How Millennials’ Non-Traditional Mindset Affects Your Innovation Strategy

Posted by Jon Hall on Mar 31, 2015

Millennials non-traditional mindsetWhile a lot has been written about Millennials and how to market to them, innovators have been struggling to figure out how to evolve their strategies in order to capitalize on the sheer size and influence of these consumers. By understanding and involving Millennials in strategy development, brands can ensure they truly deliver against this group’s needs, wants and desires. In this post, we’ll discuss how successful innovators can take advantage of their non-traditional mindset and engage Millennials in their innovation process.

If you haven’t noticed by now, the Millennial generation is one that marches to the beat of its own drum. Regardless of the traditions older generations have followed for decades, Millennial consumers aren’t convinced that the old way of doing things is necessarily the best, and they’re keen on finding their own answers, forming their own opinions, and forging their own paths.

Whether you’re talking about politics, religion, health and wellness, or family values, Millennials have taken their own approach to the way they view and do things, and in order to reach this unique group of consumers, innovators will have to align their brands’ messaging with Millennials’ non-traditional viewpoints.


When it comes to politics, Millennials share very different opinions than those of older generations. According to survey data from the Pew Research Center, 50% of Millennials describe themselves as political independents – the highest percentage ever recorded. And while the majority of Millennials still tend to be more liberal in terms of politics and social causes, both Democrats and Republicans have lost ground with Millennials over the past 10 years.

One reason for this lack of political support stems from Millennials’ historically low levels of trust. According to a recent poll by Harvard University’s Institute of Politics, Millennials exhibit the lowest levels of political trust in the history of Harvard’s “composite trust index.” This helps explain the low levels of voter turnout for Millennials, which also reached a historic low in 2012 with only 45% of voters aged 18 to 29 making it to the polls.


Just as Millennials are less interested in politics than older generations, they’re also much less religious. Though a solid majority (86%) still say they believe in God, only 58% say they’re “absolutely certain” that God exists, compared to 69% of Gen Xers, 73% of Baby Boomers, and 74% of the Silent Generation. Likewise, more than one in ten Millennials don’t believe in God – nearly double the number of every other generation. With fewer believers and fewer people belonging to any particular religion, Millennials also attend religious services much less frequently than older Americans. Only 33% attend religious services at least weekly, compared to 41% of adults ages 30 and over.

Health and Wellness

As you already know, Millennials place a high value on living a happy life. Combine that with their increased awareness for physical and mental health issues, and it’s easy to see why Millennials see the mind-body connection as important to overall health. As a matter of fact, according to the “Millennial Mindset: The Worried Well” report, 35% of Millennials believe seeing a therapist or psychiatrist regularly is important to good health.

Looking at an interview with Leigh Householder, chief innovation officer at GSW, brands must incorporate this mind-body connection into their health and wellness offerings. “For Millennials, the question isn’t who can help them be healthy, but rather what can help them,” Householder said. “To Millennials, physical health is intricately connected with mental health. So, for brand marketers to be successful in reaching this audience, they must think about health and wellness the same way, and create solutions that inspire Millennials to experience health at any given moment and throughout all aspects of their lives.”

What Does This Mean For Your Brand?

With Millennials choosing to do things their own way, today’s innovators need to rethink their brand’s messaging if they want to stay relevant in the changing marketplace. These non-traditional consumers are very open-minded when it comes to the products and services they use, and show little loyalty to familiar brands if “the next best thing” comes along. For Millennials, a non-traditional mindset means:

  • Highly knowledgeable, resourceful, and information savvy
  • Less spiritual than any other generation
  • Less political than any other generation
  • Unlikely to vote
  • Easily disillusioned by dishonesty or even lack of complete transparency
  • Look for whole health solutions (mind/body) and not tied to traditional medical/chemical solutions

In order to cater to these unique characteristics, there are several strategies companies can use to attract non-traditional Millennials:

Provide Complete Transparency

When Millennials were asked the question, “would you say that most people can be trusted?”, only 19% said that they could, compared to 31% of Gen Xers, 37% of Silents, and 40% of Baby Boomers. Just as Millennials don’t trust the government, they’re equally hesitant when it comes it trusting other people and businesses. Because of this, it’s highly important that you’re as transparent as possible with information regarding your products, services, and business processes. Millennials don’t want to be told what to believe; they want the information themselves so they can formulate their own beliefs, and even withholding just some of the information can raise their suspicions and drive them away. Look at the pricing model Southwest Airlines uses for example. In an industry known for hidden fees and deceptive pricing, Southwest has broken their fares into 3 transparent pricing tiers: Business Select, Anytime, and Wanna Get Away. When travellers book their flight, they can click to see the benefits of each tier, and make their decision based on which fits their needs best.

Inspire Health and Wellness

Growing up in an era full of anti-smoking, breast cancer awareness, and mental health campaigns, Millennials place a lot of emphasis on taking care of both mind and body. In fact, 32% of Millennials say they’re actually willing to pay a premium for “healthier” products. As Leigh Householder explained above, brands need to figure out how to inspire health at any given moment, knowing that Millennial consumers are actively seeking healthier products. Take a look at the strong position Chipotle has carved out in the casual dining industry for example. By promoting “Food With Integrity” and focusing on using high-quality ingredients raised with respect for the animals, the environment, and the farmers, they’ve created healthy menu options that people also feel good about eating. They understand that Millennials’ value proposition is rooted in their core values, and that those values aren’t all about price.

Participate in Social Causes

As we explained in our article last week, Millennials have high expectations when it comes to your corporate social responsibility. And while we don’t recommend mixing politics with business, you can win over these liberal-leaning consumers by supporting a social cause of your own, or improving the social responsibility of your own products and services. Just make sure that your support is authentic, as Millennials are quick to recognize “cause marketing” that is pandering or too obviously an attempt to win favor.

Push the Envelope

With Millennial consumers always searching for the next big thing, it’s crucial that your company never rests on your laurels. Whereas older generations tend to be more brand loyal, Millennial consumers only show preference to the products and services that best meet their needs – regardless of their prior experience with other brands. Millennials are always looking for products and services that make things easier, faster, less expensive, or more reliable, so it’s important that you never stop streamlining your offerings – especially in mature industries. Companies like Redbox, Netflix, and Dollar Shave Club are a few examples of this.

Ready to incorporate this Millennial mindset into your long-term innovation strategy? While there are plenty of resources available for you to read about what makes Millennials tick, with SpencerHall’s Millennial Transforum® Brain Trust you can engage directly with some of the best and brightest Millennial minds in a fully customizable innovation process to meet your specific business needs. 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.

Download our brief to learn about how our Millennial Brain Trust process can reveal breakthrough innovation opportunities.

Transforum for Millennials

Topics: innovation, Millennials, consumer insight