By Jillian Curran, MTV Insights
We always pay attention when Millennials push a boundary, so most recently we’ve been looking at the generation’s relationship to diet and exercise regimes. Veganism, Juice Cleanses, and Gluten Free diets (used specifically for weight loss) are gaining momentum on college campuses; many girls are even starting their own blogs/Tumblrs to promote and show off their healthy lifestyle.
We’ve also seen a trend in bodybuilding and lifting among girls, as one panelist told us, “There are actually some girls on my Facebook who have taken up bodybuilding and post picture updates of their bulging muscles regularly. And one is kind of a girly girl, so I didn’t expect that. They’re not just wanting toned muscles, but muscles bigger than most guys have. The app “Watch Me Change My Weight (a time-lapse video of your fitness progress) is also popular. “ Many blogs and tumblrs are dedicated to this trend under the tag #fitspo, #fitspiration, and #Fitblr, curating workouts, diets and inspirational messages for motivation.
Running a half marathon or participating in a triathlon is “NBD”, “everyone does them” (and “humblebrags” about their workouts on Facebook). People are even entering out of-the-box competitions like Tough Mudder, Warrior Dash, and Spartan Race that showcase crawling under barbed wire, jumping in freezing cold pools of water and running through fire.
We cant tell yet if it’s perfectionism, one-up-manship, sensation-seeking or some new dynamic driving this trend, but we’ll keep watching it closely and making mental notes while taking our Soul Cycle classes!
To paraphrase Warhol, everyone seems to be getting their 15 minutes of “Tumblr Fame.” The “Tumblr Famous,” those who gather a serious following and through this highly platform-specific notoriety, are multiplying.
TF is an interesting new development in the story of social media’s ability to create ‘distributed fame.’ What’s quite intriguing here is how hard it is to put your finger on what exactly is driving the popularity of any individual TF. It’s not “famous for nothing,” as some media commentators have claimed. Their followers clearly find something captivating about them. But what exactly is that elusive ‘x factor’ that’s so hooky with the follower fans?
It seems that the TFs are operating as “brand-lettes”…micro-brands broadcasting in a very specific, distinctive, authentic “micro voice,” and on a very particular “dog whistle” frequency: inaudible to many, a clarion call to some. This micro-branding is often playing with one or more quite sophisticated principles of good mass communication. For example…
Visual voice: Many popular bloggers can be identified by the visual vibe of their page or personal style. Molly Soda, for example, has fans who emulate her very particular look.
Editorial voice: Some popular Tumblr users include info and photos from their actual lives, but many don’t. “Deep” use of the reblogging function of Tumblr Tumblr to curate with a very particular viewpoint. This curatorial, filtered view appears to creating a kind of intimacy with the follower that that is especially compelling.
Relatable voice: Marketers have struggled for decades to create the illusion of relatable. So-called “Slice of life” advertising was coined for just this reason. “Hey, recognize this scene? Yes, it’s your life. Well here’s how this product makes it better…” By screen grabbing the stuff of their everyday lives and making a channel of it, TFs are creating complete authentic slices of life that invite the follower in to say “I know you, I recognize myself (or see my aspirational self) there, we are ‘friends’….”
Some of the “Tumblr Famous” are drawing in as many fans as mainstream celebrities. Clearly we are witnessing another chapter in the flattening of the field between the famous and the fan. One the one hand the distance between the famous and the fan is collapsing as we have discussed before (link to zero distance), and on the other the tools and techniques of fame are now in the hands of everyone, fueled by powerful platforms to bring that to full expression.
Stephanie Monohan, MTV Insights
Photo courtesy of Virginia Newton (@va_newton)
Social media has been playing a crucial role in the way Millennials talk about politics for quite some time, and that has never been more apparent than during the current election season. Following the presidential debate in Denver on October 3, Twitter announced that there were more than 10 million Tweets that evening, making it the most tweeted-about event in U.S. politics.
I myself attended a small debate party, in which we played “debate bingo” as a way to keep track of what topics the candidates covered and to make listening carefully to minute details on economic policy more fun. However, Twitter dominated the attention and conversations of everyone in attendance, for multiple reasons.
Twitter provided an outlet for users to share their reactions to the debate instantly, while also checking out the reactions of their friends, comedians, political analysts and experts, and even major celebrities, all of whom live-tweeted the event. People could either publish their own thoughts or instead re-tweet statements that they find humorous or intelligent as a way to convey their opinions without getting too personally involved in the conversation. Twitter (along with other social media sites) was also utilized as a live fact-checker for those closely following the stats and policies that the candidates mentioned. Even @MTV teamed up with the non-partisan FlackCheck.org to help their followers fact-check the information put forth in the debate in real time.
