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The Critical Missing Data about "Generation Selfie"

There is no question that in the age of the customer, marketers are expected to be customer obsessed. Millennials have grown up in the digital age and have come to expect consistent, high-value, personalized digital experiences. This has led the entire industry to be fixated on reaching millennials in a meaningful way and sustaining those relationships — after all, they represent $200 billion in buying power.

So what is the industry saying about this hyped, economically powerful generation?

We know who they are. A commonly referenced research report, titled “15 Economic Facts about Millennials, conducted by the U.S. Government (2014), identifies this generation as Americans ages 18 to 34. The report notes that this generation is the largest, most diverse age group to date, they have advanced education but have been one of the last generations to recover from the recession and thus carry more debt, and they value family and community but are drifting away from traditional institutions — political, religious, and cultural. They are getting married later in life compared to previous generations and are less likely to own a home as a young adult (likely due to debt issues). But you likely know this — marketing blogs and journals abound with infographics and thought pieces full of similar information.

How well do marketers really know "Generation Selfie"We know what they do. The Pew Report (2014), Millennials in Adulthood, brings to light that millennials were born into a “connected” world. They are the “digital natives.” Being hardwired with their smartphones and other devices means millennials can connect their two worlds: one real and one virtual. Not surprisingly, they are the most avid users. For example, 81% of millennials are on Facebook, where their generation’s median friend count is 250 — far higher than that of older age groups (these digital generation gaps have narrowed somewhat in recent years). Millennials are also distinctive in how they place themselves at the center of self-created digital networks. Fully 55% have posted a selfie on a social media site; no other generation is nearly as inclined to do this.

We know how they view the world. Millennials are portrayed as the most individualistic generation that has ever lived — the generation that’s replaced “rules are made to be broken” with “there are no rules.” Two leading New York Times columnists coined the generation the “The Self(ie) Generation” and even went as far as coining this era as the “The Age of Individualism.”

Opinion pieces and behavioral research studies have supported this idea of millennial individualism, claiming they’re less social and more focused on themselves than past generations. The conventional wisdom is millennials are determined to be who they want to be as individuals, the opinions of others be damned.

Is this the full picture?

We have a demographic, behavioral, and attitudinal understanding of millennials — we should be good to go, right? While this research offers a thorough perspective about how they act and view themselves, it completely neglects an entire category of data — and it’s the most critical to persuade them to purchase.  

If we want to be truly customer focused and relevant in our marketing messaging, it’s crucial that we go beyond what they do and how they feel to discover why they act. We must understand the personal relevance within the buying process — the subconscious motivational level that the audience themselves may not be aware of.

Forrester Wave praised Merkle's application of behavioral psychology in a recent reportTo solve for this need, Merkle utilizes Neuroanalytics, which uses a combination of cognitive psychology (laddering) and advanced analytics to understand and quantify both the rational and non-rational decision-making factors that go into a purchase. By moving past self-reported attitudes and uncovering the deep-seated psychological motivators, researchers can map out a consumer’s instantaneous and subconscious thought pattern and measure its statistical relevance and accuracy — often discovering that the audience’s motivations are not what they seem.

To understand the potential of Neuroanalytics, you have to see it in action. Join us for a Merkle Neuroanalytics webinar that will reveal “what makes millennials tick” in our study of the wearable technology category. We’ll compare and contrast millennials’ and non-millennials’ motivations to understand why they bought wearable tech, what it says about their larger priorities, and how marketers can leverage that insight to make a bigger impact with millennials.

Be warned — the findings from this study will identify a major misconception about millennials. We guarantee you’ll be looking at your marketing strategy in a new light.

Why they buy? How generational motivations differ? How we can optimally influence decision making? 3 crucial takeaways you can expect from the upcoming webinar

The insight will help spur strategic recommendations in reaching this audience in a more personalized and relevant way.