A view from Sue Unerman

The secret life of millennials

The Great Wall of China is the only man made structure visible from space; a penny dropped from a tall building can kill a man;...

Millennials have the attention span of a goldfish.

All commonly held popular beliefs.  All rubbish.

Especially the last one.

Channel 4 have published a brilliant bit of new research into the generation known as millennials.  And I can confirm, having seen its first outing that they have hidden depths.  So if you want to really establish your brand with this generation then you need to respect them, and their depths. 

Millennials are aged roughly between 16 and 34, and there's lots of them… nearly 16 million in the UK.  So it's important to understand them, their economic power, and how they are and are not different to previous generations.

They've been characterised as lazy tech obsessed entitled slackers.

They're certainly at home with tech.  They do check their phone all the time.  But they aren't passive media loners stuck to their screen, too lazy to achieve anything.  They're constant sharers.  And constant hackers.

In contrast to any previously generation this is the time to design communications strategies that they can properly participate in.  There might not be a single water cooler moment for this group, but there's a massive number of "Have a look at this" sharing opportunities.  For an exemplary case study, take a look at how Kanye marketed "Life of Pablo", sharing its development, driving controversy, demand and interaction.

Millennials lives are much less linear in many ways than previous people in that age group.  Some of their attitudes are significantly different too. 

They're the first generation to have grown up with access to the Internet, social media and global TV content 24 hours a day.  Culture and influence from around the world.  As a result they are extremely well informed.  (Unlike most goldfish).

There are lots of them living with their parents, that much is true.  But they often don't see that as a compromise, they regard their parents as allies and friends according to the research and go to them for advice and support, but equally offer advice and support to their parents. 

They're a key, and often ignored, influence on their parents purchasing decisions.  Traditional views of gender seem to be truly absent, for perhaps the first time since Eve offered Adam the apple. 

C4’s study featured Dan – millennial father of one. He's a football loving lad, who works shifts in order to get home in time to pick his daughter up from nursery, and to care for her for the rest of the day.  He points out: "My dad wouldn't ever even have changed a nappy, and my grandfather was the type of man the kids would play around, but he wouldn't play with them." 

Hidden depths, hidden potential.  As far as communicating with this generation goes, get it right and they'll endorse you peer to peer.  Get it wrong, and you might not get a second chance.  Comfortable traditional ideas that this lot will turn into the same sort of people as previous generations might make things easier but they won't have an impact. 

Brilliant Louis Michael from Gogglebox put it simply when he joined the conference and said: "Millennial encapsulates the idea of change".

Sue Unerman is the chief strategy officer at MediaCom