Experience is king

Experiences are at the heart of millennials’ expectations and start of their journey into adulthood. They have huge FOMO of two key experiences, university and travel.

Even as the cost of education increases and the benefits, like higher salaries and graduate employment, are less guaranteed, there’s still a strong fear that if they don’t go to university they will miss out on an important life stage that is key to their progression.

A second consideration is overseas travel, which is now very commonplace amoungst younger generations (and we’re not just talking about a week in Marbella). Gap years aren’t just thought to be possible before and after university but also mid-career, whilst opportunities to work abroad are jumped at. On many occasions even a week’s holiday or a short-break can also be used to further a key passion.

These experiences allow millennials to have multiple identities; they can be city slicker one day, then seamlessly turn into chef, Yogi or festival-goer the next. It’s a key motivator in their life-choices.

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Experiences are social currency

The value of experiences goes above the personal effects they have on the individual. They in fact become a social currency and a way of showing the world that they’re living an amazing and exciting life.

These days, millennials don’t just show a film of photographs to their closest friends and family. They publish, share and document every detail of their experiences to a wide audience every step of the way using social media.

And they’re curating and sharing more than just the big life events, but the day to day experiences that resonate with their peers and followers. Different social media platforms are specially selected for different kinds of experiences, carefully aimed at the audience who will be most responsive.

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Fear of not progressing in life

Experiences aren’t the only thing they’re passionate about. They’re also highly competitive about how they progress in life compared to their perceived peer groups, whether they be known friends or someone they follow or admire.

They are filled with hopes and fears about not getting on, which together with the competitive pressure they self apply or feel from society, makes for a powerful and motivating force.

Getting on in life can be focused on many areas from career, status, family, property, possessions and work-life balance. Millennials prioritise different elements based on their own circumstances and believe they can choose whether or not to “play the game” to progress towards their goal.

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The progression game

There are many ways to get on in life with millennials having more access to technology and choice than ever before. In our research we noticed a number of trends that sit on a broad spectrum of behaviour and adaptability.

At one end there are those who are progressing in more traditional ways, “playing the game” by the tried and tested rules of older generations - either competently or very successfully.

At the other end there are those who are “changing the game” - either by creating a new definition of success with their entrepreneurialism or making big life decisions to focus on a better work-life balance. You no longer have to accept to ‘work for the man’.

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The new Odyssey

There is an academic term for a common new life stage before full adulthood* which many young people call “Odyssey”.

*According to our sources, full adulthood can be defined by four main successes:
a) Moving away from home
b) Becoming financially independent
c) Getting married
d) Starting a family

As expected, due to many societal factors, fewer millennials are able to (or necessarily want to) achieve all four. Not to be pressured by tradition, they may delay or change the order in which they achieve them.

In the Odyssey years, millennials turn to experiences. Without lots of responsibility it’s an ideal time for an enjoyable, passion-led lifestyle. They’re drawn to spending in this time, to maximise all the opportunities available to them. However, fear comes in again with the possible tension that they should really be saving for their future.

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Social perfection

Never before has a generation been so exposed to social affirmation. A new pressure to be perfect adds to their anxiety, and social media fuels it daily. They’re not only worried about how they look physically but also how they appear to be progressing.

Older millennials seem better equipped to put social media into perspective in comparison to the younger ones who grew up with likes, shares and comments in their teenage years. They are completely immersed in the pleasure and the pain of it and only some have the power to say no. Although generally we all prefer to be “liked” in person, a social media “like” can be planned out, publically seen and be achieved at any time or from any place.

Younger millennials are often in a constant need of affirmation, asking friends for advice on a decision they are making, a look they are wearing or even a product they are buying. However, being a competitive bunch, they don’t like to expose too many of their flaws, vulnerability or lack of knowledge if they can help it.

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The research experience

It may come as no surprise that millennials spend so much time researching purchases online. We’re often told it’s because millennials are hard up for cash but we believe it’s more than that and they genuinely enjoy the experience.

For many it has replaced the traditional Saturday afternoon spent on the high street. Looking online helps to inspire and curate their favourite brands with filters, whilst keeping up to date on trends. It means that when they make an “impulse purchase” they are already fully informed on any item.

And whilst research is providing them with a wealth of information, brands remain the big stars. They may be bought at competitive prices, but it’s what the brand represents that is the prize.  Millennials go into online research willing the brands they like to do well and love to bask in the values or lifestyle they represent. It means that, even if their intention was to save money, online research can actually lead them to spend more than they intended.

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The good, the bad & the brands who listen

With the rise of ad blocking, the ability to skip adverts and an overall decline in commercial TV viewing, it is often thought that millennials are cynical and hate all advertising. This couldn’t be further from the truth - they simply hate bad advertising. They define the great advertising that they love as subtle, authentic and impressive. They like seeing a real effort to relate to them. 

They want to be motivated by brands who talk about passions beyond their product, but these brands must be genuine and not treat them like idiots. Additionally, they expect brands to be funny, beautiful or clever but above all must feel like they are understood.

Millennials are no longer passive consumers of media, they want on demand choice and expect interaction with platforms. In return, they want something back for the time or effort they spend with your campaign. More than ever they’re keen to co-create with brands but have to feel they’re getting something out of it. For brands who can harness this power, expect lots of social currency!

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