Matt Williams: OMG! – Millennials really do inhabit a (social media) world of their own

“I consume all of my news online – everything I learnt about the Scottish Referendum came from Facebook.”

Welcome to the Millennial generation. Yesterday I was lucky enough to attend the launch of the first ever global Cassandra Report – a research paper that looks in-depth at the mindset of the 18-35 year olds in ten countries around the world.
For full disclosure early on, The Cassandra Report is created by Intelligence Group, a New-York company acquired by Engine earlier this year, and now part of our group’s US agency Noise.

But forgive the self-promotion. After an eye-opening morning, I couldn’t ignore some of the statistics, insights and comments on show.

Comments like the one that starts this piece. Sure, we all know that the newspaper industry is declining, but when asked, few of the Millennials on the panel yesterday admitted to even reading the conventional news publications online either – the only news they consume is what pops up on their Facebook news feed or whatever is trending on Twitter. Just think about that for a moment.

Whatever you think of the term Millennials, and whatever you really think about how the gap between generations is perceived, you can’t ignore a fundamental shift in the mentality of 18-35 year olds.

There are two billion Millennials in the world right now, and never before has such a large set shared more single-minded goals, attitudes and skillsets.

It’s a generation still recovering from the recession, with less social stigmas, an international mindset, and an intense focus on ‘brand me.’

So what did we learn from them in the Cassandra Report? Get ready for a barrage of facts, stats and some pretty scary/exciting (delete as applicable) quotes from genuine interviewees.

For Millennials, it’s all about the doing. 75 per cent say they’d prefer a cool experience over a cool product. And 72 per cent say they want a brand to help them become happier or better, not just give them something functional.

They’re omnicultural – they have more in common with people of a similar age on the other side of the world than ever before, and now more than ever they can communicate more easily with them too. Perhaps because of that, it should have come as no surprise that the Cassandra Report found that four in ten Millennials say they now prefer to communicate in pictures rather than words (as a writer, I for one think that’s pretty depressing).

But maybe brands still have work to do in reflecting this global mindset a little more – it’s time to treat people as international citizens and local experts. It’s perhaps no surprise that the campaigns that harness this insight are the ones that tend to do well at Cannes.

Millennials also love social media. No shit. But in the Cassandra Report, did Twitter or Facebook win the social media war? The unsurprising fact is that most Millennials will still relentlessly use both (although Snapchat, Tumblr and WhatsApp were mentioned just as often now), but they use them in different ways. “Facebook is where I lie to my friends, Twitter is where I tell the truth to strangers,” is perhaps my favourite quote in the whole report.

And what about Instagram? Surely if Millennials are communicating in images rather than words now, this is set to be the social network of choice? Sort of.

“Instagram has become an Amazon Wish List for me,” one interviewee said. “I take pictures of things I like, and when I have a bit of money I look though the list and see what I can afford.” This Millennial didn’t seem to be alone on this front either – but how many brands are harnessing that insight?

But if a Millennial does go to purchase a brand, what type of brand are they looking for? Well global Millennials appear to be three times as likely to wear socially conscious brands over luxury brands, 40 per net are willing to pay more for products that are eco-friendly, whilst 50 per cent say it’s important that the brands they are engaging with are transparent about their business practices.

This has brought a marked behavioural shift from other generations in how Millennials define success – success for them is shaped by how generally happy they are, rather than how much they love their job or the amount of money they earn.

All sound a bit too irritating, sickly-sweet and self-righteous for you? Well don’t worry, maybe you can take solace in the fact that only one-third of Millennials interviewed in the Cassandra Report think they will be better off than their parents, with this figure dropping below 25 per cent in Western Europe.

And hey, even Socrates and Plato moaned about the younger generations.

But there you have it. A full rundown of Millennials as we know them. If I put my Engine PR hat on, I could tell you that you could find out more about the full report here. But as someone who falls right into the middle of that Millennials category, I’m far too busy Instagramming eco-friendly items and reading the news on Facebook to do that.

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