August 08, 2010

Millennials are the first generation to be raised with online media. As young adults, ages 18 to 34, these digital natives quickly adopt new technologies, then adapt them to fit their lifestyles. If something that suits them better comes along, they are quick to move on. Indeed, 24% of respondents in this age group chose “technology use” as the trait that sets them apart from previous generations, according to the Pew Research Center.

Millennials’ media usage is also different from preceding generations. They do not read newspapers or watch TV the same ways their parents do. Today, 78% of millennial internet users engage with social media, including blogs, microblogs, social networks, and photo- and video-sharing sites, according to a Harris Poll. By contrast, just 43% of their parents and grandparents do.

“Millennials will build on their digital social skills as they age, making online sharing a lifelong habit,” said Lisa E. Phillips, eMarketer senior analyst and author of the new report “Millennials Online: Marketing to a Moving Target.” “This generation grew up with PCs and quickly adopted the internet—it is not only ingrained behavior but practically part of their DNA.”

The digital natives of today grew up surrounded by advertising in all forms and media, so it is interesting to see their attitudes and actions now that they are able to make their own brand choices and purchase decisions. While they could be very cynical on the topic, millennials are actually more open to interactive or opt-in marketing messages than are boomers and Gen Xers. They just think that those messages have little or no influence on them.

Experian Simmons data on attitudes toward advertising shows 18- to 34-year-olds are actually more open to advertising than the general adult population. Fewer millennials said they did not like advertising and did not let it affect their purchase decisions.

In addition, while the majority of all internet users do not interact with internet ads, millennials say they click more often on all types of online ads, according to Experian Simmons.

“Millennials enjoy all forms of digital media, even digital advertising,” said Phillips. “Online videos, social network profiles and tweets can help marketers build word-of-mouth among millennials and reach the key influencers. At the same time, they are not adverse to more direct marketing methods, such as emails, search ads, banners and webpage links.”

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