Quincy Brown

As Communication majors, it can sometimes feel like it is impossible to go a single day without hearing the term millennial. The oh-so-important, chosen generation that can somehow be twisted into the answer to just about any question our various professor’s throw our way. In some ways, it feels as if the term has completely lost any literal meaning, and is now used to refer to any age demographic that aren’t baby boomers. 

While conducting research in relation to our client, Meals on Wheels of Greater Hyde Park, we discovered a book called Cause for Change: The Why and How of Nonprofit Millennial Engagement by Kari Dunn Sartovsky and Derrick Feldmann. The book provides a vast amount of insight on the millennial generation. It also details many strategies and tactics to better utilize and leverage a millennial consumer base within non-profit organizations.

The section of the book that we have chosen to focus on for this blog post begins by acknowledging the fact that there is no hard and fast set of criteria that allows one to determine the exact timeline between each generation. However, there is a general consensus as to when one generation ends and the next begins. The infographic below provides a description of the generational time frames that have been widely agreed upon.

The authors explain that the term millennial rose to popularity after a study conducted by William Strauss and Neil Howe was published in 1991. The study consisted of a poll in which members of the “millennial” generation started to use the term themselves to describe their characteristics, and the different ways they behave. After the study was published in their book Generations: The History of America’s Future, 1584 to 2069, the term began to be more widely accepted and used.

The authors of Cause for Change argue that for the purposes of their book, the Millennial generation can be defined as the generation in the middle of their “coming of age” phase, with the oldest members being in their early thirties, and the youngest members going through adolescence. Although they continue that it is more beneficial to think of the millennial generation as undergoing “coming of age” phase of their life rather than trying to assign a specific age to them because the technical age criteria is so broad and expansive that it makes it difficult to know who exactly you are targeting.

Regardless of any generational label confusion, the authors state that it is widely agreed upon that the millennial generation is the largest and most diverse generation yet. They then provide a list of character traits that define the millennial generation on a basic level (more in-depth list to come, but this gives a good foundation). 

  • Millennial's are…:

    • The most ethnically and racially diverse generation in the nation’s history.

    • The most politically progressive age group in modern history.

    • The first generation in human history to regard behaviors like tweeting and texting, not as astonishing innovations of the digital era, but as everyday parts of their social lives and their search for understanding.

    • The least religiously observant youths in history.

    • More inclined to trust in organizations and brands than either of their two predecessor generations.

We found the last bullet point to be particularly interesting, especially in relation to media planning and developing strategies for optimal millennial engagement. Perhaps it is this increased level of trust within an organization that has catapulted the millennial generation to top of mind importance for most companies and brands.

Sartovsky and Feldmann then go on to explain the top two characteristics that millennial's expect from the brands and organizations that they engage with. The first characteristic is tangible transparency, especially in regards to the accessibility of company information, as well as how the organization affects the community and how they make and spend their money. The second characteristic expected from millennial's is social connectivity. Millennials enjoy partaking in two way communication with their favorite brands and organizations, and anyway companies can encourage this type of open communication is greatly appreciated by millennial consumers. 

Being that our marketing/communication efforts for Meals on Wheels of Greater Hyde Park focuses primarily on targeting members of the millennial generation, our team found the assessments made by Sartovsky and Feldmann to be very beneficial to our overall understanding of the best ways to engage with millennial's.

Remember that more “in-depth” list of differentiating millennial characteristics that we promised you earlier? Here it is:

  • Today’s Millennial Constituents:

    • Have new technology tools like social media to support and leverage their thoughts and ideas

    • Work behind the scenes on social media platforms, and in local coffee shops to spread messages and build connections between the organization and potential constituents

    • Want to spread messages for you that are not manufactured in an office. They want to tell friends and family about why they care about your organization.

    • Are going to use multiple channels and expect that the organization’s website will continue the story and support the interest they create from their networks. Give these individuals specific links for their networks to take action, and their friends will jump because they heard it from a peer and not someone with a fancy title

    • Are ready to spread messages. They are excited about clear opportunities to involve others and will expect specific calls to action to engage their network.

Sartovsky and Feldmann conclude this list with the following quote:

“This generation gets informed, involved, and engaged without necessarily being onsite, and it’s up to organizations to discover and leverage these behaviors to expand their own capacity.”

Overall, this list explains that millennial's are eager and ready to engage with brands. However, it is the responsibility of the brand to not only make the content engaging and easy to access, but it also has to be easy for millennial's to share with their own personal networks.

We can’t wait to implement the knowledge and insights that we have gained from this book in our work with Meals on Wheels of Greater Hyde Park. 

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