A large part of this series will discuss Generation Y, or the Millennial generation, and their mindset and habits. Millennials are the first global generation, having grown up alongside the Internet and therefore, alongside the rest of the world. Every other civilization in history had their identity crafted by their local community, their predecessors, and human nature. For the first time in the history of our planet, a generation of people has had the opportunity to learn, share, and grow with everyone else on Earth.
While our towns and neighborhoods will continue to help define us, our interests and friends will have diverse trends, focuses, and subcultures. For the first time, we all have access to the same treasure trove of information, films, music, ideas, and technology anywhere, anytime. We’re not hampered by problems of distribution and circulation, nor information gatekeepers or government censorship.
The Millennial market is not exclusively the market consisting of millennials, but rather the entire marketplace that this generation has helped form. Through the use of the Internet and social media, the primary means by which good and services are found, purchased, and sold has changed. It also follows rules – codes of behavior that are acceptable to the dispositions brought to it by the millennials but adopted in various degrees by every living generation.
It is important to recognize that most millennials did not create the millennial market, it is in fact the result of the third industrial revolution that began in 1957 along with the digital age. Millennials instead set the sociological tone for the way humans behavior in a digitalized market place, which will last from now until the next major human shift.
The millennial market has three pillars:
- The primary form of existence in the marketplace is digital.
Whether you’re looking for an apartment, creating a grocery list, looking for a place to eat or buying car. The journey will almost always begin online.
We once lived in a world where referrals, word of mouth, or location were the primary way to generate business. While the same may be true, the Internet and our connected devices have supercharged that experience to allow referrals from strangers to carry equal or greater weight. Word of mouth is often more about social media than it is about talking around the office water cooler, and location is more about Google rankings than curb appeal.
While we will not end up being completely introverted and glued to our phones for every purchase, we will continue to change the wiring of our brains to look first to the internet as the primary way we discover and make decisions about what we buy. Because of this a Millennial market begins online. Businesses must completely immerse themselves in the digital world, not just to “catch up” or do the bare minimum, but prepare for an even more digitally-saturated world.
2. Every product must be improved or die.
John Rockefeller and Andrew Carnegie amassed their wealth by creating one product, and standardizing it. The same is true with Coke, Marlboro are also great examples. We no longer live in a commoditized world.
The auto industry is the pioneer of the innovation driven market. The idea that each year a new line of cars would be released that are stronger, faster, and better was just the beginning of the idea that a company would only be trusted if i could innovate and perform.
As with the early days of the car industry, we see thousands of new tech companies, apps, and startups of all kinds entering the market. Most will either die or be sold. While this trend of innovation driven business born in the early part of the last century, it has been perfected in the Millennial economy.
Most businesses will fail if they do not continue to serve their clients with newer and better products and services. Starting a business is easier than ever.
The accessibility to starting a business and bringing it to market began with the personal computer and the internet. It will be accelerated with technology like 3d printing for prototypes, that are designed in using tactile user interfaces like 3d displays or virtual reality headsets to quickly improve upon old ideas and make them better.
Elon Musk casually demonstrates these interfaces by showing the evolution of a new kind of rocket in a 2013 video. Designing, testing and producing a rocket 40 years ago would have taken a team of engineers, millions of dollars and years to produce. Now it only takes one or two people, a little over one hundred thousand dollars and less than a few weeks. This means a hobbyist can take down major corporations just by building a better mousetrap and marketing it.
If a business does not have a culture of change, building change itself into its DNA, the company will be a flash in the pan and gone faster than one-hit wonders.
3. Everyone and everything is branded.
A brand is an identity and a story. Logos and taglines are not a thing of the past, they must have meaning and depth behind them. One of the strongest trends of the Millennial market is going to be the blurring of the line between people and brands. This will happen in both directions, first brand will need to continue to become more and more personified with a voice, character, and reputation, literally becoming more of a citizen. On the other side, people will begin to brand themselves.
Individual branding is at the heart of social media. For the first time people can build an identity collage or mashup of everything with which they identify, and have the ability to to be creative producers of ideas. They create for themselves an image of how they want to be perceived by others.
I read a book called “Leadership Presence.” The premise of the book maintains that anyone can be a leader by taking on a persona and playing a role. Basically, “fake it till you make it.” Social media allows people to quantify their existence and intentionally craft who they are and how they’re perceived by others.
While this has been ridiculed as hollow and fake in several YouTube videos and will likely continue to be a cultural epidemic, there is no changing the fact that this self-branding is here to stay, and will be a major driving force behind the marketplace.
These three pillars are just the beginning of understanding business needs as we venture further into the 21st century. Because Millennials drive the economy, and will continue to do so for the next thirty years, it has become immensely important to understand the major common factors of the generation. These include geopolitical events and technological trends, how they shaped the group psychology, and impact the consumer culture of all digitized future humans.