Millennials A Split Generation Today and in the Future?

Understanding how to appropriately target various generational groups has been a backbone of good marketing for a long time.  Today we hear a lot about the Millennial Generation.  This attention is very appropriate as this group is the largest generation in the country with 78 Million people.  But can you treat this group, now ranging in age from 19-36, as one?

For those who attended the recently completed HIRI fall conference, you know that the answer is no.  In a presentation, from Sarah Catlett of The Futures Company, it was pointed out that Millennials are really broken down into two sub-groups.  Emerging Millennials (age 19-27) and Adult Millennials (age 27-36) were the two groups identified.   The thesis is that these two sub-groups are at different lifestages and therefore have different attitudes.  Adult Millennials have houses, are married, have children and careers.  The Emerging Millennials are just starting move into that lifestage. I concur with this theory, but wonder if the Emerging Millennials will become like their older brethren or carry their own unique attitudes and behaviors?

One of the fundamental concepts underlying generational marketing is that people are shaped by the events of their time.  For example the Mature Generation, was shaped by World War II and the Great Depression.  In more recent times events like 9/11 and the 2008 recession may have had a fundamentally different impact on the two groups identified by the Futures Company.

9/11 fundamentally shook the feeling of safety for Americans.  It led directly to long and costly wars and visible changes for security purposes most everywhere you go.  The Emerging Millennials were only 5-13 years old when 9/11 happened.  They are likely to be have less able to comprehend the changes than the Adult Millennials who were then 14-22 years old.  This alone could lead to important differences.

The recession the US faced in 2008 was deeper and longer lasting than any since the Great Depression.  The Emerging Millennials at 12-20 years old likely were shielded from many impacts by their parents.  At 21-29 years old, the Adult Millennials were old enough to feel the impact finding a job and the pressure on their fledgling carriers.

So will the differences in experiencing these two major events lead to a long term difference in attitudes and behaviors that will cause these two groups to continue to be treated separately?  I believe that the answer is yes.  In my opinion, the Adult Millennials will feel a higher level of uncertainty over time and will end up being more cautious and more protective of what they have.  This in turn could translate into a broad range of differences in their preference for homes and home improvement.

 My recommendations are simple: 

1.      Focus your marketing of your products or services to the Adult Millennials now as they are in the prime years for homes and home improvement.

2.      Monitor how attitudes and behaviors shape up for these two groups over the next 5 years and see if Millennials will become one true generation or actually two unique ones.

Those are my thoughts; I look forward to hearing yours.

Fred Miller, President, Consumer Specialists

October 2015