Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Life Among Millennials

The ATL may be evolving more into NYC than we may think.

Mark Kooyman


Between Christmas and New Years, I moved from a neighborhood that sat on top of hill overlooking Emory University and the CDC to a place right in the heart of Buckhead.

For those of you not from the ATL reading this, Buckhead is the ATL’s version of the Upper Westside… or at least the ATL’s attempt at it.

The distance between the ‘hoods is about 4 miles.

Big difference is that there are more professional Millennials living up in Buckhead and less academic GenXers and Boomers.

While there is smattering of diversity in Buckhead, it is not near the level found among my old neighbors.

Earlier this week I met with an ad agency and presented different ethnographic exploratory options… ways to get into the day-to-day life of client consumer groups.

I shared with them the story of how a colleague of mine went and lived for two weeks with an Hispanic family in San Antonio to better understand how a QSR chain could better reach out and expand their share of the Hispanic market.

My move into the place is in many ways an ongoing ethnographic observation of the emerging Millennial powerhouse…remember there are 72 million of these generational folks scattered across the U.S.

The leading edge of the Millennials turns 33 years old this year; the trailing edge turning 22 years old.

If you want to get to know them more… go pick up a copy of DWELL Magazine. Check out the ads as well as the editorial.

The challenge in tracking generational groups is that as an arm-chair observer, you have to separate out behavior sets that are driven by age and those that are genuinely driven by a generational perspective.

Now living among them… there are some observations I offer…

(1) Their teenage ADHD has traveled with them into Adulthood.

Check out the few cable nets that they watch and check out the programming format. You will see quickly (no pun intended) that the story sets are littered with snippets.

Brand loyalty takes on new time parameters. Marketing paradigms that are driven around brand loyalty need to be trashed.

P.S. Ask Obama about brand loyalty among Millennials.

(2) There is no separation between leisure time and work time.

It’s all woven together. They have further extended work casual. They not only fail to separate mobile social media from work… in some ways they cannot even define a difference.

On the weekends, I see many of them dining out in their pajamas. As W Hotels proclaims… Whatever / Whenever…Your Wish Is Our Command.

“Permanent” and “Long-term” are not words in their vocabulary… “Loyalty” has a different meaning.

(3) Me — We are not a polar opposites.

Many of my peers still preach that Millennials are the epitome of the Me Generation. Many of my peers are Baby Boomers like me.

Without a question, Millennials were raised by parents…complete with day-care from infancy to after-school group activities through college. Mall food courts replaced going across the street and having dinner with Mike and his family.

Millennials thrive in social media groups.

Ownership of the conventional suburban home is less important… and now even owning a car is not a must.

Zipcars are hip. If you do not know what Zipcars are… Google it.

Being able to live in groups is cool. Facebook may be the replacement of their parents’ desire to go live on a commune.

(4) Technology is a given.

I remember when restaurants made clean restrooms a differential point of claim. Back 50 years ago… if a restaurant had a restroom that you could access without walking outside and going around back was a point of difference.

Today…clean restrooms are a given.

Millennials never knew a time when there wasn’t a PC in the house or mobile phone in the side pocket. Most have difficulty remembering when there was no such thing as social media… remember they were weaned on MySpace.

(Get ready for the ZOOM Generation to ask: What is MySpace?)

Hotels claiming “Internet Access” and retailers promoting “Check out our new website” need to wake up to 2012.

(5) In search for a cause…a meaning.

The Millennial enchantment with the 60s is not just a fashion beat. It’s also not a desire to experience their parent’s portrait of youth.

Millennials are in search for a cause of which they can claim ownership.

Occupy Wall Street provides a rich glimpse into this search. The vast majority of participants are not simply “college students”… they are the true representation of the Millennials.

The media showcased the lack of definition around what Occupy Wall Street represented… but highlighted the desperate need for at least “something” to unite behind.

As much as Millennials clamored around Obama and Change, the reality of that aspiration quickly crashed … and certainly affected Millennials more than the crashes on Wall Street and the real estate on Main Street.

So… here are five observations, I am sure there are more to come.

The BIG question is whether or not the marketing boardrooms stocked with the MBA-management teams are absorbing what is evolving among Millennials or dismissing it.

My bet is that in 2012 more will have come to the realization that what is happening out there is not only here to stay…but is demanding change in brand platforms and marketing paradigms.

If you are interested to learn more… come join me for a Starbucks in my new ATL ‘hood and listen to the table talk around us!



Mark Kooyman

CEO & Discovery Chief at EXPERIENCE Insight Group, Inc. In the business to discover and craft brand experiences that humans seek out and engage in.