How well do marketers understand Millennials?

Jake GammonHead of Omnibus, US
September 22, 2014, 1:35 PM GMT+0

How well do marketers and PR experts understand the two largest generational markets? Representing more than 158 million people combined (approximately half of the US population), Boomers and Millennials have been picked over, dissected and analyzed by marketers and researchers eager to access a larger share of their respective wallets.

YouGov conducted the YouGov Omnibus Generational Survey, asking Millennials and Boomers what was really important in their lives, their aspirations for the future, who they admire, and how they feel about their country and their place in the world.

We then asked marketing and PR professionals to tell us how they thought each generation would respond, and analyzed how well they understood these the markets.

What is important in your life?

The stereotype of the bright-eyed idealistic Millennial serving his or her community and searching for creative outlets isn’t always supported by the data. Neither is the notion of the aging Boomer who maintains a laser-like focus on accumulating enough wealth to secure a comfortable retirement. As a matter of fact, the similarities between each segment are more numerable than the differences.

While both groups professed that making the most of every single day, supporting their families and personal health and wellness are their the top three priorities, they also agreed that career, wealth, philanthropy and individualism are much lower priorities, however, there was some difference in emphasis.

What is important in your life? Top three responses

80% of marketers thought Millennials would be focused on creating something new and individual and well over 80% thought Boomers would be focused on creating a stable nest egg for retirement and wealth accumulation. Although more than half (57%) of Boomers thought the accumulation of wealth was important, it rated relatively low on their list of top priorities. Marketing and PR executives correctly assessed Millennials as aspiring to be fit and healthy, but didn’t recognized that for 90% of Boomers it was one of the most important goals in their lives.

Where marketing and communications execs were most off target was the pragmatic concerns of Millennials regarding their retirement planning. Only one third (33%) of marketers thought that retirement savings were important to Millennials but nearly three-quarters of Millennials (73%), caught in the double bind of student loans and an economic slowdown, recognize the importance of working today to ensure an enjoyable retirement tomorrow. This is only a few points behind Boomers (79%), for whom retirement has either already arrived or is looming close.

In your wildest dreams?

To assess the aspirations of Boomers and Millennials, we asked respondents the following question: In their wildest dreams, if they could be rich, beautiful, healthy, successful or happy what would they choose?

Marketers incorrectly assumed the extent to which Millenials and Boomers placed career-oriented aspirations relative to other options, as indicated by their ranking of success in a particular field as the second most aspirational goal for both generations. They were also off base in their assumption that the ‘selfie’ generation would hold beauty, which only accounted for 5% of the total vote, in high regard.Again Millennials and Boomers were in general agreement; real-life restrictions temporarily lifted they would like a lottery win, but also aspire to have a happy and successful family and to be fit and healthy. Health and fitness is an important theme for Boomers and was generally under-estimated by our panel of marketers.

Most Admired?

Millennials are leery of corporations and the culture of celebrity, which they made explicitly clear in their responses to the business figures, politicians, and media personalities they admire most. In each category, millenials cited that they did not respect and admire any media, political or business personalities as one of the top three responses..

Marketers and communications experts failed to anticipate this particular reaction from Millenials and seemed more attuned to the Boomer responses.

Ronald Reagan and John F. Kennedy topped the Boomer list for most admired politicians and were correctly identified by marketers, however, Boomers also included Barak Obama not Bill Clinton among their top three.

Walter Cronkite and Barbara Walters topped the Boomer lists of top media personalities and were correctly identified by the marketers, however marketers were incorrect in their assessment that Oprah Winfrey would round out the top three for Boomers, a spot which was claimed by Rush Limbaugh.

Marketers were on the mark with business personalities matching the Boomer choices of Warren Buffet, Bill Gates and Henry Ford.

Millennials, however, continued to confound our experts. Jon Stewart was correctly identified in the top three media personalities, however, Oprah Winfrey came in at number two, with “I do not admire any media personality” at number one. Marketers surveyed predicted that Stephen Colbert and Bill Maher would be two and three. Colbert made it to number four but Maher was behind Whoopi Goldberg, Anderson Cooper, Barbara Walters and Rush Limbaugh. Millennials may have a social conscience but they don’t necessarily espouse liberal political ideology.

Bill Gates and Steve Job topped the admired business person list for Millennials, but not Mark Zuckerburg as assumed by most marketers.

JFK, no political figures and Barak Obama topped the Millennial political list, not Obama and the Clintons (Bill and Hilary) as posited by the marketers.

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Image courtesy of Press Association