millennials

We, Not Me: The Truth About Millennials

Millennials value authenticity, choice, personalization and, perhaps above all, community.

Joel Stein called Millennials the “Me Me Me Generation" in his 2013 Time magazine cover story. Specifically, Stein said, “Millennials are lazy, entitled narcissists who still live with their parents." Is this true? Does this mean we can dismiss them and not consider their needs and wants?

But, hey—haven’t we heard this all before?

The truth is, Millennials are no different than any other generation. Every generation faces criticism from those who came before. Challenged by older folks who give mildly back-handed advice often beginning with “Back when I was your age," younger populations find themselves straddling the line between tradition and innovation. Should we embrace change and progress, or do we nostalgically hold on to the good ol’ days when things were better … or so we’re told?

A Millennial is often depicted as a smartphone-carrying vagabond who would rather spend money on craft beer and specialty yoga classes than a single-family home, a reliable automobile or investment in a 401(k) plan. Unlike the generations before them, this stereotype suggests Millennials feel material possessions are unimportant; they’re less concerned with status and stability, and are more concerned with unique experiences that foster meaningful, inclusive relationships with those around them. Millennials value authenticity, choice, personalization and, perhaps above all, community. Contrary to Stein’s “Me Me Me," the true cry of this generation is “We We We."

In 2015, Millennials surpassed Baby Boomers as the most populous generation, giving the dietary supplement industry room to grow. In the Council for Responsible Nutrition’s (CRN) 2016 Consumer Survey on Dietary Supplements, 70 percent of U.S. adults aged 18 to 34 years identified as supplement users. A 5 percent rise from 2015, the data showed the younger population is increasingly incorporating dietary supplements into their health regimens. This data point reminds our industry to seriously consider Millennials when developing new marketing tactics and campaigns.

Communicating with Millennials involves a shift in marketing tactics that appeals to the “we" mentality. Millennials are interested in building relationships with brands and may be more likely to purchase a product based on the recommendation of a YouTuber than from seeing an ad in a magazine, on the side of a bus or on television. They want to hear a story—an opinion from someone they can identify with—rather than one, general message delivered by a faceless voice. Sure, advertisements can be, and are, targeted toward generations and specific populations within that generation, but Millennials seek personalization in a different way than Boomers. They want direction from a voice they can relate to, not the authoritative expert older generations came to rely upon.

The blogosphere seems like a perfect match—supplements are personal, and bloggers share their personal experiences. While 56 percent of supplement users cite medical doctors or physicians as a trusted source of reliable information on dietary supplements, according to CRN’s survey results, nearly 20 percent of supplement users look to online sources, including blogs and social media. Given this statistic, working with bloggers is more important than ever.

Last year, CRN attended #BlogHer16, the largest conference for female bloggers in the United States. Staffing our exhibit hall booth with Wellness Ambassadors, the trade organization was encouraged by the enthusiasm bloggers had for sporting a button proclaiming they were part of the “68 percent" (now 71 percent!) of Americans taking dietary supplements. Not surprisingly, many of them focused on what supplements they were taking, and wanted to know what supplements they should be taking.

Blogging has been around for a while, and it has changed the way companies interact with customers. Through sponsored posts or product reviews, companies are utilizing the voices of bloggers to connect with their target audiences. Blogging and social media have opened opportunities for conversation and personalized interactions that allow influencers to share their stories, put a face to a product and garner trust. With blogging, it’s not necessarily just about the product—it’s about the experience behind the product—and this is why Millennials are so receptive.

Mr. Stein was not correct when he stated Millennials are lazy, narcissistic and entitled. Every generation is stereotyped, but as marketers, we need to reach generations by determining where and how they want to be reached. Millennials are no exception. They’re not so different from Boomers or other generations in what they’re looking for, although the way they find what they want may be different. We like to think of Millennials as a population that reminds other generations about the importance of supporting one another through meaningful, thoughtful conversations and shared experiences. The truth is, Millennials are just trying to make connections, stay healthy and live a happy life—and aren’t we all?

Judy Blatman, senior vice president, communications, the Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN) is a Boomer, and Julia Shenkar, senior manager, communications, CRN, is a Millennial. CRN is a trade association for the dietary supplement industry.

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