(courtesy of https://twitter.com/MTV)
Ultimately, the activity of Twitter users during the Presidential debates further demonstrates the complex ways in which Millennials utilize social media in their personal and politically active lives. There were plenty of jokes thrown around (Various Big Bird accounts appeared almost immediately upon the controversial Muppet mention), but even those reveal how Millennials’ political awareness is shaped by technology and what people share with one another online. However, while humor appears to be primary lens through which Millennials understand and talk about politics (and the fewer characters the better), it is still evidence of strong investment in the national/international issues and political discourse.
Matt Cohen, MTV Insights
Millennials are a hyper-charged generation that has been primed for success and raised to believe they can conquer the world with their special talents. Growing up, they were coached and encouraged by “peer-rents” and teachers to take the right classes, participate in the right extracurriculars, and do the right internships – all with the promise that if they were responsible and worked hard, they would be rewarded with a fulfilling job and a happy life.
However, post financial crisis, this typically optimistic and high-powered generation has crashed head-on into a very rude awakening — an economy where opportunities are limited and where they have to compete against equally supercharged and overqualified peers. And for the ones who are fortunate enough to land a job, many are discovering that workplaces aren’t as receptive and nurturing as the schools and homes they left behind.
Time and again, we hear from Millennials that they feel duped – that the rules of the game changed while they weren’t looking. Matt, 23, from Nashville tells us “It’s like you have to start fresh these days – the system is different. We started college, the economy tanked. We grew up with the idea: high school, college, get job, get married. I see guys with masters degrees working at sporting good stores.”
It’s not surprising then that nearly 7 in 10 Millennials in the workforce feel “underemployed,” meaning they aren’t in a job that truly leverages their capabilities. An equal number (72%) say they’re afraid of not living up to their potential.
However, despite this rude awakening brought on by the economic crash, Millennials maintain their characteristic optimism in the face of adversity. Millennials still believe that their dream job is out there - 6 in 10 Millennials say “I believe there is such a thing as a perfect job for me.” But they might just have to work a bit harder to find it – or create it themselves, with 6 in 10 agreeing “if I can’t find a job I like, I will try and figure out a way to create my own job.” In MTV’s recent “Generation Innovation” study, we met with Millennial creators, entrepreneurs and makers all across the country who are forging their own paths in this economy, starting anything from food trucks to bike sharing services to party planning apps. And their optimism shone through with their spirited motto “fail faster” – 1 in 2 Millennials (56%) agree their generation embraces failure as an essential part of success. If it doesn’t work, pick up the pieces and start again.
In a way, graduating into a bad economy has been rather liberating for Millennials. As a result of the crash, Millennials have realized that there are more important things than making money. Rather than chasing the biggest paycheck, this generation is looking for fulfillment in their work as we recently discovered in MTV’s “No Collar Workers” study. http://bit.ly/AaWs6W
It’s this spirit of Millennial resilience that has inspired MTV’s newest series “Underemployed”. “Underemployed” follows a group of friends who dream of “complete world domination” as they navigate a post-college world that is very different from the one they had imagined. The show picks up one year after the group has graduated from college. None of the characters are living the life they planned, but that doesn’t mean they are giving up. As Sofia (played by Michelle Ang) explains in the first episode, “You grow up wanting a certain kind of life – a dream of a life. But by the time you get there, that life is gone. You have to make your own life, and you have to make it your way.”
With “Underemployed”, MTV pays tribute to a generation that continues to persevere — and will undoubtedly succeed in changing the working world for the better. “Underemployed” premieres Tuesday October 16, 2012 at 10pm on MTV.
By Alison Hillhouse, MTV Insights
Drake wannabees, Japan-o-philes and Asian Gangsters certainly aren’t cliques you would’ve found in high school 20 years ago. And a “nerd” might have been more monolithically caricatured as Screech from Saved by the Bell… instead of today’s breed of nerds that run the gamut from anime players to orch dorks to even “popular nerds.”
While cliques are a timeless high school institution, MTV Insights has found that cliques have morphed to reflect the increasingly diverse, unique and fluid nature of the Millennial generation. We had high schoolers in our nationwide MTV Creative Lab (hosted by Ypulse) diagram their high school cliques. And here’s what we saw….
While some of the clique infrastructure of yesteryear continues to hold true—there are still groupings like “alternative” “nerds” and “popular”—these overarching classifications have splintered into micro-cliques that highlight the unique personas of today’s youth.
