Inside the minds of the Millennials

Aug 05, 2014

Through a special arrangement, presented here for discussion is a summary of a current article from, a blog published by Hanifin Loyalty.

My greatest source of insight into the Millennial mind has been found by working with one on a business improvement project over the past year.

In pursuit of business process improvement for our consulting and marketing agency Hanifin Loyalty, we have sought out tools to help manage social media marketing, accounting, CRM, sales and project management, even language skills. The key associate leading the charge to find new tools in each of these areas is a card-carrying member of the Millennial generation.

The discovery process has been fascinating to me:

  • There is no pre-disposition about what we should buy or what should even be in the consideration set.
  • Google is the giant pond that we fish in and all things are possible.
  • Cloud based services rule the day, and the flexibility of service plans and lower costs associated with these services means that we test, test and test some more before making any long-term commitments.
  • Commitments made are based on a blend of experience, satisfaction, and hands-on user testing.
  • The rational elements of decision are cemented by an emotional component formed from the holistic evaluation of a product and service offer.

We’ve landed on a portfolio of tools that includes Buffer, Insightly, Freshbooks, Uber (the conference service, not the taxi operator) and continue to evaluate others, including Sharpspring, Duolingo and Canva.

The thought process that influenced this selection of tools started with an absolute blank sheet of white paper. Transparency and straight talk from vendors were attributes that stimulated our engagement and strong customer service and online tools hastened our speed down the path to making a decision.

In the end, the value of each tool was determined through identification of tangible value, while the elements of time savings and the satisfaction of knowing that we had found something that was slightly off traditional radars were influencers. While we might have thought we were creating competitive advantage by selecting a new toolset, we understand that it is how you put these tools to use rather than the tools themselves that constitutes a competitive advantage. Therefore, we don’t mind sharing names here.

There are a number of parallels to draw from this process to put to use in successfully engaging and creating brand loyalty with Millennials. I’ll let you connect the dots in your own way, but one lesson is clear: the old saw of "walking in the Indian’s moccasins" to truly understand their circumstances was never more applicable than with Millennials. And while I can’t exactly walk in someone else’s shoes, I can choose to work with them to improve my understanding of their decision making process.

What elements of decision making carries the most weight with Millennials? What is the biggest faux pas marketers are making in reaching Millennials?

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12 Comments on "Inside the minds of the Millennials"

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Mohamed Amer
3 years 4 months ago

Not so much swimming against the current as not willing to be caught in the flow of the mainstream. They have their own unique voice and living experience, and emotions are part of their decision making. Their desire to improve the world gives them an optimistic bias to challenges and opportunities they encounter. This is THE experiential and sharing digital generation.

Biggest faux pas marketers make is to lecture Millennials, or send them authoritative messages that imply what to buy or how to think. Millennials seek conversations on their own terms.

Roger Saunders
3 years 4 months ago

As marketers are “walking in the Indian’s moccasins,” it is well worth remembering that all Millennials, like all segments of the population, are not exactly equal or the same. With 70 million-plus adults in the 18-to-34 age bracket, it is vital to make certain that the message and the offer is registering with the target.

A married Millennial family with a child and a house have a significantly different need and outlook than the one out of four people of the Millennial generation who are living at home with mom and dad. Tighten the focus.

Phil Rubin
3 years 4 months ago

Well done Bill, and reasonably simple:

  1. Transparency
  2. Substance before form
  3. Value and values alignment
Camille P. Schuster, PhD.
3 years 4 months ago

The biggest faux pas is trying to understand the “Millennials” because they are not a homogeneous group. They also do not respond to all products the same way. As a result, decision-making processes and criteria are specific to different product categories. Walking in the shoes of or listening to your Millennial customers is critical for success.

Ian Percy
3 years 4 months ago

On one side of the Millennial coin is “emotional engagement” and on the other “transparency and truth.” One without the other is pointless, if not impossible. Most marketing efforts, especially those put out by political organizations, try for engagement without truth. In other words, an attempt to “ab-use” the public for one’s own purpose.

Ryan Mathews
3 years 4 months ago

Let me answer this question the way I answer all such questions—the best way to understand any artificially-defined cohort is not to start making sweeping generalizations about them.

When we speak of Millennials we are generally speaking about the subclass of Millennials born on the affluent side of the digital divide, those with easy access to education and technology.

I’m not sure all those folks are the same, but I am certain not all “Millennials” fall into that category.

This really isn’t all a function of age after all but more familiarity with tools and experience. Those members of that cohort who have grown up using certain tools are most comfortable with them. That isn’t an insight, it’s a fact.

Let’s not make the mistake of leaving millions of members of a cohort on the side of the road just because their economic circumstances made them different than our marketing stereotype.

Mark Price
3 years 4 months ago

The elements of transparency and authenticity are some of the biggest factors in dealing with Millennials. While being “honest” and open should not be difficult for marketers, the tendency is to “sell”—to position, spin and exaggerate in order to complete a transaction. How many software companies have been caught selling futures; the features that may be in the product, to compensate for product shortcomings at the moment?

Being open and transparent is a skill that applies to all retailers and software companies alike.

Ben Ball
3 years 4 months ago

To that most insightful and eloquent of commentators, Ryan Matthews, I say; “Amen and amen!”

Ralph Jacobson
3 years 4 months ago

I think Camille Schuster hit the same points I would highlight. Millennials are not alike and there needs to be insights gained from individual consumers, along with the more aggregate view of the age demographic. Similarly, the path to purchase, decision tree and other aspects of the group’s thinking varies by segment of retail and/or product type.

Bill Hanifin
3 years 4 months ago

Thanks for a complete set of insightful comments with a special nod to Mr. Mathews who cautions us to “not make the mistake of leaving millions of members of a cohort on the side of the road just because their economic circumstances made them different than our marketing stereotype.”

I find it interesting that poll results weigh out nearly equally between “emotional connection with the solution” and “transparency and straight talk.” Marketers will have an easier time addressing the latter through their messaging formats.

To make that emotional connection seems the higher bar to clear. As Mr. Amer commented, “this is THE experiential and sharing digital generation.” Creating experiences can spark curiosity, but delivering store and ecommerce experiences that are consistent with brand promises will lead to the emotional connection that many marketers agree is the holy grail.

Larry Negrich
3 years 4 months ago

Agree with my fellow posters in that it is important to understand that Millennials, as with every generation/age cohort, is comprised of individuals and seeking to discover a single formula that will work for all members is a waste of time and is poor marketing strategy. Don’t get me wrong, I do believe in segmentation, but a cohort as large and diverse as a generation is too broad. There are plenty of segmentation and personalization technologies available that will enable retailers to narrow down the audience and get closer to appealing to the one.

Gordon Arnold
3 years 4 months ago
There are several facts with regards to the Millennial generation’s economic might that should be sufficient to cause any and all market plans to be drawn up with chalk. The first is that the age of this group is rather low meaning that their economic freedom is limited for many reasons. In addition to their newness to the consumer market, they are further hamstrung by the very anemic, low-paying job market. These conditions are being well adapted to in part by the tools they have to cope with them. Nevertheless, the misery index is higher than most other generations have seen or started out with for a good while. As for what they are going to be like a few years from now and into the future, there is no way to reliably test without rendering highly speculative results. These pressures burden and or stunt the ability to have a normal, self-defined economic growth while yielding an unnatural consumer behavioral conditioning that may or may not continue into a healthy economy. This generation will most… Read more »

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