At the end of the summer InSites Consulting organised a survey with more than 600 Dutch Millennials (born in the eighties and the early nineties – say youngsters aged 13 to 29) for Identify11, the MTV Networks Netherlands client day. Through that survey MTV wanted to test the local relevance of their new global brand brief. This repositioning happened after Mattias Behrer and I wrote the book “How Cool Brands Stay Hot“.
Since everyone is crazy about games and challenges, we invited the Dutch marketers to test their knowledge of the Gen Y consumer. In total about 75 marketers accepted the challenge. By the way: only 4 out of 10 claimed knowing how to create a strong brand for the Millennials target group, whereas about 7 out of 10 admitted simply following their intuition and their own behaviour. This is a rather dangerous approach, since only 17% saw a large overlap between themselves and the young generation which was the core of the survey.
Let us dive into the 4 themes. The first one was called ‘socially connected’, because, indeed, today’s youngsters are continuously in contact with each other and are always up-to-date, thanks to the media and the technologies they use.
“Without the continuous social contacts I die a little”
This new generation sees their mobile phone or their Facebook account as the umbilical cord which feeds them oxygen and life. They cannot imagine life without it and would rather go without sex for a month, rather than to have to move forwards without their mobile phone. The 5 main reasons for the addiction to social contact are (in order):
- Filling time and simply having fun
- Staying up-to-date on family & friends
- Keeping in touch with family and friends abroad
- Learning new things
- Meeting new people
A striking reason which almost all marketers missed in the test is number 4: learning new things. The Millennials are part of the “triumph generation”. A quarter of them want to be remembered as “someone who achieved something in life”. They were brought up on this ambition, by their equally ambitious Babyboomer parents. They are not called ‘echo boomers’ for no reason. That eagerness to learn creates some new and unclaimed options for marketers. Everyone is constantly talking about ‘gamification’, but is there anyone who is actually using it in his or her communication strategies? Brands who teach new skills to the Millennials or who help them achieve something in life are one up. In Anglo-Saxon circles they are referring to it as the switch from “pay for attention” (purchasing media pressure) to “play for attention”, because the ‘homo ludens’ in each one of us is looking for that addictive dopamine in our brain which brings us in the ‘flow” that the success of computer games is based upon.
The ‘continuously being connected’, by the way, is not limited solely to social media as is often assumed incorrectly. Evidently social media are ideal to stay up-to-date on your friends and to feel personally connected with them, even if you’re not physically with them. But papers or newspaper websites feed the youngsters’ communications, and they can also learn something from them. Magazines, TV and radio are media that compete to relax the youngsters the most, to kill boredom and time, and to have fun. These media make them really happy. It is no coincidence that comedy obtains such good scores amongst our youth.
Marketers tend to overrate the possession of digital appliances. But only the number of youth with a desktop computer is underrated. Half the Dutch youth have such a computer, whereas by now about 7 out of 10 also have a laptop at their disposal. About 4 out of 10 of all 13-to-29-year-olds have a smartphone and only 11% have a tablet (the majority of which, say 7%, having an iPad).
In the Netherlands, where Hyves dominated for a long time, Facebook has also become the number 1 social network for youngsters. 74% of the 13-to-29-year-olds have created a profile, with about 65% still having a Hyves account. It is striking that Hyves is even stronger amongst those aged under 16. 85% of the Dutch Millennials aged 16 to 18 already have a Facebook profile, whereas this percentage is only at 59% amongst those aged 13 to 15. But even if the platforms they use are often digital, the social network of Dutch youngsters is definitely not that virtual. Out of 100 social network friends, 37 are people they are also in touch with in real life on a daily basis, 24 are friends they are in touch with slightly less often, 16 are family members they see frequently, 9 are colleagues, 8 are family members they see less regularly, and only 6 are people they have never met in person.
