Who are millennials? The answer depends on whom you are talking to.

Statisticians will tell you millennials are young adults born after 1980 and that there are more than 80 million of them living in the United States today with a direct spending power of $200 billion.

However, I have a found a more evolved story to be true. Millennials are digital natives at their core and their desire to change the world is impacting the way companies are doing business.


Top five millennial trends

1. Millennials are content creators and curators
2. Millennials seek peer affirmation
3. Millennials fuel the experience economy
4. Millennials are redefining affluence and luxury in the United States
5. Millennials are the biggest instigators and influencers on new market trends


No surprise that as the majority generation in the United States millennials have the greatest influence on market trends and behaviors. Today, millennials are 2.5 times more likely to be early adopters of digital, social and mobile trends. As a result, millennial behaviors permeate older and younger generations creating an overarching mindset that is determining brand health and financial performance.

Marketers and business leaders are already well aware of all that has been written on the millennial generation. I have certainly written my fair share of reports and articles. But beyond just the facts, the question truly is how can brands begin to navigate and, more importantly, prioritize and quantify that coveted millennial influence? In the latest research we have conducted at FutureCast, we found that the answer to this question lies in what we call the Millennial Mindset.

This year, millennials became the largest generation of consumers living in the U.S. Beyond just the sheer size of this generation, their impact lies in their ability to influence an entire market of consumers who may or may not be their millennial peers. Whether your brand wants to connect with boomers or gen Z, it is important to recognize that many of the behaviors these non-millennial consumers are carrying out stem from millennial trends and mindsets.

For example, a 50-year-old man is not a millennial as defined by his age, but he is just as dedicated to wearing his Nike FuelBand every day as his 23-year-old son. Similarly, we are already seeing the impact millennial parents are having on their gen Z children.


Defining the Millennial Mindset

Social Circle

When brand marketers hear the word “social” they instantly turn to social media. This is not always the case. Yes, social media is a powerful tool but the real value of a social circle is so much more than just activity on social media. The Social Circle refers to the team of advisors modern consumers have built for themselves and it is without question the most influential and impactful pillar within the Millennial Mindset. The more brand fans who advocate for the brand, the bigger the social circle. This will directly impact future profits.


It is no secret that the key to great brand performance is to build an emotional connection with your audience. Consumers who feel that a brand understands them on a personal level and provides opportunities for greater self-exploration develop the kind of loyalty that leads to brand dominance. This pillar also mirrors current trends we are seeing take shape across the board. Utility has become the new currency and the brands that help consumers have more fulfilling lives through customized experiences are winning big.


Millennial Mindset consumers want the novelty, efficiency, and effectiveness that come with product innovation and identify innovative brands as ones that are constantly improving and reinventing themselves. More than that, they are looking for brands that streamline utility and are constantly re-inventing and re-creating new ways that make consumer’s lives easier, more efficient, better, etc. Brands that are constantly in beta will drive interest and engagement across generations that absolutely prefer increased usefulness.


Building trust is the first step to any great relationship. The same is true for brands aiming to connect with Millennial Mindset consumers. The most trusted brands are the ones that put consumer needs first and follow through with their promises. Consumers today have more access to brands than ever before with the Internet and social media, so keeping secrets and important information hidden behind red tape is no longer an option.


Accessibility is key. Consumers today are looking for access to brands across both physical and digital channels and for brands to create a seamless transition between
hose two worlds. This all boils down into one big idea: Useful is the New Cool®. Consumers today are looking to brands to create more ways to make their lives easier and that comes from greater accessibility to the products and services they use every day.


Millennial Mindset consumers are looking to brands that add good to the world and are committed to making our planet a better place. Today, brands must acknowledge the triple bottom line that exists – people, planet and profit. Businesses cannot exist in a modern market if they are only focused on the numbers in their P&L. Consumers look to their favorite brands to help them make their communities better and provide them with the tools they need to impact their world.


What mindsets matter most?

Which Millennial Mindsets matter most? It depends: what respondents said was important was quite different than what was actually important. Respondents in our survey said that “Accessible” and “Trusted” were the mindsets that mattered most to them when making a purchase decision.

millenials table


However when we mapped the mindsets against actual spending data we found a different story. “Social Circle,” the lowest-rated attribute in stated importance, was the factor that most drove spending behavior when looking at derived importance. “Self” and “Innovative” were both ranked relatively low in stated importance but were the next most important factors in spending behaviors when considering actual consumer spending.


Clearly, what consumers say tends to be different than what they actually do. Brands that can identify what their consumers are doing and what is influencing that action will be the disruptor brands that guide the future. Connecting with consumers based on this new market paradigm is essential for brands aiming to win big. Remember, we are living in a new consumer market where a target audience does not exist. Rather, a group of likeminded consumers who may range in demographics and backgrounds but are within the same mindset will be what drives brand performance across industry verticals.


Editor’s Note: Leah Swartz, Content Specialist at FutureCast, contributed to this article.