To put it bluntly, Millennials are shallow. Or, at least that’s what conventional wisdom, as put forth in Nicholas Carr’s New York Times bestseller, “The Shallows” would have you believe. Many argue that technology and mass media are to blame for this trend, particularly pervasive among Millennialls. But is it true? Certainly, the rise of high-tech gadgets and constant connectivity have shaped us into an increasingly distracted culture with more options that ever, but does that mean it’s made the 30-and-under crowd less in touch with what matters?
Technology is also responsible for enabling Americans to immerse, search, discover, analyze, track and plan like never before. In fact, those supposedly shallow, tech-savvy Millennials, are actually demonstrating an extraordinary depth both on- and offline. They’re going deeper into issues, deeper into themselves, and searching for meaning through deeper life experiences.
facts: how millennials are displaying depth
According to Pew Research Center (2011), Millennials cherish the same values in brands and businesses as they do in people: truthfulness, genuineness, social awareness, respect and humility. (Not exactly what you’d call “superficial.”)
In addition, these consumers are:
- Rejecting Fame: 86% say fame is not important to them and 29% want to remembered as a generous person who positively changed the world.
- Conscientious: 69% recycle paper, plastic of glass at home and 57% volunteered in the past 12-months.
- Knowledge Seeking: 74% are willing to sacrifice “a great deal” for their education and 66% define success as being “smart and well read.”
- Humble: 58% think it’s important to work if you don’t need the money.
- Curious: 70% seek immersive, interactive, hands on experiences and 78% want to learn something new when they travel.
- Thoughtful: 63% think filial piety is important and 75% strive to have a good relationship with their parents.
- Open-Minded: 52% feel people ought to be free to lead “any lifestyle” and 33% consider themselves citizens of “the world” instead of Americans.
Sources: MRI July 2011, Pew Research Center 2011; Yankelovich 2011
We’re also seeing cultural trends in the Millennial segment that illustrate depth, not shallowness, such as:
- A return to long-form blogs and journalism. (Even 140-character Twitter is being used to disseminate long articles and posts serialized via #longreads.)
- A surge in new university courses that go into more depth on subjects like “Deep Ecology,” “Deep History” and “Deep Politics.”
- Movies with complex, philosophical mind-bending plots, such as “Inception” and “The Matrix” As does long, highly complex and detailed fiction, such as “Twilight,” “Harry Potter” and the “The Girl Who…” series.
- The rise of “Deeper Dating,” a new and less superficial form of speed dating.
- Soul-searching pastimes like Yoga (There are over 11 million yoga practitioners in the US.)
opportunity: go deep, not shallow with marketing to millennials
What ought to be exciting to marketers is that there are +50 million Millennials between 18-30 years old with spending power. They are playing against type, paying attention to the nuances of a brand story and reading the long-form text in fine print. They are keenly interested in the minutia of a brand’s provenance, footprint, ethics and sustainability. They are seeking more visceral, immersive brand experiences and opting for deeper, more meaningful brand engagements.
They’re not shallow skimmers; they’re deep divers. And it’s up to marketers to deliver. So, they would be remiss if they skew too far in the direction of sound-bite-banner-ad-FaceBook-banter-short-term-ad-hoc-style-over-substance-superficial marketing approaches. Today, there’s a real opportunity for authentic brands with heritage, complexity and a great story to go deep with Millennials for deeper returns.