When youngsters arrange to meet friends to go to a party, to go for a drink or for something to eat, they do so in the first place via an ‘old-fashioned’ SMS, or a voice call, or even in a personal conversation. Our survey showed that the youngest of the Millennials do agree to meet more often via chat or social media messages.
“I love the world: I enjoy, I participate, and I want to achieve something”
Millennials are addicted to stimuli and are looking for direct emotional and material satisfaction on the one hand, and also for long-term happiness, connection and success. Even if half of the Dutch youngsters think New York is the coolest city in the world and 1 out of 3 give that title to London, they still feel most connected with the city or the village they are currently living in. The second spot goes to the city or village they were born in, and their native country comes 3rd.
About half the Dutch Millennials think emotional satisfaction is more important than material satisfaction, and 6 out of 10 of them would rather be normally happy in the long term than know brief intense happiness. Only 13% prefer the material and short intense happiness.
If Millennials were calling the shots, they would start by attacking the following 5 issues:
- Lack of respect towards the fellow man: 37%
- The economic crisis: 33%
- The hardening of society: 31%
- Racism and radicalism: 24%
- 5. Global warming: 18%
In other words: youngsters resent the fact that nobody does anything for a fellow man any more out of sheer kindness. Marketers thought the economic crisis would be higher on today’s youth’s agenda.
A more recent marketing approach appealing to this fact is the Bacardi Together campaign.
More than half the youngsters are convinced that the future will be better, even if 1 out of 3 is slightly worried as well. The latter is probably related to the economic crisis. About 64% of the student-Millennials are still convinced that there are many chances to reach something, compared to a “mere” 50% amongst the Dutch working youngsters. In any case, 7 out of 10 know that anything is possible, as long as you work hard enough to achieve it. That work ethos and the ambition of Dutch youngsters were both seriously underestimated by the marketers.
“Only when something is surprising or funny, I have that ‘WOW’ feeling”
About 46% of all Millennials indicates constantly wanting to experience new things; they are not aiming for a quiet life. They are real ‘stimulation junkies’. 55% thinks it is important for brands to do something unexpected once in a while, let’s call it a ‘random act of kindness’.
In the table below you will discover the top 3 reasons which ensure youngsters to be impressed by a person, an event or a company. It is striking that being surprised, being made to laugh and staying loyal to one’s own identity (authenticity) are indispensible to score with the youth.
Marketers had underestimated the importance of authenticity in marketing and branding towards Generation Y. A quarter of the Dutch youth wants to be remembered as ‘loyal to oneself’. The wish to help improve products and services, placed on number 1 by the youth, was not immediately identified as top-of-mind by the marketing practicians. Brands should mainly be trustworthy and honest. That is what matters to 47% of the Millennials. 35% wants brands to be original and ahead of their time, and 32% is looking for interesting and captivating brands. About a quarter of the Dutch aged 13 to 29 think it is important for brands to focus on people of their age, and equally as many want the brands to be positive and optimistic.
Generation Y is sometimes described as the “gadget generation”. And indeed, this does seem to be the case. When asked what youngsters around them currently talk a lot about, this was the subject top 5:
- technology (new gadgets, mobile phones, computers…)
- social networks
- television programmes
In other words: technology does not only have a ‘WOW’ factor, it also has a ‘WOM’ (word of mouth) factor: it dominates our youth’s conversations.
“Love is all you need”
A quarter of the Dutch Millennials lives in a family of divorced parents. Our survey shows that youngsters in such a situation are slightly less happy. On average they give themselves 7.3 out of 10 for feeling happy, compared to 7.7 for youth in non-divorced households. But although 18% of the 13 to 29 year olds think you should feel sorry for children of divorced parents, that opinion is shared by only 9% of youngsters who are actually living in such a situation. Besides, the majority of the Dutch youth (52%) still believe in eternal love, and only 14% thinks they would not be able to spend the rest of their life with 1 partner. Three quarters indicate preferring a fixed relationship to one-night stands and the majority also prefers love over sex. So maybe today’s youth is better-behaved than their parents.