Today's tweens and teens are known as the Millennials. Though they're not a homogenous group, they share traits that are markedly different than those of their predecessors, Generation X. "Everybody has to retool their assumptions and expectations," says Neil Howe, a historian, an economist, and a coauthor of Millennials Rising: The Next Great Generation. "People get a generation right just when it's leaving."
Howe says some of the hallmarks of the Millennials include:
- They feel collectively special in the eyes of their parents and their community.
- They believe they're protected - they've grown up in the age of home-safety gadgets, Amber Alerts, and urban curfews.
- They're confident - they think their generation will do big things and change the world.
- They're risk-averse.
- They believe in the benefits of teamwork.
- They're conventional - they accept society's markers of success and believe that rules are important.
- They believe in making long-term plans.
Since the Millennials have grown up being marketed to, they've become rather savvy at figuring out the fakes. Slapping a few what-you-think-are-cool words into an ad campaign does not impress them - authenticity does. Add to their life instead of just co-opting their ideas for the good of your product, and there's a much better chance that they won't kick you to the curb. "If it's a world they believe in, then they don't mind you being there," says Tim Stock, managing director of ScenarioDNA, a research and brand-planning consultancy.
Although there are threads that unify Millennials, savvy marketers recognize that this is a diverse lot. From their ethnicity to their passions, today's millennial tweens and teens don't want to be lumped. At ScenarioDNA, kids are grouped according to their passions much more so than their age or location. It's essential to define them in the context of their passions, says Stock, from skateboarders to rodeo queens and beyond. It's also important to understand that, unlike the cliquey Xers, this is no Breakfast Club generation: Millennial kids float from group to group much more than their predecessors did.