disrupting how consumers relate with brands.
Understanding Millennials is a difficult task because they are very diverse: they don’t all share the same personality, the same social background or the same life stage. Some of them are still students while others are already parents. Nevertheless, when we pay closer attention to this generation, we start to realize that certain common characteristics can be identified.

No matter their age, their social classes or states of mind, Millennials have all been shaped by two major phenomena: the digital revolution and the global recession. These movements of expansion and contraction have deeply transformed their expectations and their mindsets. This generation is driven by a unique combination of wariness and wisdom, tinted with a certain disillusion that is wholly their own.

We were able to identify 8 key dynamics of change that will keep influencing future evolutions in terms of consumption, communication and innovation:

1. Hyper-connection
The digital revolution developed a quasi-instinctive propensity for Millennials to connect. It’s even come to be considered as a fundamental human right, according to a resolution issued by the UN last summer. The emergence of smartphones enables us to fulfil this urge at all times. Evidenced by the ‘1 bar left’ panic we’ve all experienced. But the need and means to connect will keep evolving towards new devices and around other types of content. The progress of virtual reality opens a scope of possibilities for brands to provide over-qualitative content, immersive and contextualized, on new types of devices. Everywhere and at any moment.

2. Ease and immediacy
As a direct consequence of the digital revolution, Millennials reject any kind of slowness or hassle in their consumption experience. This expectation is growing fast, rendered critical by the speed of technological progress.
As a result, two major transformations will impact brands:

  • Communications will slowly turn into more symbolic expression: communication is increasingly more visual and emojis are starting to replace words.
  • The customer journey will be shorter: In a world where a purchase is reduced to a “click” or a “tap” (quite literally with the introduction of Amazon Dash buttons), the top of mind awareness becomes the obvious choice and the time spent considering the purchase is reduced or even removed completely.
    Brands will need to become as available and obvious as possible, to the point where they will need to anticipate the customer’s needs before they can articulate it to better meet them.

3. Uniqueness and self-expression
The digital revolution gave us the possibility to express our differences, to celebrate our individual features. Millennials now think through the prism of individuality, free from traditional norms. Half of them even consider gender as a wide spectrum beyond the simple dichotomy of men & women, which had up until now seemed inevitable.
Authenticity, diversity and creativity are the values that they expect from their favorite brands and what they want to express through them.

4. Financial realism
For the first time, young people distinguish themselves by the attention they pay to the consequences of their actions, and that is particularly true of expenses. This is not about spending less, but about spending usefully. The way they perceive value is no longer the simple quality/price ratio that their parents saw, but a more layered notion of value, disrupting the traditional way brands are building their offer and their promotions.

5. Collaboration
Millennials are showing a great appeal for a culture of collaboration, which is amplified by the digital ecosystem. This leads to the development of new behavioral consumption habits – real alternatives to the traditional brand/consumer relationship. They share information and help each other. This peer-to-peer philosophy infuses every category: even the media and content that Millennials consume! They are created by people like themselves – to entertain or instruct likeminded people.

6. Search for experiences
The importance of experience is another characteristic of a generation that may be a bit disillusioned but does not verge on the grumpy or pessimistic. More than half of Millennials are actively spending in experience-related categories, when less than a third of their elders do.
Brands have started to catch on, investing heavily in the experience field far beyond the product or service itself.
A critical point stems from this: it becomes essential to have a clear idea on the experience, the moment, that brands want to share with their consumers – and which are their limits. It’s not about creating branded experiences, but about creating an experience that will shape the brand.

7. Health
Younger people are running, practicing yoga, replacing alcohol with cold pressed juice and monitoring their health on connected devices. The abuse of drugs and alcohol has dropped by 38% amongst young Americans between 2008 and 2014.
Health is now considered a precious capital that needs to be preserved. Millennials shy away from putting themselves in harm’s way, contrary to their parents at that same age. The pace of discoveries regarding health, paired with the breakthrough of wearables makes it possible for a form of assisted proactivity that will likely keep supporting this dynamic going forward.

8. Impacts importance
The eighth and final mindset shift observed amongst Millennials relates to their expectation of more responsibility from corporate entities. Almost two thirds of Millennials say they are more attracted to responsible brands, from a social and environmental point of view. Brands can no longer just say, they must also do. They need to prove their authenticity and leave a dent on the world. As the public sphere has disappointed them, Millennials have focused their hopes for a brighter future within the private sector.

More surprisingly still, education and training are becoming ever more present in companies’ CSR policies.
Looking even closer at Millennials in different life stages, particularly parenting, as well as the generation that follows, the Centennials; we were able to observe that these dynamics were true no matter what population we focused on and even tended to become stronger as time passed.
Consequently, we can establish that that these states of mind will continue to influence the whole society for the years to come. Core values will spread to the rest of the population thanks to the Millennials:

  • Empowerment
  • Sharing (of knowledge & consumption)
  • Individualization
  • Control

As a result, if we look to the longer term, several questions are raised:

  • Will the omnipotence of hyper-connected and hyper-equipped individuals give way to hyper-dependence?
  • Will the brands enter a virtuous circle of sharing through the collaboration and education of individuals, or will we witness the confrontation between the league of brands and the league of the consumers?
  • Will the advances of personalization through data make brands omniscient?
  • Will the need for control make us wiser or on the contrary paralyze us, and kill chance?

Millennials will not be the only ones to answer those questions. It is nevertheless obvious that their imprint on the world will be huge, and the outlines are becoming clearer by the day.

Article written by Alexandre Thomas, Associate Director and Paul Chatalic, Project Executive Added Value

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