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A look inside the Millennial mindset

A look inside the Millennial mindset Nanette Marcus

Young people aren't the same, and not all young people are Millennials. They remain a marketing enigma, but iMedia Agency Summit keynoter Morley Winograd, partner at Mike and Morley, LLC. and Millennials expert, offered his unique insight to attendees in an attempt to demystify this puzzling generation.


The generational differences seem a little less baffling when you look at Hollywood's treatment of children in Gen X (born in 1964 through 1982). Movies like "Rosemary's Baby," "Carrie," "Firestarter," and "Children of the Corn" all demonstrate that Hollywood thought all children were the spawn of Satan. Meanwhile, Millennials were born into a Hollywood that embraced children with films like "Baby Boom," "Parenthood," and "Spy Kids".

"This is one of the reasons that you can't stand Millennials," Winograd noted. "This is what was going on when they were born. Children became the center of the universe."

He explained that in those movies, the kids solve the world with a magic wand. "And they think they still do when they come to work for you."

One key Millennial trait is their interest in collective decision-making. They're also pragmatic, idealistic, consensus-driven, and optimistic. "Unfortunately because of the way they were brought up, they're risk-averse," Winograd said. "Failure is not an option."

It's important to consider how Millennials' parents approached childrearing and how that has shaped Millennials today. Winograd explained that the Baby Boomers chose to become older parents in the 1980s while Gen X moms reverted back to the earlier birth-age norm, which meant that two generations were having babies. (There are 95 million Millennials, 10 million more than the Boomer population.) Boomers rebelled against the parenting practices of their parents. They made conscious decisions not to say "because I told you so" or "because I'm the parent and you're the child." But discipline was still the order of the day for Millennial parents. They became friends with their children. They explained things to their children, (actions, consequences, options, etc.) -- they wanted them to learn to make informed decisions.

"Millennials love their parents, which confuses Boomers," Winograd said.

Marketers targeting Millennials must understand that consensus and customization are key. They want both. They want just Apple or Android -- nothing in between -- to be part of the consensus. But then they want to customize those devices through cases and certain apps in order to reflect their individuality.

"If you're looking for a marketing sample to follow after, go with Taylor Swift," Winograd noted. "She changed a lot of things. What she didn't change was her continual reliance on social media. This is a marketing machine. It's unstoppable." He continued, "If you ever listen to her music, you understand that her success doesn't have anything to do with her product. It's about the user experience."

What you're doing when you go on a particular social platform is that you align yourself with it. There are gender differences with those platforms. As a brand, "Who do you want to be associated with? Whose curation do you want to be a part of?"

Winograd said that brands will never, ever dominate this media like you would in broadcast media. "The only way you can swim is to engage."

In addition, "You can't shout down a social network. They won't listen to you like they do on television." Brands cannot advertise on social media like they can on television.

"You can only start a conversation. As hard as the message is to hear, it's important," he added.

Millennials live by their mobile devices, checking them on average of 42 times daily. As a result, short-form content is attractive because you don't need that much time.

Winograd shared an example of how one app was so successful in raising money for a charity with Millennials that they had to literally shut it down because they were bankrupting their sponsors. The ad copy for the CauseWorld app read, "What if I told you that it's possible to do good deeds around the world -- simply by walking into a store? You wouldn't even have to buy a thing and you could plant a tree, provide a meal for the hungry, or help an injured animal."

This app's proposition struck a chord with Millennials because they're often motivated by a collective thinking and idealism. "You got me," Winograd said in reaction to the ad description. "I'm a Millennial. I have to go shopping. What do I do?"

"A trip to the mall was saving the world," Winograd said. Then Millennials could cash in the "karma points" they earned from the app for charitable donations, along with rewards from sponsors. The sponsor rewards became so frequent and costly that sponsors had to shut the app down.

"If you can tell stories as powerful as that one to your customers," Winograd said, "then you've mastered Millennials."

Lasly, Winograd emphasized that it's time to give up the Gen X mindset in order to reach Millennials.

Nanette Marcus is senior editor at iMediaConnection.

On Twitter? Follow iMedia at @iMediaTweet.

"Woman taking a selfie" image via Shutterstock.

Nanette is iMedia Communications' executive editor.   In addition to her roles at iMedia, Nanette has served as a specialist in content marketing, editorial content, public relations and social media for various clients. She's contributed to...

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