Top Insights from our Millennial Think Tank 2014

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Back in June when we launched our Millennial Think Tank we had two goals:

  1. To start a conversation with GenY (the Millennial Generation)
  2. To dispel the gross generalizations that occur when we lump 80 million people into a specific category and qualify their behavior as a monolith.

It’s been a rollicking 6 months, and we’ve learned a lot. Along the way we’ve made quite a few Millennial friends, and we’ve created a core group on our Think Tank that has a unique chemistry. This chemistry has made it possible for us to have civil and honest conversations despite the fact that often our panelists do not see things the same way.
Here is a list of the top insights we’ve gathered about the 18 – 35 set so far:

  1. They bristle, hard, at the notion that they are the “entitled generation,” and instead feel strongly that they carry a great burden having to dig out of the national debt created by older people.
  2. Their concept of the American Dream has changed, dramatically. Very few of the 42 Millennials we have in our Think Tank show own homes, and most of them don’t lament that fact. Instead, they feel unencumbered by a 30 year mortgage, and are truly interested in experience over material possessions. We are very interested to see if this view changes as they age.
  3. Student Loan Debt is crushing them. Graduating with an average of $30K in student loan debt, a scarcity of jobs, and a 6.8% interest rate, student loan debt is the greatest expense, after rent, for most Millennials. Facing an inflation rate of 439% in tuition fees since the mid 80’s, this generation is definitely getting hosed on the cost of education.
  4. They care about Brand Ethics, to a degree. Most of our panelists will choose an ethical company over a non ethical one every time, if they can afford it. Judy McCloskey said it best when she stated:

    Do what you can, when you can, when you have the extra dollar.

  5. GenY is very entrepreneurial, probably by necessity. 27% of this generation is already self employed; graduating into the Great Recession has certainly played a factor. As much as this generation likes to socialize with their peers and be ‘a part of something,’ many of them are solopreneurs. If loans and funding would open up to them, there may be even more.
  6. Social Media has shaped GenY, and they have shaped it. During our episode focusing on technology, one thing has become very clear to us – this generation is savvy and suspect of technology. They are, by turns, deeply concerned about online privacy, and resigned to the fact that they don’t have much control. They do, however, assert as much control as possible, from switching browsing platforms regularly to being very careful not to click on social media ads.
  7. The world is a smaller place. Technology and globalization are part of the fabric of our world, and our panelists definitely feel that they are part of a global village; social media has been a primary impetus for this, allowing people to build friendships across international borders with ease.
  8. The term ‘career’ means something very different than it used to. On our How to Find and Keep a Job episode, just how different GenY’s career pathway is from earlier generations was clear. Change and the ability to evolve are unavoidable, and there is very little loyalty from employer to employee occurring or expected. It has also meant far more entrepreneurship, and holding multiple jobs at once.
  9. DIY customer service is greatly appreciated. Growing up with technology and being able to quickly find information means that poor, slow customer service is extremely frustrating for many younger consumers. Companies that allow them to troubleshoot online are greatly appreciated.
  10. Millennials are under no illusions about Social Networks. They understand that social platforms are businesses, and they are accountable to their shareholders. Although our Think Tank believes that networks should be held accountable for user privacy and safety, in reality, their expectations of that actually happening are very low.
  11. We may be witnessing a shift to true equality within relationships. There is definitely a change in how our panel sees marriage; most of our members had very equal distribution of duties within the home. Their views on relationships appear to be deeply rooted in pragmatism, and hearken back to a pre-Boomer view of marriage as a social contract.
  12. Social media has greatly impacted personal relationships of all types. Our Millennials are acutely aware of the false sense of intimacy that can develop online. Social media has also heightened their comfort with the typed or texted word, and probably diminished their comfort level with face to face communication, at least among a portion of the population.
  13. The Selfie craze is more complex that you may think. Selfie-happy Millennials are often ridiculed as narcissists, but our hangout focusing on Self Expression was eye opening. There are MANY reasons people take selfies; self empowerment, story telling, updating friends and families, documenting milestones.
  14. The future of sports will be interesting. The NFL and MLB are still holding GenY’s attention, but with the multicultural demographics of the younger generation we wonder if soccer or other international sports gain traction. One thing we know Millennials want is the ability to watch their sports online. They will pay to for that option, but they don’t want to pay for the other ‘garbage’ (i.e. cable packages) that they don’t want.
  15. GenY gets its news from multiple sources. Many of them don’t own a TV, and if they do it is often used to stream things. They consume a lot of foreign news, and unlike times past, would never turn to one trusted news source.
  16. They are skeptical of celebrity endorsements. Social media and the web have broken down who gate-keeps influence. Among our panel there was a sense that connecting to individual people — whether internet famous, nerd famous, or traditional celebrity—was more important than relating to a particular brand.
  17. Millennials don’t like to carry cash. We certainly understand that older generations are less likely to carry cash on their person as well. Millennials, who have yet to wholeheartedly embrace mobile payment options, instead reach for their debit or credit cards.
  18. At work, face to face communication is preferred. On our Multi-generational Workplace episode, we discovered that ALL of our panelists preferred in person communication for any issues of importance. They also had no preconceived notions about working with people from other generations, believing instead that most of the work place issues they had with co-workers were individual specific and not indicative of an entire generation.

We’ve taken a lot in over the past 6 months, and our eyes have been opened to many fascinating insights that our Millennial Think Tank has provided. If I were to choose one overriding theme to come out of our work, it would be that our original hypothesis that gross generalizations about entire generations are inherently flawed is spot on.

Yes, technology and social media have had a profound impact on Millennials, just as they have on all of us. This generation is more comfortable with technology than many older people, but they are not the entitled, lazy, spoiled brats that they are often stereotyped as. At ArCompany, working with our Millennial Think Tank has inspired us, and given us great hope for the future as we watch GenY age and take on a more and more important role in society.

Stay tuned and watch with us as we continue our weekly series, starting again on January 8th, 2015.

2 thoughts on “Top Insights from our Millennial Think Tank 2014

  1. JoeCardillo says:

    Great recap Amy. 
    Two thoughts struck me reading this: many of these insights are overlooked by the mainstream (sadly, but also advantageous for ArCompany’s work), and that distintermediation (bundling & un-bundling) is clearly at work when it comes to both how Millennials consume content AND view themselves…almost as if we are following the web as it breaks down into smaller chunks and reassembles into meaningful structures. Significant changes in how we build careers is a good example of that. One year on and I’m still re-reading and thinking through Andreessen’s interview w/CNN:

  2. jessandunnotis says:

    iSocialFanz, AmyMccTobin & ArCIntel ~ Good stuff! Thank you. #MillenialThinkTank2014

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