Pew: Millennials Skeptical, Yet Optimistic About the Future

Pew: Millennials Skeptical, Yet Optimistic About the Future

May 28, 2014

If connecting with consumers on meaningful levels will be the new currency of brand and retailer success, then a recent Pew Research Center report on Millennials should be on the springtime reading lists of strategy setters and marketers.

The ways Millennials relate to politics, social issues, and the economy should help frame the approaches taken by stores and CPG to relate to their thinking and lifestyles, and to earn trial and trust, says F3.  With this in mind, the Millennials in Adulthood report, which is part of a Pew series called The Next America, yields insights that retailers and brands could blend with their own Big Data insights to better understand and appeal to Millennials.

For example, the skepticism and general distrust felt by this younger generation should lead marketers to put more substance and less bluster into their products, services and messages, adds F3.  Marketers could sell to Millennials more successfully once they realize Millennials will seek to confirm and validate what they’re told – often through technology and social media.  

Therefore, offers should be plausible (think reasonable label claims) and come from companies that express social views in sync with theirs (think same-sex marriage, charitable causes, and fair immigration policies) because Millennials will buy accordingly, continues F3.  Moreover, each offer’s value should be evident because the Pew report documents how Millennials are burdened by education debt and relatively poor job prospects – trends that have already led 21.4 million of them to return home to live out of economic necessity.  Two-thirds of recent college graduates owe $27,000 on average; 20 years ago, half had college debt averaging $15,000.

One result is that just 26% of Millennials between the ages of 18 and 32 are married, according to Pew.  By comparison, when Gen Xers were this age, 36% were married.  The figure for Boomers was 48%, and for seniors 65%.  This means, of course, fewer new, growing families to shop for – and a need for marketers to find ways to satisfy smaller, more urban households.

Some further highlights from the Pew study, which will affect retailers and CPG seeking Millennials’ commerce:

  • Millennials are the most multicultural generation in U.S. history, due largely to the influx of Hispanic and Asian immigrants in recent decades.  Consider Millennials aging into adulthood as “a transitional generation,” says Pew.  Already, 43% of Millennial adults are non-white, as are about half of today’s newborns.  As a result, the Census Bureau estimates non-whites will comprise a majority of the total U.S. population by 2043.
  • Just 19% of Millennials say most people can be trusted, compared with 31% of Gen Xers, 37% of Seniors, and 40% of Boomers, states Pew, which says sociologists associate this finding with minorities and low-income Millennials, who are “less well-fortified to deal with the consequences of misplaced trust.”
  • Despite the economic plug pulled on them by the recession, 49% of Millennials believe the nation’s best years are ahead. That’s more than Gen Xers (42%), Boomers (44%) and Seniors (39%).
  • One-third of older Millennials have a four-year college degree or higher, making them the best-educated group of young adults in American history.

Pew surveyed 1,821 adults across the U.S., including 617 Millennials, in February 2014, and analyzed other data of its own from 1990-2014 research to create this report.