Recently, Amy Henry (VP of Youth Insights and head of YouthBeat) and I attended the Youth Marketing Strategy Conference in New York. The focus was on young adult Millennials and the content focused on the entrepreneurial spirit that tends to describe this generation.
Millennials have grown up in a tech-centric world which has shaped their attitudes and approaches to problems. It has broken down barriers for entry, regardless of whether those barriers are finding a group of other like-minded people through social networking sites or getting funding to start their own ventures. This attitude also lends itself to a reinvention of systems that aren't working for them - they can recreate at a low risk.
At the time of this conference, I was also wrapping up reading The Second Machine Age (Brynjolfsson and McAfee) which argues that we are on the cusp of the second machine age where innovations will lead to a rapid increase in efficiencies in the workplace, much like we saw during the industrial age. But, they argue, with this age we will see the impact of efficiencies at a much faster rate than we did before. This machine age won't necessarily be marked by "new-to-us" innovations, but by new and creative ways to combine what already exists into something that's better, more effective, and more efficient.
We are already seeing Millennials create their own niche, their own jobs, showing more flexible and adaptable career aspirations, and even trying on different personas (e.g. through multiple social media accounts). And now we are only just beginning to see this generation develop products and services that are offering more choice and variety, and often finding new ways to use technology to provide new solutions to products that already exists, often for free or at a lower cost.
This connection through technology also lends itself to a new view of how they interact with the world, and brands around them. They seek entertainment, search for passion points, and filter their world through what makes "shareable" moments. But this also leads them to seek authentic experiences that feel real and believable in what they do and in the brands they use.
As we evolve through this "Second Machine Age" with Millennials leading the charge, how will that impact brands?
- How will brands continue to relate to these uniquely curated Millennial lives as they explore different personas, seek to differentiate themselves through unique experiences, and seek new ways to solve problems that brands already address?
- Will a connection to a belief or passion point, or advertising that generates unexpected brand experiences (leading to a shareable moment), be enough to build and sustain interest in a brand as new options begin to surface?
- How will the value proposition change as we see more products become available to those both at the top and the bottom of the income ranges through innovation and technology?
The answers will be as multi-faceted as the Millennials behind the questions.