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Study: Millennials Value 'Social Economy'

  |  May 25, 2011   |  Comments

McCann Worldgroup says brands must help young people share and narrate their lives.

Brands must behave in socially useful ways if they want to earn the respect of the millennial generation, contends McCann Worldgroup. That includes helping young people broadcast, share, make new connections, manage their connections, and narrate their lives in the "social economy."

"The values that young people seek in their friends applies to brands," said Laura Simpson, McCann's global IQ director. Being truthful, genuine, sociable, mature, and humble were identified as key values.

The study found three key factors motivating millennials. They are the need for: connections and relationships (community); social or personal justice; and authenticity. "And technology is the great global unifier," said Darryl Lee, chief information architect at McCann Worldgroup. The study encompassed 7,000 people ages 16 through 30 in 18 markets, including the U.S., U.K., China, Brazil, and India.

"Whilst the way they define a true friend hasn't changed, connections are being formed, maintained, and segmented in new and radical ways," added Simpson. Young people today have "unbelievably complicated, overlapping, interlocking groups of friends…You present yourself slightly different to friends. It's a strategic generation when it comes to their friendships," she said.

McCann executives also shared other insights from the study, "The Truth About Youth"; some were fascinating factoids and others encompassed more general themes.

- More than 50 percent of those surveyed would give up their sense of smell before relinquishing their computer or mobile phone.

- Young people in China and India are more likely to be influenced by friends than family; in Mexico, Brazil, and Spain, it's the reverse.

- Young people in India are more obsessed about becoming famous and getting rich than their counterparts in other countries. McCann executives attributed that factor to popular reality television programs in India where young stars have quickly achieved fame.

- Google, Microsoft, Apple, Facebook, Disney, and Coca-Cola were the top-rated brands. "They laud the brands which have reimagined the infrastructure of our lives or propagated a strong spirit of optimism," the study found.

After discussing the results of its study, McCann Worldgroup invited four people who work with millennials or technology to share their observations:

- Kate Krontiris, former advisor in the U.S. State Department's office of innovation and technology, said technology is helping people promote their values. She cited how a restaurant, the Friendly Toast, in Cambridge, MA, agreed to hire someone who was previously incarcerated – giving them a second chance – if its customers bought $1,000 in gift certificates from the restaurant. Technology from SoChange facilitated that initiative.

- Aria Finger, chief operations officer, DoSomething.org, described differences she's seen between millennials and prior generations. "Kids today are not upset with a brand being associated with a concert," she pointed out. However, her father was outraged when that happened during his youth and he chained himself to a fence in protest. Additionally, she finds that younger millennials don't like Twitter, but love their mobile phones and SMS to exchange messages.

- Minya Oh, aka, Miss Info, an on-air radio personality and blogger, observed: "While the [McCann] study shows that people don’t crave fame, I think a lot of young people see themselves as their own celebrity."

- "We think about [the millennial generation] in terms of power – they are the power," said Ross Martin, executive vice president, MTV Scratch. Not only do millenials have spending power, they use technology to work rapidly and collaboratively. "You will either bend to their will or they will break you," he warned.

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Anna Maria Virzi

Anna Maria Virzi, ClickZ's executive editor from 2007 until 2012, covered Internet business and technology since 1996. She was on the launch team for Ziff Davis Media's Baseline and also worked at Forbes.com, Web Week, Internet World, and the Connecticut Post.

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