Millennials vs Boomers – are they really so different?

Thanks to their digital mastery, Millennials are the most communicative generation in history. And almost as much time seems to be spent in the brand world communicating about Millennials. Which is no surprise, given they form about 20% of the UK population (23% in the US) and will eventually take over from the similarly sized Baby Boomer group in economic and social influence. A consistent theme in all the discussions and reports (like EuroRSGS’s) is that Millennials are very different from Boomers, so Boomers at the top of companies need to stop trying to view them through the prism of their own values.  

We’re not so sure about this

After all, when you get past the typology labels we’re talking about people who are often, literally, members of the same family. A typical 55 year old Boomer probably has a 20-something Millennial of their very own making cluttering up the sofa at home. So just how deep are those differences in values, really? The evidence shows that many attitudes towards work, culture and other people are transmitted between parents and children. And here’s another thing: Is the difference really about generational values, or is what we’re seeing here actually just the age old conflict between the generations and a difference in lifestage? Wanting instant gratification, being experimental, expecting to have fun, anxiety and struggling in the face of criticism – all these things are on the lists of Millennial values. But wouldn’t they have been on Mum and Dad’s lists too, when they were young?

Hence the truism that you don’t only start to look and sound like your Dad when you get older; you start to think like him too.

Of course there are significant practical differences that make Millennials very different for marketers to deal with. The generation rarely without a mobile in their hands since they left primary is happy to share more of their lives and views. This willingness and the ‘look at me-ness’ that goes with it is a great tool for market researchers. Their self-belief and (according to Edelman) belief that they have a responsibility to share feedback is an opportunity for brands to engage them in creating products and services they value. But Boomers and Millennials unite in their wish for good value, to be treated well, and not to be ripped off. And at the deep level of core values, both want to associate with companies and brands that are authentic and truthful, whose purpose they can support. The sons and daughters of the Boomers might be heard to say ‘you just don’t understand me!’ but Mum and Dad (CEO and Marketing Director) can probably lay claim to understand them rather better than they might think.

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Maddy Morton

Maddy is Director of Lucid. She has been described as a 'maestra' with groups of people and is appreciated for her passion and commitment as well as the clarity of her strategic thinking, insight and expression. Maddy began her career in advertising at Ogilvy and BBH and then worked at the Arts Council, English National Opera, AEA consulting and Stimulating World Research before setting up Lucid.

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