Millennials, Generation Y, Generation Next, Generation Net or whatever the term de jour is to describe the demographic cohort born somewhere between 1980 and 1999 are a group that perplex, frustrate and intrigue anyone trying to keep a pulse on their habits and culture. Assailed for being lazy while lauded for their entrepreneurial acumen; derided as self-centered egoists while being praised as fierce individualists; scorned for their spendthrift ways while remaining a target of mass sympathy for coming of age during the greatest economic disaster since The Great Depression, Millennials seem adept at confusing and contradicting any and all that seek to examine, exploit or explain their people.
However, Millennials — with varying estimates placing them anywhere from 79 million to 92 million strong — are an economic force to be harnessed. Banks, home builders and real estate developers, technology companies, advertisers of all stripes and of course, the financial services industry are all looking to this group as older generations enter quieter times of their lives. Many realize they cannot employ the same tactics to market and sell to this demographic as they did to Boomers or Gen X. Many are also left grasping at straws as Millennials break entrenched social mores and turn their noses up at traditional sales tactics and marketing channels. The group, who by 2030 will exceed all other consumer groups combined, are a profitable powerhouse that must be courted and catered to in order for their purchasing power to be fully realized.
John Chandler, chief marketing officer of MassMutual Financial Group, knows the problem all too well and, in order to save their breath and their resources, the company markets to a psychographic rather than a demographic. Psychographics, or groups with certain personalities, values, attitudes, interests and lifestyles, may make it easier for companies to winnow down who is interested in what they have to offer, saving valuable resources and energy.
“If someone is just categorically not interested in thinking about managing their finances — this could be a baby boomer who does not care about planning for retirement or it could be a Millennial who just says, ‘I want to live the Michelob Light commercial for a little while longer’ — we are not going to reach them no matter what we do…We are trying to build our marketing around individuals who are in what we refer to as the ‘grown-up mind set,’” Chandler said.
A solution in place
Alex, a 26-year-old single account executive from Hoboken, N.J., owns no life insurance at this point in his life because he feels no need to. “There is no one that depends on me financially and it is just something that is not a priority at the moment.” Alex said he had never been approached by anyone in the industry to purchase life insurance and getting a phone call or having someone knock on his door would turn him off. However, if life insurance were marketed to him through his workplace, he would seriously consider it.
The bottom line
Millennials, unlike their baby boomer parents, for the most part do not self-identify as so and many regard the classification as capricious. (“Oh, is that what I am?” Michael the social worker asked.) The lack of a cohesive shared identity among the cohort may be a symptom of their time: A fragmented age where clear cut answers rarely exist, where information and data are willfully shared by the second only to be erased or augmented later. Where the world is a smaller, interconnected place containing common interwoven themes rather than hard delineations.