Millennials Crown Themselves as Market Movers

I won’t be the first to write about millennials, and honestly, this won’t be the first time I’ve written about millennials.

But I recently had a thoughtful shift on the true impact millennials are having on the global economy. For a decade, we’ve heard about the shift from focusing on boomers to millennials, and this got me thinking. What caused the rush to crown millennials as this generation’s market movers? Why had this group of yo’ pros, empowered unlike any previous, been given the authority to change the way business is done globally? And then it hit me…millennials weren’t given the power. They took it.

Here at Incite, rarely a client conversation passes without proclaiming that the company is always thinking about how better to reach millennials. Luckily, this is an area we have a lot of experience in. We recently completed foundational research to understand what drives millennials and learn more about their social impact interests. While a ton of nuggets came out of a robust survey, I was floored to learn that 79% believe they can make a difference in the world, and not just on a local level. 44% believe they can make a large impact on a national scale, with a full 34% believing they can make a large impact on a global scale. Let that sink in. More than a third of today’s largest consumers believe they can change the global landscape. How arrogant, right? Or is it just realistic and refreshing?

While this undoubtedly plays into the narrative of millennials being dreamers, there is something tremendously respectable and exciting about a generation deciding that accepting the status quo isn’t good enough. In dreaming big, millennials demand that the brands and companies they support also dream big and use their size, scope and influence to improve the world.

The crazy thing is that it’s working. Chipotle this week announced it is removing all GMOs from its food, caving in to pressure from health-conscious younger consumers. Toms continues to expand its millennial-fueled empire, most recently into the coffee space, adding to its shoe and glasses portfolio. Even Starbucks’ ill-fated #raceforward initiative was driven by a willingness and a demand by millennials to discuss topics that were previously deemed off-limits.

Cynics may say that brands are merely reacting to what their consumers want and that Toms offering coffee is no different a brand extension than Taco Bell offering breakfast. But I think it’s a newfound respect for the consumer, a response to a growing base of customers who demand more than quality goods or services from brands and place a greater importance on their beliefs than their products.

Consider a recent Mashable article which noted that a mass majority of consumers now expect brands to be environmentally responsible. Not prefer brands that are, not try to engage with companies when convenient, they expect the brands they purchase to be socially responsible. This extends far outside the US, too, as the 66% of US customers that expect environmentally-conscious brands is trumped by the 70% of consumers in the UK, and an amazing 94% in India. This phenomenon is fueled by the younger, more conscious consumer.

Our research also showed an interesting prioritization among millennials, that the most important values are happiness and health, followed by love, wealth and fame, in that order. No longer can we directly tie money to happiness, and thus, there is a greater willingness to spend more to support brands consumers believe in. No one ever argued that Toms were the most fashionable (though they are quite comfortable) or even worth $40 and up, but the feeling customers get knowing their purchase helped someone in need get shoes, is well worth overpaying.

While the millennial movement has been happening for the past decade, the gradual shift has downplayed the impact millennials had on driving that shift. The confidence to demand that the political figures, brands and companies they support also hold up their end of the bargain is an unprecedented alteration that has kept our best brands on their toes and evolving with the time. We’re happy to be along for the ride, helping our clients navigate through previously uncharted waters!