What Marketers Don't Already Know About Millennials

Media Habits Don't Change as They Age, Turner Broadcasting Says

By Published on .

Reprints Reprints

The biggest question about millennials has been whether their behavior will persist or change as they grow older.
The biggest question about millennials has been whether their behavior will persist or change as they grow older. Credit: iStock

How marketers can reach millennials is quite possibly one of the most discussed topics in the ad industry. But there continues to be one over-hanging question few have been able to answer: How do millennials' media habits change as they age?

The answer according to Turner: They don't.

The cable programmer partnered with Frank N. Magid Associates to study how millennials consume content at different stages of life, which they define as student, stable (meaning out of school and working with no kids), parent and flex (those not in any other life stages.)

According to the study, even as millennials enter a new life stage like marriage or parenting, they are remaining "millennial" in their consumption habits and not transitioning into behavior that matches boomers or other generational categories. That means they continue to desire choice, control and convenience -- more than prior generations, the thinking goes -- not only in media but in many other consumer decisions.

The study also found that despite declining ratings for much TV programming delivered traditionally, TV remains an important part of life across all millennial stages.

Unsurprisingly, millennials don't want to be sold to, but rather engaged. So in order for marketers to make an impression, their messaging must appeal to their interests and lifestyle and be delivered in a way that's original and authentic, Turner said.

Turner and Frank N. Magid surveyed 2,000 men and women 18 to 39 years old online, and conducted a series of in-depth, in-home ethnographies with millennials of different life stages and living arrangements.

Turner also took a look at the group it calls plurals -- also known as Generation Z -- which they define as anyone born after 1997. This diverse generation is filled with digital natives who don't know a world where they couldn't access games, videos, music and interact with their friends wherever and whenever they want.

According to Turner's research on the group, which they conducted with Insight Strategy Group's Insight Kids division, plurals expect and demand choices, which they navigate intuitively. The brands that are successful are the ones that feed into this demand.

In order to reach this generation, Turner found that brands need to provide them with a variety of experiences and opportunities to be a fan as they age, and to constantly refresh their products and content offerings through the year.