Photo by Nick de Partee on Unsplash

Consumer surveys indicate that people between the ages of 23 and 38 have different goals than those of their parents. Financial security and peace of mind remain priorities, but things like a steady job and home ownership aren’t as important to millennials as to earlier generations.

Instead, emotional needs rank higher on millennials’ lists than do material needs. For example, over a third (36%) of millennial survey respondents state “feeling happy” as a goal, and 33% say it’s essential to have the freedom to focus on individual wishes and needs.

Marketers trying to reach this age group (which makes up about a quarter of the current global population) need to understand the differences between this generation and the ones before it. It’s challenging to craft a marketing message if you don’t know your audience.

Why a different dream?

Most millennials came of age around the time of the global economic recession that began in 2007. They’ve known financial discord most of their adult lives, so millennials feel that they deal with different challenges than their parents did.

It’s important to understand those challenges when marketing to millennials, who might want to buy a home or drive a nice car … but feel like that’s out of their reach. Messaging must mesh with their mindset, and millennials are far less concerned with material possessions than their predecessors were. 

Instead, they’re focused on concrete, practical and lasting ways to boost their happiness (and that of their loved ones), not in physical goods that might give them short-lived pleasure. Messaging should thus appeal to emotion, as emotional success is a more honest form of success to millennials.

It’s a different world.

Almost half (47%) of millennials believe their dream is different from their parents’ because social norms have changed. There’s less of an expectation to graduate from school and work your way up the corporate ladder for 30+ years. There’s also less pressure to stay at home and start a family. Those things aren’t automatic “successes” anymore.

Another 39% of millennials believe that technological development over the years has contributed to wildly different possibilities for success and how to achieve it. The Internet has changed the way people work; video streaming has changed the way entertainment is consumed; social media networks have altered how news is delivered. Millennials are the first generation to exist in an online world.

Not only is the world different now, it’s also viewed through an entirely different lens by millennials. It’s a generation that consumes marketing, but it must be on their terms. These new social norms must present themselves in the message, and the message itself needs to be available when, where and how millennials want to consume content — NOT just how the marketer wants to deliver it.

Marketing has always been about leading consumers to where they already want to go. It’s the same thing with millennials, but it’s important to remember where they came from, as well as where they want to go, are different from past generations. In other words, millennials are original, which can be challenging but also exciting, thought-provoking, and enlivening.