Millennial Countertrends

(content originally published on www.mediapost.com, written by OMS's CEO Robin Hafitz and EVP Allison O'Keefe)

In marketing to Millennials, many brands focus on some obvious megatrends. These can be good for business but can also make a brand just another part of the pack. Fortunately, for this incredibly diverse and enigmatic generation, tapping into counter-trends can be as powerful as surging megatrends, and lead to more distinctive and differentiating strategies.

One example of a megatrend is “Digi-mania.” Millennials are known to be mobile multi-taskers and digital natives, so marketers might assume that when it comes to Millennials, all tech is good tech and there’s a constant need for “2.0.”

We call the countertrend to “Digi-mania” –“DIY Detach.” We’ve validated in research that Millennials are actually more apt than older generations to strive to disconnect. Millennial parents are more worried about tech’s negative effects on themselves and on their kids than Gen X parents. In fact, Millennials yearn for analog experiences and DIY moments. 

In our discussions with Millennials, we hear more and more about people wanting to completely disconnect and show their creativity. That's not to say that if they cook a meal they won't post a photo on Instagram, and expect feedback, but those two hours of detached creative time satisfies a yearning.

Three in five Millennials say that they're trying to take time to disconnect and focus on one thing rather than multitasking. Brands can create powerful emotional connections by remembering that there is a power in celebrating disconnected and creative moments and leveraging and inspiring analog creativity.

Another megatrend is “A.S.A.T”— all social all the time. This is, after all, the social networking generation, right? Yes, Millennials are living public lives and craving feedback and validation, but if you focus only on that, you might assume that everything they like they share online. The countertrend is “Intimate Individualism.” Millennials recognize how overwhelming it is to be constantly inundated with messaging in their social networking feeds and say that it actually adds unneeded competitive pressure to their life. Millennials want more and more to find ways to share with a very specific group that will connect with them around a passion, not simply bombard them with information. One example of intimate individualism can be seen in Snapchat's skyrocket as a platform. People feel it takes them into a more intimate social networking experience.

Again and again, we see that Millennials want more exclusive, real connections, and place the highest value on in-person encounters. So it’s important to realize that, while it's great to get people to share your messaging, there may be even greater power in more intimate sharing. 

Can your brand be a catalyst to intimate connections around passions? Could your brand be at the center of more personal circles? Leveraging the countertrend may build more brand affinity than just focusing on the megatrend.

Another megatrend marketers tend to think of is Millennials as “Generation ADHD.” Thus, many think it's all about quick, viral content and that long-form content is dead. Nothing could be less true. Millennials are leading the trend towards media marathoning with 70 percent saying they binge watch TV programs (versus less than half of Gen X.) It’s important to recognize that Millennials actually want full immersion and will spend significant time with content they love. 

Our last megatrend is what we call "IWIWIWI" meaning, "I want what I want when I want it." It’s easy to assume that Millennials always consume content on their own time and that real-time viewing is an archaic concept. Once again, the countertrend is fascinating. True Millennials watch on their own time, but they also lead “crowd viewing.” Over half of Millennials say they make a plan to watch certain TV shows at certain times with others often or very often, much more than Gen Xers. 

Sometimes Millennials want to give up control. Marketers need to remember that too much getting what you want leaves people wanting to be part of something bigger, which represents a major brand opportunity. Live or must-see events offer true immersive, shared community experience that Millennials crave. Marketers should not be afraid to tell Millennials what they need to be watching right now, as long as it delivers. 

Every megatrend creates a need for its inverse. Over focusing on the megatrends can blind marketers to the opportunities to connect with Millennials in a more authentic way that may be hiding in the shadows.