How Generation Y Is Affecting the Way Companies Do Business
The term “Millennial” brings up a variety of different meanings. Despite the sometimes negative connotations, it’s a coveted demographic for both employers and advertisers, because millennials now outnumber baby boomers by half a million. Savvy businesses must keep an eye on, and learn from, the behavior of this group, both to recruit them as employees and to appeal to them as consumers.
While many business owners may believe that millennials care only about perks like free lunch, company-sponsored happy hours, and unlimited vacation time, in reality, this generation wants to align itself with companies that it can feel good about working for. In her 2017 South by Southwest session, “Social Entrepreneurship for Founders,” Neetal Parekh pointed out that millennials are outnumbering baby boomers in the workforce, and by 2025, they will make up 75% of working adults. This means that businesses must take a hard look at what will recruit millennials to their company, including valuing the talents they bring to the workplace and giving them opportunities to make a difference.
As consumers, millennials are attuned to brands that inject social good into their business model. It’s easy to see, then, why companies like Tom’s Shoes are so popular with this generation. For each pair of shoes purchased, the company donates a pair to a person in need. Parekh explained that, because the concept is so simple to understand and the impact so easy to visualize, the company is a favorite with millennials. Tom’s Shoes is a for-profit company, but its alignment with social good has led to its success.
Millennials’ focus on social good also reflects in their online behavior. In another 2017 SXSW panel, “Engaging Millennials in New Media Through Food,” Eve Turow Paul, author of “A Taste of Generation Yum,” explains why millennials seem so obsessed with photographing their food: they want control of their social media image. Their Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook feeds are a representation of their personal brand and, while it may appear narcissistic to other generations, they are, in essence, acting as their own public relations rep.
Paul compares millennials’ obsession with taking pictures of their food (among other things in the world around them) to what baby boomers often did in their adult life: “The boomers had drugs and music, millennials have food.” Their control mindset means that millennials want to associate themselves with brands that align with their personal beliefs and make food choices based on what they care about. Sharing photographs of their food on social media is one way millennials create and maintain their online persona, so it’s only natural that they want to ensure that those photos put forward a socially conscious one.
With so much focus on self-PR, millennials have become experts at content creation, says Paul. Brands like Lays have taken advantage of this behavior by including content creation in their contests. The “Do Us a Flavor” campaign lets users create their own custom Lays potato chip flavors and enters them in a contest for a monetary prize. Entrants can then share their flavors on social media, and the public votes on their favorites. This is a perfect example of how companies can benefit from millennials’ desire to create something they care about–for example, a flavor of chip that shows off the local cuisine of their hometown–to further awareness of their brand.
Millennials also want to know that brands are listening. During Paul’s session, the panelists discussed Martha Stewart’s famous food photography. Though the photos were terrible, they showed a human side to the seemingly perfect Martha that resonated beyond Martha’s own fan base. This is key for brands, moving forward, and this is why social media platforms like Snapchat are becoming so popular–not only with millennials, but with Generation Z right behind them. Paul says that when a company “pulls back the curtain,” it gains trust with its audience. While many companies, brands, and businesses fear showing too much, the benefits can often be worth the risk.
It will surely be interesting to see how millennials and Gen Z will impact the workforce, and the marketplace, as their numbers in it increase. We’ll be keeping watch.8