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Alert Healthcare Marketers: Millennials are Growing Up

US Millennials (1982 - 2001) will increasingly consume US healthcare services, and a curious contradiction has emerged in the purchase of wearable health tracking devices. A new Merkle study suggests an emerging opportunity to tailor the millennial health brand experiences in ways that can evolve over time, just as generational beliefs do.

Millennials seek to make a meaningful impact, and they like brands they can trust, which are more like friends who share the same values. Millennials are witnessing today’s events: whether it’s the launch of a ‘cure’ like the new Hep C treatments, or a new technology like Amazon’s Alexa, or a political event like Brexit, or a presidential rally. These events continue to shape millennial attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors. 

Bottom line: a curious contradiction, in a recent Merkle Neuroanalytics study suggests millennials are growing up. While the study uncovers underlying personal motivations behind the purchase behavior of health tracking apps, we can see a steady evolution away from an inward, self-centered focus to a meaningful outward focus predicated on social recognition and making the world a better place. 

The millennial psyche driving purchase of wearable health trackers seems to defy conventional wisdom.  The study (a combined qualitative/quantitative set of 800 respondents) is saying that, while millennials state they are as determined as ever to be who they are, their actual motivations suggest they are not who we think they are. Up to now, millennials have been heralded as the most individualistic generation to date. This theory appears now to be dated – which has exciting implications for today's health marketers. 

Merkle’s unique approach to neuro-analytics goes beyond behavior (what millennials do) and attitude (how they feel) and delves further into the millennial psyche to understand motivations and values that drive what they do and feel. We know marketers have to reach millennials going forward, given their outsized buying power and their connection with technology. And marketers want to secure the coveted mantle of brand trust. -The study reveals a number of ways this can be accomplished.

Using a laddering technique, the motivations behind millennial behavior seek three key values:

  1. Belonging – the desire to be connected at all times
  2. Social status – being known, for example as “the tech guy” with the latest gizmos
  3. Individualism – the desire for freedom to be oneself

More so than any other driver, millennials are shifting their values toward bonds with family, friends, and peers – those whose opinions they care about. Consequently the strongest reason millennials now value wearable technology is to achieve social recognition, about 33 percent more than non-millennials.

Another millennial driver is social status and the recognition it brings. For example, millennials say they desire to live healthier lives, but that isn’t necessarily driven by  the desire for a longer life. Devices like fit trackers and other wearables are recognized by millennials as looking cool. Although they say they like to have an improved workout. they attribute their device and its relative activities with social status Having a visually-defined lifestyle is an important identifier among millennials.

Health brands should similarly cultivate social status – and provide authentic experiences connected with a meaningful health mission beyond the sale of pills. 

Health marketers should continue to provide tools to help millennials share what they learned, demonstrate to their community what they have accomplished, and let them bask in the glory of social recognition. In a sense, that feeling creates brand relationships that can last.

Individualism at its core is the idea of living your life however you wish. But now a collective sense of mission is the best way to tap millennial motivations, well beyond individual needs, into a broader coalition of social recognition bound together by a desire to leave the world better than they found it.

Learn more in our latest Millennials through leadership “The Curious Contradiction of Millenial Individualism” or our on-demand webinar, “What Makes Millennials Tick”.