Millennials have been discussed ad nauseum as being a generation different from its predecessors -- one that's entitled, tech-savvy, style-driven, health-conscious and unattached.
But one new study suggests that not only are those designations misleading, they're downright false, especially for the older cohort of millennials, ages 25 to 34, half of which are parents.
The study, called "Millennials as New Parents," conducted by Kansas-City, Mo.-based indie agency Barkley, also suggests that millennials really aren't different from the generations before them (and that they're not as well educated as they've been made out to be).
For one, millennials are much more pragmatic than they're given credit for, said David Gutting, VP-strategy director at Barkley, adding that events like the recession and resulting high unemployment rates have reshaped how they behave as they begin to form families."But we [still] look at them like they're kids."
According to the study, 40% of all millennials ages 18 to 34 are already parents, and 9,000 millennial women a day are giving birth, many for the first time. In the next 10 to 15 years, 80% of them will be parents. The study also found that half of all millennial parents in the 25-to-34 age group are Hispanic, African-American, Asian, or another non-Caucasian race. In the millennials ages 25-to-34 group, there are roughly 10.8 million households with children now.
But like generations before them, millennial parents tend to be more traditional and shop more frugally than their non-parent counterparts. According to the study, before millennials have children they over-index on brands like Abercrombie, H&M, Apple, Macy's and Sephora. After they become parents, those brands not only drop, some of them disappear from their consideration set. Instead, millennials shift to over-indexing against the entire U.S. population on brands like Dollar General, Kohl's, Lowe's, Wal-Mart and Value City. About 44% of millennial parents are "very financially stressed."
"These are not stereotypical millennial brands, and people are missing that," said Mr. Gutting. "Millennials are not that different. We can't keep going to marketing conferences talking about millennials as though they're these oddities. They're taking care of families now." Only 7% of all millennial parents can be categorized as the millennial stereotype that focuses on name brands, stretches their incomes to the limit and are tech savvy.
Mr. Gutting said that another key point in the study was that for millennial parents, products have to be useful and solve problems. "People are looking for problems to be solved, and we better be able to prove to the customers that brands can make life better." Data from the study show that millennials have less wealth than boomers and Gen X did at the same point in their lives, making practical products that are affordable a necessity.
On the education front, one of the biggest myths is how well educated millennials are. "There's this idea that millennials are the best-educated generation in American history. They're not." They are educated, but they have same education level -- 41% of the 25-to-34 year olds are college-educated -- that boomers had at that age.
So what does this mean for marketers? "Any marketer who looks at this with a clear eye will see that there's enormous opportunity if they get it right, and the way to do that is to solve problems and be pragmatic," said Mr. Gutting.