Reaching The 21st Century Audience

The term millennials is defined as the part of the U.S. population born between 1981 and 2000. Understanding this segment is valuable to the communication industry because of it’s size and potential spend. 

A few unique factors define this generation, such as

  • familiarity, if not obsession, with technology
  • short attention span, due to constant expose to a variety of stimuli
  • more difficult to connect with, convince and entertain

These factors create a unique set of consumer behavior in this population. For instance, they have a lower chance to be persuaded by TV ads and higher brand loyalty than older generations. While ads less often capture their attention in the first place, they do however have higher ad recall for those they do pay attention to than other generations. They are also more engaged with the messages in front of them than older generations, for both TV and digital. They are more engaged with digital overall, performing better with digital ad testing than they do with TV and than older generations do with digital. 

Given this information, communicators must take a new approach when trying to reach this generation. Understanding they have a shorter attention span, partially because of ad overload, challenges communicators to develop new, unique creatives and messages to capture this audience’s attention. Because they spend much of their time online and are more engaged with digital messages than others, understanding and implementing online features that facilitate site use are essential. This is where User Experience Design is key.

For digital commerce, user-focused site functionalities drive performance by making it easier for the consumer to find the information they want, shop in ways convenient for them, and trust the e-commerce store with their private information. Social and mobile commerce is also largely effective, but similar user-focused functionalities unique to each channel are just as important. Functionalities include security, the ability to filter and search for specific products or information, and user reviews. User reviews have proven significantly influential because it helps people trust a product more and increases sales (source: Therefore, the reviews and recommendations feature is something that should be included in all e-commerce sites. The fact that sites and online communities like Yelp and UrbanSpoon exist for the sole purpose of reviewing products, companies and places shows how important this is to the modern consumer. Google even added this feature to it’s business search system recently because it saw the value it provided internet users. 

Furthermore, developing an in-depth understanding of your target audience and brand reputation among them is just as important as ever, with new tools like Q Scores to do so. 

Questions from the reading:
The data for the millennials study is based on all women. Is this really an accurate representation?

Can we expect the generation younger than the millennials to have the same behaviors, or will this shift toward technology create even more change in this audience? 



5 thoughts on “Reaching The 21st Century Audience

  1. I think younger generations will be different. My little girl for example rarely sees a television commercial. Her viewing habits include PBS (which doesn’t have commercials) and Netflix. She’s virtually unreachable to the world of toy and junk food advertisements (thank goodness). By the time she gets older, advertising to her generation will probably be all digital.

    With Netflix she’s also grown up in a world where she simply expects her show to be on, whenever she wants it. When her generation will get older, they will want what they want and won’t want to pay for anything else.

    This idea of buying all of the cable channels, just for the few you really want to see, won’t fly with her generation.

  2. I was thinking the same thing about the all-women respondents of the Millennial study. I definitely think that if some or all of the respondents had been men that there would definitely be changes in the result. However, being both a male and a Millennial, I do not think that the results are significantly skewed one way or another because I was pretty much in agreement with the conclusions that the study reached.

    The questions of whether the generation younger than the Millennial generation ( Generation Z? –> ) will have the same behaviors or will shift toward technology to create even more change are not mutually exclusive. I believe that they will start at roughly the same place that their predecessors ( us! ) left off and continue to push for more change and advancement.

  3. I think if the millenials study data was used to represent the entire millenial population, then no, it isn’t accurate. But the study states upfront who was included, and it is perfectly find to study genders separately. I think it’s an accurate representation of the data, but I think for the study to truly be complete, it would need to a separate study of male millenials. I identified a lot with information in the women’s study, so I’d expect the men’s study to be very similar.

    I don’t think new generations will have the same behaviors. Generations seem like they are always evolving, even if it is just slightly. I found this Pew study ( on different generations and how they compare. In the social media section, you can see the trend from one generation to another. There are certain areas where you might see the same results from one generation to another. For example, looking at the percentage of a generation that only uses cell phones (and not landlines). That number has increasing gone up with each generation and it can’t go any higher than 100%. So at some point it has to either stay constant or fall.

  4. I 100% think there needs to be some “manly” opinion in the study 🙂 the diversity will shift the results greatly- and that’s not just for m/f it could be gay/straight, rural/urban, ethnic background, etc.

    The millennial generation will change along with everyone else. It’s interesting right now because we’ll be the first main group to be studied from pre-teen, to teen, to young adult, to adult to senior. These studies weren’t nearly this in depth 40 years ago- so the adults in studies now were never looked at as closely as we are today. I’m interested to see how opinions of millennials shift with the years.

  5. Great post, Kim. I’m glad you picked up that the study just covered women. My hunch is that women were just selected because they use social networking slightly more than men. However, it doesn’t give an accurate picture.

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