Time for a refresh on Millennials, that group that for many seem so, well, different from “us”. We can’t quite get our head around what they’re all about. First, they are just people. But they have grown up in a world that is very different from the one Gen Xers or Boomers came up in–they should be different!

66% of Millennials 14-24 are watching TV on mobile devices. Can I be honest? This is substantially lower than I would have guessed. I have two nieces smack dab in the midst of this group and one watches full movies on her iPhone where the other reads full books on her laptop. Why? Everything I can find to shed light on this is the personal nature of computing. their iPhones and laptops are their own, they can squirrel themselves away in their rooms and consume the content they want.

Takeaway: It’s not about the device, and yet its all about the device. For content providers the device is a critical piece of technology; for the Millennial it is just a means to an end. In the end, they still want the content they are just not going to be tied to one way of accessing it. This is mirrors other generational patterns but with much larger numbers.

I’ve discussed the impact the recession had on this group, particularly the older members who had left high school.What’s interesting is seeing how attitudes toward consumer categories and even more, core life events have changed, perhaps because of this economic setback. This group like most others had plans…university, career, car, marriage, vacations, kids, viola perfect life…and then 2008 hit. This group was already having a challenge getting traction in the career department, in part because their Boomer parents weren’t in a hurry to leave the workforce. The recession resulted in unexpected layoffs and this group returned to school, moved back home, and took a lot of jobs that were far below their academic accomplishments set them up for.

Marriage in not a catalyst event

So what happens to the next stage?  Millennials are intent on achieving an individual, autonomous identity prior to getting into a long-term, married relationship, contrasting the beliefs their parents had at the same age. There has been a casual, ever-so-subtle shift in attitudes toward marriage (and religion and politics and…) among this group. It is neither the catalyst event nor is it an essential companion to having children. With the kaleidoscope of events impacting this generation, those who get married will do so only when the circumstances are “perfectly” aligned to do so. As of March 2014 only 26% of this generation had opted to take the plunge.

They have a passion for a different kind of “quo”

With this shift in attitude a number of categories are feeling the pinch. Car manufacturers are seeing fewer millennial purchasers as they opt for car-to-go type solutions or shared rides; jewellers are looking for new ways of making a key purchase for 20-somethings, the engagement ring, the in-thing again; and post-secondary education in somewhat of a tailspin to accommodate the influx of expected students (from high school) AND the return of the Millennial group for second or advanced degrees…hence the proliferation of MOOCs.

Those outside this group are often heard saying, “they expect so much!” Perhaps, but we’ll leave that for another post. For now, what I can say definitively is what they DO expect, is different. They are not happy with the status quo, in large part because it just doesn’t work for them. Facebook, Instagram, Vine and SnapChat exist because of their passion for a different kind of “quo”.

Takeaway: If you are trying to connect with Millennials it’s almost a guarantee that what you have done and how you have done it is not going to work with this group. This is NOT about “us” vs. “them”. I will argue that if “we” take that attitude, “we” are doomed to failure. They are our future and how they see the world has incredible potential to make that world better.

Coming up: How are Millennials going to change the workforce? In a word. Flexibility.

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