At one New Jersey high school, “alt kids” are fragmented into hipsters (“non-conformists”), emo-scene (“depressed hipsters”) and “alts-in-training” (“still deciding which sub clique to belong to”). Honors kids are known for their different academic inclinations, including “nouveau honors” who have just entered the honors scene and are figuring out how to sub-specialize.
Clique diagrammers were also adamant that there were many micro-cliques of nerds, and not surprisingly, 81% of Millennials agree “there are different types of nerds – weird nerds and cool nerds.”
A map of “50 shades of nerd”:
Another high-schooler segmented out her school by where groups sat at lunch hour. She pointed out the nuances in tech types including programmers, gamers and techies… and even fine-sliced “band nerds” and “orch dorks” as distinct cliques (both who lunch together in the Fine Arts Hallway.)
Although cliques have fragmented and specialized, there’s a new fluidity to cliques – 6 in 10 Millennials agree “At my school, it wouldn’t be uncommon for an athlete and a nerd to be friends.” Millennials told stories of cliques coming together for creative collaborations, like “techies” and “rockers” fixing a guitar pedal together.
It’s also desirable to be connected to multiple cliques for diversification and inspiration – 7 in 10 Millennials identify with being a “floater.” DJs are the ultimate “cross-cliquers,” according to many… particularly given that EDM is such a universally appealing music, bringing together jocks, hipsters and “scene” kids.
But it’s not to say high school is one big happy family – clique clashes occur, such as those between “plastic cheerleaders” and “scene girls who side shave their hair.” This elaborate diagram of guy cliques shows both inter-clique fluidity and clashes:
No longer are high schoolers left with just hallway gossip and school functions to get a glimpse into the lives of other cliques – social media offers a 24/7 voyeuristic view into the inner-workings of every clique.
Cliques have an unofficial code of FB posting… of which others are hyper-aware. The artsy kids share poetic thoughts and photos of themselves looking distant and aloof. Popular girls paint an image of a perpetual party, including “highly edited photos that poorly conceal how intoxicated they were” and “photos of themselves in yoga pants plastered to butt, super short shorts.”
And imagine what it’s like now that The Stoners have iPhone access?! Tech has given birth to #highdea and #stonerproblems… and helped spurn the virality of YouTube stoner sensation - Cows & Cows & Cows. Check it out… you’ll be mesmerized for what seems like hours.
And as for the sub-species of “Drake Wannabees” … “he tries to be sensitive and tough, fails at both and is completely self-involved, annoyingly uses ‘YOLO’ and ‘Swag’ any chance he gets.”
More clique maps:
By Alison Hillhouse
I have to confess… I was totally surprised by how this generation rallied around the Olympics. Research I’d done a few years ago indicated young people felt rather lackluster about the Olympics. But after a decade of waning interest in Athens and Beijing, we saw Millennial frenzy around London 2012.
What’s going on here? MTV did some research to dig in more. Of course Millennials were drawn to the Olympics for timeless reasons – emotional stories, the world uniting, the awe of human possibility (particularly with Usain Bolt, a modern day superhero with gold wings on his feet and a signature “lightening move.”) But peeling back the layers, we uncovered some driving forces that galvanized this generation around the Olympics like never before:
Antidote to Recession: The Olympics have always inspired us to persevere in the face of adversity, and this year, they particularly struck a chord with coming-of-age, job-challenged Millennials wading through tough economic times. Nicole, 21, noted, “I’ve been having a tough time and Olympics showed me with perseverance I can get through this time.”
Meme-ing for medals: This was the first Olympics with meme culture in full force – and “unimpressed McKayla Maroney and Ryan Lochte “Hey Girl” memes provided constant reminders to tune in. As Liz, 19 says, “I wouldn’t have watched half the games I did had I not hear about them through social media.” Laura, 17, described favorite Olympic moments as a combination of actual events and meme-able outtakes: “My favorites were Gabby Douglas’ gold, Phelps 20 medals, watching Aly Raisman’s parents and the Aly Raisman meme.” In fact, 6 in 10 Millennials agree: The best part of the Olympics was the funny things people passed around online.”
My own private Lochte: While backstories are nothing new to the Olympics, we’re closer to athletes than ever thanks to Twitter & Instagram. Millennials loved how they could tweet to athletes and see “athletes Tweeting to each other” (“it’s as if I was in London!” says Liz, 19.) Behind-the-scenes views like Jordyn Weiber’s TwitPic of the Fab5 riding the double decker bus and posts on the excessive condom usage at Olympic Village were Gen Y favorites.
