The Myth of the Green Millennials

A widely held belief about Millennials is that they are inclined to care about environmental issues and are more likely to engage in green behaviors than other generational groups. This characteristic has not been lost on companies that see market potential in targeting Millennials with green products. This generathtion is different, or so we have been led to believe. They care about the environment and feel a sense of duty to preserve it after the years of neglect by their parents’ generation.

Research by an expert on Millennials suggests that the view of a greener generation may be a myth. Jean Twenge, a San Diego State University psychology professor, conducted a longitudinal study that found concerns about the environment among Millennials have decreased over time. Moreover, Twenge’s research found that Millennials were not as inclined to engage in green behaviors like cutting back on energy consumption and participating in environmental clean up as generational counterpart Generation X. These findings are counter to the notion that environmentalism is a priority for Millennials.

This post is not intended to debate whether Twenge is right or wrong. Her research has been criticized before because it tends to put Millennials in a less than favorable light. The takeaway here is to be willing to challenge assumptions about your customers, competitors, internal capabilities… in other words, all areas that impact your business. Just as Twenge has evidence of diminished emphasis on the environment among Millennials, other research can be produced that suggests environmentalism is indeed important to this generation. Which side do you believe? Both and neither at the same time!

Are there long-held assumptions or generalizations that influence decision making in your organization? It may be time to challenge them, testing their generalizability to today’s turbulent business environment. Marketing strategy may be grounded in outdated beliefs about customers or the external environment. Put assumptions to the test to determine their veracity. Otherwise, you may be making marketing decisions that are based on outdated or incorrect facts.

eCampus News – “Study: Young People not so ‘Green’ After All”

Marketing Lessons from the Class of 2015

A major life event is taking place now and in the coming weeks for thousands of families across the country as the college Class of 2015 begins their freshmen year. College is more than higher education in an academic sense; it is a phase in one’s life when they are molded intellectually, emotionally, and socially. From a marketing standpoint it is important to understand the characteristics of this segment of the population. After all, they are future customers, employees, and leaders of business.

One firm that has made its work about gaining insight into Millennials is Mr Youth, a New York agency that describes what it does as “decoding the mystery of the new consumer.” Its recent report “5 Ways to Friend the Class of 2015” identifies influences on this group’s lives and how brands should approach marketing to them. They have seen the bad – terrorism has been a constant in their lives since 9/11 and saw (and in many cases felt) the economic meltdown of 2008 first-hand, and the good- tech toys like iPods and tools like Facebook that give unprecedented connectivity. This group is a paradox in that while many suggest that technology can contribute to laziness, they also believe that they can get ahead through hard work.

An important takeaway from the study is how the Class of 2015 differs from their 2010 counterparts. Instead of an interest on brands that convey status, this year’s freshman class is more concerned with brand authenticity and relevance. Brands whose values resonate with Millennials’ personal values are more important today. The challenge that marketers face is two-fold: 1) understanding where Millennials are in terms of their values and beliefs, and 2) connecting with them in a way that brand values can be communicated in a way that builds relationships. Social media is an enabler for reaching this audience, and Millennials expect to have access to your brand. But, the tone of conversation should have less to do with marketing products than it does acting like a trusted friend.

Good luck to the Class of 2015! I look forward to having some of you in my classes one day.

Look at Customers Carefully… They Aren’t Necessarily You!

Despite the benefits market research provides in aiding marketers in making more informed decisions, the reality is that customer data is a luxury for many small and medium sized businesses. Customer insight usually comes from face-to-face interactions, but the opportunity to drill down deeper to learn from customers through focus groups, interviews, or surveys can be beyond a firm’s resource capabilities. Thus, we are often left to make judgments about customers based on experience gained from serving customers and competing in the marketplace. The danger of this approach to customer analysis is that it is easy to view customers through the lens of our own generalizations, and even stereotypes of our customers. The gap between consumer behavior and a marketer’s view of the customer can be exacerbated when there is disparity in characteristics between customer and marketer.

An example of how this difference in characteristics might play out can be found in a recent study by the Pew Research Center’s Social & Demographic Trends Project. In a survey about the necessity of different electronic and entertainment tools, only 46% of consumers 18-29 years-old said a landline phone was a necessity while 59% a cell phone was a must have. In contrast, 30-49 year-olds favor landlines, with 62% saying a landline phone is a necessity compared to 51% for cell phone. An even more pronounced difference between the two age groups was in their views of television as a necessity. Twice as many 30-49 year-olds said TV was a necessity than their younger 18-29 counterparts (58% and 29%, respectively).

The concern raised here is that if marketers make decisions based on what they think customers want or prefer, it is possible that personal biases will cloud effective decision making. Age-related differences in particular are a potential source of making incorrect assumptions. If marketing management ranks are staffed largely with 30-somethings and 40-somethings (or older), is their intuition about younger customers on target? I am not suggesting they are incapable of having a good understanding of younger consumers; I am merely pointing out the possibility of age differences leading to misguided analysis. After all, managers who come from a generation raised on TV may have trouble fathoming that people would not view TV as a necessity. However, the reality is many Millennials feel adequately connected to the world with computers and smartphones.

Pew Research Center – “The Fading Glory of the Television and Telephone”