Staying Relevant Among Millennials: Anne Hubert at the 2015 Customer Insights Conference

June 9, 2015

Millennials: they are selfish, narcissistic, lazy, entitled, and permanently attached to their phones. If they’re not tweeting the latest inconsequential life update, then they’re posting a continuous stream of selfies. They expect instant gratification and are baffled when they don’t receive what they demand. The list of stereotypes continues, little of it flattering.

Regardless, brands and advertisers are racing to appeal to this generation. Born between 1981 and 2000, millennials represent the largest generational group in the history of the United States, with over 84 million people. They will make up half of the national workforce by 2020 and will hold significant sway over brands with their purchasing power. With so many companies vying for the attention of an already distracted group, Scratch’s Anne Hubert offered new insights about how to engage this demographic. (See below for a full video of the presentation.)

Scratch is a division of Viacom that uses the company’s range of media networks to better understand millennials. Over the past few years, Hubert and her team have been able to generate unique insights—she listed 13 at this year’s Customer Insights Conference—that show a multidimensional picture of millennials extending beyond selfies and social media. If companies are unable to stay relevant to this powerful group, they risk losing one of their largest demographics.

For instance, Hubert noted that millennials possess a deep and contradictory mix of drive and insecurity. They are confident that they will achieve success in the future—after all, they’ve been earning 12th-place medals for participation since elementary school. At the same time, an environment where everyone from parents to teachers is saying you’ll be great has inspired insecurity around living up to one’s potential. Hubert showed how Levi’s has tapped into this contradiction.


It’s also important to realize that millennials do not seek to rebel from authority, like generations before them, but rather to work with authority. Careers are something always on their minds—they look for jobs they are truly passionate about, and want to work for brands they genuinely believe in. In the office, millennials are interested in cultivating relationships around mentorship and guidance rather than simply following orders from a distant and disengaged boss.

Millennial influence also extends beyond their own purchases. This generation grew up at the center of family life and parents of this generation are their biggest supporters and confidants, attending every soccer match, dance recital, or school play. With their appetite for technology and quick access to unlimited information, millennials act as “CTOs of the family,” said Hubert, playing a significant role in deciding everything from where to go for family vacation to which brands to buy for a new dishwasher or afterschool snack.

According to Hubert, brands need to be both loved and be different in order to stay appealing to millennials. Entire industries risk being disrupted if there are no attractive options; banking, for instance, is at particularly high risk. In one survey that Hubert presented, millennials feel little to no loyalty to their particular bank, believing there to be few differences between the many options. This leaves the opportunity for new startups to disrupt the industry with innovative ideas that offer appealing financial services, like improved mobile banking or linked mobile payments and social networks.

Millennials are not an easy demographic to please, as they are constantly challenging brands to be more innovative. By better understanding their mindset, brands can not only differentiate themselves, but also gain millennial love—the two essential ingredients for remaining relevant during this generational upheaval.


Millennial Disruption Index | Anne Hubert, Scratch, Viacom



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Robyn Tse