I’ve come up with a set of rules that describe our reactions to technologies:
1. Anything that is in the world when you’re born is normal and ordinary and is just a natural part of the way the world works.
2. Anything that’s invented between when you’re fifteen and thirty-five is new and exciting and revolutionary and you can probably get a career in it.
3. Anything invented after you’re thirty-five is against the natural order of things.
— Douglass Addams, author of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
Over the past few decades, there has been a rapid development of new technology. It seems like every month there is a new digital product that is faster, smaller, sleeker and more powerful than the one you just bought. For many Americans, this constant change is overwhelming and hard to keep up with. But for members of the Millennial generation, it’s not overwhelming; it’s just the way things are.
Think about the above quote by Douglass Adams. Adult Millennials were born between 1980 and 1996 and thus grew up at the time when personal computers, the Internet and mobile phones were becoming widespread and rapidly improving every year. Let’s take a look at a typical Millennial born in 1988. When he was only 4 years old, the first text message was sent to a mobile phone. By age 7, eBay and Amazon.com were already founded, and ecommerce started to grow. At age 10, Google launched its search engine; and the year he started high school, the first mobile camera phone (Sanyo 5300 from Sprint) was introduced to the North American market. By the time he graduated from high school, Myspace and YouTube had taken off and Twitter, Reddit and Facebook were gaining speed in the social media world.
You can see how someone who grew up immersed in such innovative times would welcome further changes. In a recent report by Experian Marketing Services, we found that Millennials are the first generation to spend more time with digital media than traditional ones, spending 35 and 32 hours per week, respectively, using each. They are also more likely than older generations to use their smartphones for social networking, watching video and using mobile GPS. Half say they need constant Internet access throughout the day and 43 percent say they access the Internet more through their phones than through a computer. Among smartphone owners, half are mobile dominant when it comes to going online. This all points to a need — not a desire — for connectivity and an embracing of the newest technology available.
With the leading edge of Millennials just now turning 34, marketers need to keep in mind that nothing in existence today is “against the natural order of things” for this generation. The constant updating of technology — faster connectivity, smarter user interfaces, even wearable technology — are embraced by Millennials, but they are table stakes — something they expect. As such, marketers should communicate the advances in their technologies and do so proudly, but be careful not to over-hype them.
For more insights into the demographic, attitudinal, and behavioral trends of the Millennial generation, download our report, Millennials come of age.