No matter how hard you try, you can’t truly put yourself into the mind of someone else. Your perceptions and beliefs are shaped by your experiences, which can never be the same – especially for different generational groups. While a lot has been written about Millennials and how to market to them, innovators have been struggling to figure out how to evolve their innovation strategies in order to capitalize on the sheer size and influence of these consumers. By not only understanding but also involving Millennials in strategy development, brands can ensure they truly deliver against their needs, wants and desires. In this post, we’ll discuss how deeply their happiness-driven mindset affects their decision-making, and how successful innovation strategies have exploited it.
Despite growing up through 9/11, the Great Recession, a housing crisis, and multiple wars, Millennials continue to be highly optimistic about their futures. Looking at a recent report from Pew Research, nearly half of them believe the country’s best days are ahead of it, whereas Gen Xers, Baby Boomers, and the Silent Generation are all less confident. Likewise, when asked if they were satisfied with the way things are going in the country, 41% of Millennials said they were, compared to just 26% of respondents aged 30 and older – the largest gap in 20 years.
While some researchers might attribute this optimism to “the timeless confidence of youth,” there’s something different about the Millennial way of thinking that separates them from the youth of older generations.
According to a 1974 Gallup survey, only about half of young adults under the age of 30 said they had “quite a lot” of confidence in America’s future, compared to 70% of respondents aged 30 or older. Though it’s fair to argue that significant political events helped shape these negative attitudes of youthful Gen Xers and Baby Boomers (e.g., Watergate/the resignation of Nixon, American troops in Vietnam, etc.), today’s Millennials have also faced their share of political and financial adversity – and yet they still maintain a positive a financial outlook.
Attributing Their Positive Outlook
Millennials are the first generation in the modern era to have higher levels of student loan debt and unemployment, and lower levels of wealth and personal income than their two immediate predecessor generations. At the same time, however, they’re the most college-educated generation to date, giving them a great sense of optimism for what they can accomplish in their careers. And while most Millennials have struggled to find jobs on the heels of the recession, at least 8 out of 10 say they either earn enough money to lead the lives they want (32%) or expect to in the future (53%).
Besides being more educated, another explanation for their optimism is the Millennial attitude that a high salary isn’t as important as finding a job they enjoy doing. A recent study revealed that 45% of Millennials will choose workplace flexibility over pay, and 53% of workers consider having “a job where I can make an impact” to be very important or essential to their happiness. And with 51% of Millennials believing that there won’t be any money left for them in the social security system by the time they’re ready to retire, finding a job they love will be paramount to living a long, happy life – regardless of salary.
With Millennials being driven more by happiness than by money, brands need to adjust their value propositions to meet the mindset and aspirations of this unique group of consumers. As older generations start to lose influence in the marketplace, Millennials have been steadily gaining traction, and are changing the way companies promote their products and services. For Millennials, a happiness-driven mindset means:
- They do what makes them happy, because “you only live once”
- Jobs are less of a career and more of a means to get what they want in their personal lives
- They value emotional satisfaction over material possessions
- They live for today, with optimism that they’ll be financially “okay” in the future
What Does That Mean For Your Brand?
Because they’re driven by happiness, Millennials tend to worry less about the cost and features of a product, instead giving greater value to a product’s ability to make their lives easier and/or more enriched. They’re asking questions that speak to their desire to get some kind of enjoyment out of a product:
“Is it fun to use?”
“Will my friends think it’s cool?”
“Is it unique/different/special?”
“Is it ‘me’?”
…and they’re not necessarily asking questions their parents ask, like, “How much use will I get out of it?” “Is it durable?” and “Is it a good value?”
While previous generations have, for the most part, evaluated products primarily based on criteria like price, performance, and functionality (with manufacturers following suit by focusing innovation efforts on improvements in these areas), these may no longer be relevant to your Millennial targets.
It’s critical to understand exactly how this happiness-driven mindset affects your target audience’s decision making as it relates to your product category. While there are plenty of resources available for you to read about what makes them tick, with SpencerHall’s Millennial Transforum® Brain Trust, you can engage directly with some of the best and brightest Millennial minds. You can uncover the nature and depth of Millennials’ unique perspective, and brainstorm with them to create strategies, messaging, products and services that will truly resonate with this crucial consumer segment.
Ready to learn how to tap into our Millennial Brain Trust to drive innovative thinking for your business? Download our brief to learn about how our Millennial Brain Trust process can reveal breakthrough innovation opportunities.