The Gold for Abs – A generation who’s creating Fitspo Pinterest pages of toned bodies and views bikini-clad celebs in US Weekly as a reference for “body perfection” was obsessed with the hot bodies of Olympians… so naturally it became trendy to rave about swimmers abs on your Facebook page and post “I wanna have Ryan Lochte’s babies.” And it wasn’t just 15 year old girls - in our youth obsessed country, both moms and the media were in a frenzy over “cute boys in Speedos.” (just like they all rally around boy bands like One Direction)
London Calling: A country obsessed with celeb-royalty, Prince William & Kate and all things British was eager to see London as a backdrop - Nearly 7 in 10 Millennials said that London as a host city made them more excited for the Olympics.
As Millennials come of age, the spirit of the games fits perfect with their mentality of positivity, connectedness and perseverance… and the celebrification of Olympians fits in perfect with our ever increasing obsession with fame.
Thomas Pardee, Ad Age
NEW YORK (AdAge.com) — They entered the consumer market during the stormiest economic climate since the Great Depression. And like the generation that was forever altered by the harsh sacrifices of World War II, millennials are likely to be permanently affected by the Great Recession and its long-term ripples. But these characteristics won’t change about the demographic: They are vocal, demanding and discerning.
Members of Generation Y — the demographic loosely defined as those born between 1980 on the early end and 2000 on the high end — are truly the product of the turbulent times in which they were reared, and present a challenge for marketers who dare target this shrewd and, yes, narcissistic generation.
Today, many millennials are unemployed; according to a Pew Research study released in February, a staggering 37% of 18 to 29-year-olds don’t have jobs, the highest share in three decades. Those who can afford to attend college are going to less-expensive state schools or community colleges and many are moving back home after graduation. More than a third depend on family members for regular financial assistance.
They’re tightening their belts and re-evaluating what makes them happy — and they’re spending money accordingly.
“We may not have lost jobs now, but we never had them in the first place,” said Gabi Gregg, a 24-year-old graduate of Mount Holyoke College who was recently chosen as MTV’s first “Twitter Jockey” in a nationwide competition. Ms. Gregg was awarded the coveted $100,000-a-year position — her first stable job — in which she’s charged with engaging millennials like herself in the topics that matter most to them. “Almost everyone I know is living paycheck to paycheck, just trying to survive. It’s easier to interact online than to go out and pay for dinner, or go to a movie.”
Paul Taylor, exec VP of the Pew Research Center, said finding footing on the first rung of the career ladder can be the hardest step for Gen Y.
“Young adults who start out in bad economic times suffer long-term consequences,” he said. “If you don’t find a job right out of college, it may affect you for as long as 10 to 15 years down the road.”
Aside from the economic wrench, millennials bear key characteristics that distinguish them: they live and die by social media and peer validation; they were raised in “peer-renting” households that placed them at the center of their families’ attention; they’re endlessly optimistic about their futures despite current hardships; and they care about social causes — at least enough to serve up a mean Facebook campaign.
But whether millennials can tangibly unite behind a cause is a key tension point between experts and millennials themselves. Nick Shore, head of research for MTV who’s currently conducting a study on the behavior patterns of Gen Y, suggests most millennials are willing to click the “like” button on Facebook to indicate support of a cause, but won’t venture too much further beyond the gesture.
This isn’t to mean that millennials don’t care, though. Experts agree that given their collective upbringing, for Gen Y, negotiation is the new rebellion. “They don’t see themselves as revolutionaries or reformers, they see themselves as quiet [agents of] change,” said Carol Phillips, founder of the market research firm Brand Amplitude, which specializes in millennial studies. “It’s about working within the system. They’ve never had to reject anything; they’ve just had to build on it. And their numbers suggest that they can be successful at it.”
This is a defining characteristic of the generation, according to author and economist Neil Howe, who coined the term “millennial” in the early ’90s in his first of several books on Gen Y. And like most millennial-related issues, technology plays a part. “If you ask a bunch of Gen Xers [born in the ’60s and ’70s] what they would do if they didn’t like where they worked, most would say ‘leave.’ But if you ask millennials that question, their attitude is, ‘Someone will fix it,’” Mr. Howe said. “They’ll start IM-ing each other, a few will get Mom and Dad on their cellphones, someone will call the local media, another will alert the congressman. Millennials trust in their institutions more than baby boomers or Gen Xers.”
Ms. Gregg cites the massive response to gay rights advocate Dan Savage’s recent “It Gets Better” YouTube project as a prime example of millennial might. In just a few weeks, hundreds of videos of LBGT adults and allies, including many millennials, had submitted videos with anti-bullying messages and support for gay youth. (The channel has since been viewed more than a million times.) Gen Y isn’t physically storming the castle walls, but Ms. Gregg said that doesn’t mean it’s not making its voice heard.
