In an earlier post, we commented on the “adulting” craze — books and videos (and even a school) that train Millennials in the basic skills of acting like an adult. Skills which were “picked up” by previous generations as part of growing up, now apparently are still missing at a much older age, and require a veritable industry of training materials (including motivational sticker books and pdf’s of coloring pages!).
For marketers, though, these trends aren’t funny. They could be warning signs of an audience that isn’t in any shape to step up as adult consumers (or even young adult consumers) to the degree called for when you consider the amount of media dollars being thrown at them.
Marketers already know that this is true in terms of earning and spending power — benchmarks that can be measured precisely. But are there warnings signs on more qualitative benchmarks, like beliefs and attitudes? For some answers, ZoomerU went to Vividata’s 2017 Q3 Readership and Product Database. We looked at those who agree strongly with certain statements of opinion or attitude, and we compared the Millennials with other generations. The results are unsettling, to put it mildly. Here are a few highlights:
- Only 34.8% of Millennials agreed that “I am very good at managing money,” an index of 87 against the Canadian average of 40% agreeing with this statement. For Boomers, the index was 110 and for seniors (age 65+), it was 120.
- Almost a quarter of Millennials agreed that “I feel overwhelmed by financial burdens,” an index of 121 against the Canadian average. For the youngest Millennials, the index was 136. For Boomers, it was 77 and for seniors it was 66. The seniors’ number is interesting because the conventional “life stage” model would make them more anxious about financial burdens, not less, on account of being on fixed incomes. But this is not the case.
- Millennials indexed at 137 against Canadian average when it came to agreeing with “I don’t want responsibility; I’d rather be told what to do.” By contrast, the Boomers indexed at 70 and the seniors at 68. To be fair, only 15% of Millennials agreed with the statement.
- Over 30% of Millennials agree with the statement “I worry a lot about myself,” an index of 128 against the Canadian average. The Boomers indexed at 79 and seniors at 73. This is consistent with other research showing that optimism and general satisfaction with life increase with age.
Some important points should be noted:
- This is not about the Millennials being inherently deficient, as a generation. They are legitimately confronted by a stressful environment (particularly in terms of employment and the cost of housing), compared to what the Boomers encountered at that same age. It makes sense, too, that older generations are more confident, having achieved some predictability in their lives around topics that are still uncertain for younger people.
- So it’s definitely not that the Millennials will never get there. They certainly will, over time. It’s that, taken as a whole, they’re not there yet. When “adulting” is fully achieved, it will take place at a later age than was the case for seniors, Boomers or Gen X.
- The problem, then, isn’t the undesirability of Millennials as a target for marketers. It’s the mismatch between the degree of desirability, at the present moment, and the allocation of marketing dollars, also at the present moment. The Millennials think younger, behave younger and above all, spend younger, than is assumed by marketing models and media allocations.