Generational Differences in Consumers’ Tendencies to Engage With Brands

January 21, 2014

BCG-Consumers-and-Brand-Engagement-by-Generation-Jan2014While there’s no consensus definition of a Millennial – in terms of age bracket – there’s plenty of agreement among marketers that these individuals comprise one of – if not the – most important demographic targets out there. In a new analysis, the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) argues that differences in how youth engage with brands will “transform” marketing. Millennials (18-34) in particular are far more likely than their older counterparts to identify with brands and act as advocates for them.

According to BCG’s survey results, roughly half of younger US Millennials (18-24) agree that brands say something about who they are, what their values are, and where they fit in. Interestingly, in this respect older Millennials (25-34) are closer to Gen Xers (35-49), Boomers (50-69) and Silents (70+) than they are to younger Millennials.

The broader Millennials group – 18-34 – has more consistency when it comes to brand advocacy and influence. About half of younger and older Millennials say that people seek them out for their knowledge and opinion about brands. By comparison, only about one-third of Boomers and Silents agreed, with Gen Xers somewhere in the middle.

Not surprisingly, younger (57%) and older (53%) Millennials are much more likely than the other age groups to be willing to share their brand preferences over social media or online, this being the area where the greatest age discrepancy was found.

Of particular note, BCG indicates that Millennials’ purchase decisions are influenced by more people on average than Boomers’ – and that Millennials are moving away from advertising as a trusted source of brand recommendations. These findings are consistent with recent study results from Radius Global Marketing Research, which found that in comparison to Boomers, Millennials are more reliant on word-of-mouth and less reliant on advertising.

So how to engage Millennials? The BCG study reveals that Millennials primarily want want to be rewarded for their loyalty (with discounts and promotions); they also want brands to be “authentic.” Relative to other generations, Millennials are also more likely to want brands to: be available 24/7 to meet their customer service needs; support causes; and have a brand personality.

About the Data: The data comes from a survey of nearly 800 Millennials and more than 1,700 non-Millennials in the US, as well as a complementary survey of more than 400 US Millennials and 1,000 non-Millennials. Both were conducted in 2013.

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