Millennials are also perhaps the most analytical and media-savvy consumers ever. Mr. Shore said that, while some characterize millennials as suspicious or cynical of old-school linear marketing ploys, they’re just better at seeing through them. “We shoot a beam of content to the audience, and they take it apart like light through a prism. … Millennials are super-deconstructive of any kind of media messaging.”
Mr. Shore said for this reason and others, transparency and authenticity are key in marketing to Gen Y, and he’s not alone — Ms. Phillips said Gen Y has a love/hate relationship with marketing. “They love brands, and they talk about them more than anything else, but they hate the interruptive model of advertising,” said Ms. Phillips. “[Millennials] like to see ads tailored to them. It’s not that they don’t want to see ads, they just don’t want to see ads for Cialis.”
Ms. Phillips says millennials are now tinged with a sense of frugality that will likely remain for the rest of their lives. Her research suggests they’re big into redistribution of materials, into sharing smaller houses and taking public transit or walking. They’ve dropped their cable and never used landline phones; they’re not eating out as much, and they’re paying down their debt. Though they will splurge on necessities (which now include smartphones) and rationalize that occasional Coach bag as a career investment, “they’ll go online and ask their friends for recs. They’re very careful shoppers.”
Ms. Phillips says millennials’ focus on experience helps explain why social currency is the new gold standard for smart marketers and advertisers. “If I can add value, they’ll tell my story for me,” she said. “It puts pressure on marketers to go back to their roots — it’s about engaging consumers with your message.”
Mr. Shore, who conducts focus groups for new programming with millennials from the earliest stages of a show’s creation, said an essential element in making this new concept of social currency work is actually not so new at all — linear programming, like the MTV Video Music Awards, around which millennials can engage on digital platforms like Twitter. After all, “smart and funny is the new rock and roll,” Mr. Shore said.
Mr. Howe said it’s no accident that millennials voted for President Obama by a 66% margin: Mr. Obama, who was Ad Age’s Marketer of the Year in 2008, relentlessly peddled the most millennial ideas possible — positivity and inclusiveness. Mr. Howe said these are values that millennials respond to most.
“Gen X slogans were ‘No rules, just right’ and ‘Grab life by the horns,’ all very in-your-face,” said Mr. Howe. “For millennials, it’s ‘Yes, we can,’ ‘Wii would like to play’ and ‘We’re all in this together’ from ‘High School Musical.’ It’s a different attitude. It has to be inclusive, and it has to look for a better day.”
While experts note millennials are also known for their arrogance, self-centeredness and reliance on technology, Ms. Phillips said marketers and older generations in general would do well to not pander, over-simplify or write them off too quickly. “They get it. They deeply get it,” she said. “And where they go, everyone else is going to follow.”
5 tips for marketing to millennials
1. Be fast
For millennials, there’s nothing worth saying that can’t be said in 140 characters or less. It’s not that they can’t handle long-form pitches, they just know you can do better. So do better.
2. Be clever
As Nick Shore, head of research for MTV, said, “Smart and funny is the new rock ‘n’ roll.” Millennials are set to be the most-educated generation on record, with the largest social-media platform (Facebook) having been famously born on a college campus. “With their roots in college culture, it’s no wonder eloquence and timing are more prized than ever for this generation. Err on the side of overestimating the millennial — as the Old Spice campaign shows — and sometimes they’ll surprise you.
3. Be transparent
Millennials may be arrogant and entitled, but they’re not stupid, and they know media exists to sell them things. So rather than pretending your branded beverage isn’t conspicuously placed in a TV character’s hand to entice them, look for new ways to make it funny. It will ring true with them, and they’ll appreciate the honesty. (Need a cue? Look no further than the deliciously self-referential “30 Rock.”)
4. Don’t “technologize” everything
By their own definition, millennials are in part defined by their use of and reliance on technology. But marketers should resist the urge to attempt to “speak their language” — Gen Yers can smell those ploys a mile away. Remember, millennials are digital natives — they don’t use technology; they live it, and they do so subconsciously.
5. Give them a reason to talk about you
Millennials don’t like ads, but they don’t mind marketing that’s non-invasive, non-interruptive and that adds something to their experience, either online or off. Whether it’s a fun and timely iPhone app, a targeted high-profile event or a personalized viral-video campaign, if you want your message to resonate with millennials, give them something to talk about. And if we know the first thing about millennials, talk they will.