The Millennial Effect: How Generation Y is shaping the Future of Big Business
Growing up in the nineties, I am your archetypal Millennial. I cannot, for the life of me, remember life before the Internet. My memories of using PCs are hazy, now forever attached to my trusty Apple devices – I normally have three on the go at once. As for my attention span…
Who are the Millennials?
Born between the 1980s and early 2000s, the Millennials are aged anywhere between mid teens to early 30’s. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the Millennials, or Generation Y, is one of the largest demographics in the United States, far surpassing the preceding baby boomers. Making up over a third of the US population, and standing a whopping 80 million people strong in the US alone, the Millennials are making an indelible mark on the way in which we live our lives. In Africa, the case is practically the same with the youth division of the African Union Commission claiming that 65 per cent of Africa’s population are below 35. From the world of business, to technology, we have, it would seem, all the power.
Likelihood is, your average Millennial has the attention span of a goldfish. No really, it is true. A recent study undertaken by Microsoft involving 2000 Canadians found that our attention spans have fallen by a colossal four seconds to an all time low – eight seconds. Goldfish, however, have an attention span of nine seconds. Earth-shattering, I know.
Microsoft puts this lack of concentration down to our digital lifestyles.
The report claims that: “Canadians [who were tested] with more digital lifestyles (those who consume more media, are multi-screeners, social media enthusiasts, or earlier adopters of technology) struggle to focus in environments where prolonged attention is needed.” These findings may be true, but I would argue, it is not that we have a short attention span per se. Simply put, we just always have something more interesting to look at. If my Twitter timeline bores me, there’s always Instagram, Whatsapp, Facebook, Snapchat, and Spotify. If none of the above entertain me first time round, I get to start all over again, and in that order – it’s win-win really.
The Millennial impact on business
Unsurprisingly, our goldfish-sized brains are proving to be problematic for businesses and advertisers. Learning the secret to holding our attention has become the holy grail of good advertising. Bestselling author, Martin Lindstrom, has carved out the secret to successful advertising in a world dominated by Millennials, and it boils down to the most basic of all concepts – simplicity. Advertisements with complex dialogue and billboards containing more than two (okay, three at a push) words frankly will not hold our attention. I’m sorry, but it is true.
Not only do Millennials require short, sharp and informative advertising to buy products, but we also need reassurance of the ethical integrity of companies. According to a recent survey conducted by consultancy firm, Global Tolerance, 42% of 2000 surveyed Millennials said they want to work for a company that contributes positively to society at large. Moreover, a survey comprising 1,300 Millennials by both Forbes and Elite Daily found that 75% of participants expect the companies they buy from to give back to the community. It is therefore no wonder that industry giants like Apple, go above and beyond to assure consumers of its dedication to the ethical production of devices.
Businesses are stuck between a rock and a hard place. They must excite us whilst simultaneously stroking our ethical egos. It may be a tall order, but it is a necessary one if companies want to generate large profits. In the US alone, Millennials have an annual buying power of roughly $200 billion. The retail power of Millennials is only set to grow, with forecasts suggesting that their spending will reach $1 trillion by 2020, thus representing 30% of all sales in the US.
A power shift has clearly taken place in the world of business, with the young dictating to the old what we do want and what we clearly do not. The rise and fall of business empires is held within our very hands. We may be bigger scatterbrains than your average goldfish, but we are the commercial kingmakers of the 21st Century.