The Millennial Impact: Understanding the Past, Present and Future of America’s Most Promising Generation

By Todd Metrokin, Vice President and Creative Strategist, Ogilvy Washington

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Born between 1981 and 1997, many Millennials are just now entering their adulthoods, yet it already appears they’re the most researched, measured, and surveyed population in history. We’re paying close attention because we know their choices will impact the world. How they vote, where they shop, what they buy, and which causes they support are just a few areas of intense study. While most of us recognize the potential of Millennials, years of mixed messages have contributed to a great deal of misunderstanding and misinformation.

One reason for the confusion is that many of the data points being shared seem to contradict each other. For example: According to eMarketer, Millennials are more fluent in digital than other demographic groups, but a large majority prefer shopping in physical stores. They’re more likely than others to do pre-purchase research, but also more likely to buy on impulse, and they value their independence, yet seek input and approval from others.

The confusion could also be attributed to those of us doing the reporting; meaning that what the data tell us may contradict with our perceptions of Millennials. These perceptions are informed by our world view, but are also influenced by media and opinion leaders who sometimes perpetuate the negative stereotypes often assigned to Millennials.

To be fair, as a Gen Xer, I understood some of the frustrations my peers expressed about working with young adults. Often, it took the form of seemingly innocent jokes and jabs. Eventually, I began to wonder about the origins of the jokes and whether they might mask perceptions that are dangerous to my work as a strategist; someone who is supposed to be able to observe social behavior free from bias to deliver meaningful insights.

What started as a query to better understand the research resources I was using has led to a deeper appreciation for these maligned cohorts and a better understanding of the macro trends that are likely to have a significant influence on America’s most researched and perhaps most promising generation.

I hope that by the end of this paper, you will gain some perspective on past assumptions and how we got there, understand where the Millennial generation stands now, and where they might take us tomorrow.