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Retail Surveys

Millennials desire authenticity, are cause-oriented

By Brecken Branstrator

June 17, 2014

New York--Though the Millennials were severely impacted by the recession, they remain an optimistic generation who will continue to spend, albeit with continued caution and control, a new report by Nielsen shows.

In “Millennials--Breaking the Myths,” Nielsen found that since Millennials have been particularly hard hit by the poor economy they have a higher “Misery Index”--measured by the unemployment rate plus inflation--than the older generations. This fact should not be forgotten when communicating with the generation.

Honestly and authenticity are the best ways to approach the communication, two factors which Millennials value in brands and companies. Companies should engage in a two-way conversation with them, especially on social media.

Their lower-than-average income also means that Millennials are more likely to live paycheck-to-paycheck. Though they want to buy the latest products and tend to make impulse buys, they have to find a balance with the money they actually can spend; Millennials make fewer shopping trips than their older counterparts but spend more per trip, $54 per trip versus $46 for baby boomers, the report showed.

They’re also intently focused on finding a good deal. Deals account for 31 percent of their shopping dollars, according to Nielsen. Additionally, the top 20 apps used by this generation are either retail or discount focused.

Despite the difficult situation they’ve had while coming of age, Millennials remain optimistic and ambitious. While 69 percent don’t feel like they currently earn enough to support the kind of lifestyle they’d like, 88 percent think they’ll be able to in the future.

They also care deeply about philanthropy, both from themselves and from the brands and products they’re buying. Despite a low income and unsteady financial situation, three-fourths of Millennials made a financial gift to a nonprofit in 2011. The report showed that they care most about education, poverty and the environment. 

They’re also more willing than the older generations to say they would spend more for goods and services from companies that have programs that give back to society. Caring about a brand’s social impact thereby makes cause-marketing appeal to this generation, Nielsen emphasized.

Being the social generation that they are, they also will spread the word to their networks about the causes and events that they care about. This constant connection and conversation makes social media and mobile a very efficient way to communicate with them. As of the first quarter of 2013, three out of four Millennials owned a smartphone.

As a group, they’re also influenced by celebrity endorsements. They respond best to advertising that features celebrities, characters they can relate to or strong visual elements that can be tied to their creative, individual spirits.

In fact, they have an especially strong tie with the music that they like, and are particularly responsive to advertising featuring their favorite music artists. Twenty-four percent of younger Millennials (ages 18 to 27) and 26 percent of older Millennials (28 to 36 years old) said that they would try a brand or product if they sponsor a music event for an artist they like.

According to Nielsen, an endorsement campaign with a music artist can increase buy rates of a product by as much as 28 percent among that artist’s fans.

Other interesting demographics about those included in the Millennial generation are as follows:
-- They’re still working on climbing the income ladder, as the median income for the younger members of the generation is $25,000 and $48,000 for the older set.
-- Fewer are getting married: 21 percent of Millennials are married, compared with 42 percent of baby boomers who were married at comparable ages.
-- Millennials make up 20 percent of same-gender couples.
-- Millennials prefer urban cities to the suburbs and, with the exception of Washington, D.C., the top markets for Millennials are in the western portion of the country, including Austin, Texas; San Diego, Los Angeles and Las Vegas.

Nielsen’s recent report on the Millennial generation can be downloaded in its entirety on