In 2016, US millennials overtook the country’s dominant baby boomers to become America’s largest generation. And although over in aging Europe, millennials are still only a minority of the adult populations in their respective countries, the group has become a driving force for marketers.
Marketers have been studying, stalking, successfully engaging and occasionally stereotyping US millennials for years. But striking gold with the American version doesn’t guarantee success with millennials in other parts of the world; after all, there are intricate cultural, socioeconomic, and political factors that shape consumers’ attitudes and approach to life.
However, there are a few key similarities in the way these young consumers view life and make decisions.
Home ownership: Despite common speculation that millennials aren’t willing to settle down or follow along the traditional stepping stones of adulthood, most millennials do dream of owning a home. The problem is that most can’t afford one, even though millennials in the US are more confident that they can make the dream of homeownership come true.
US millennials aren’t the only ones who covet the status, success and freedom that homeownership signals to others: Italians vie for status and Spaniards appreciate the freedom nearly as much as their US counterparts do, according to CEB data.
Cause and sustainability: Media portrayals of millennials are often conflicting. Some praise them for supporting and/or seeking employment at socially responsible companies, or their willingness to pay extra for sustainable offerings; others call out millennials’ hypocrisy and question whether their good intentions line up with real-life actions. Middle-ground observers suggest that Millennials are living out their sustainable beliefs in their own unique ways.
In fact, according to CEB data, millennials — both in the US and Europe — generally support socially responsible brands and believe in sustainability as a principle, but their personal support for sustainability, and the extent of their personal actions as part of a more sustainable lifestyle, are moderate at best.
Refugee support: The efforts and generosity of socially conscious Europeans to welcome refugees into their home countries has been noticed by many.
However, when CEB asked American and European millennials about their attitudes towards refugee relief efforts, the majority admit to having little personal interest in helping the cause. Some cite practical, economic reasons; others are ideologically opposed to taking on personal or even collective responsibility for helping out refugees in need.
Money is the culprit: A common theme that brings all three topics together is money, a clear narrative of cash-strapped millennials, many who have become adults in a time of relative scarcity, feel stuck in an endless stressful loop.
Lack of funds is the primary obstacle to homeownership, yet the most common motivator to buy a home is the aspiration to “stop wasting money.” Likewise, limited personal finances are also the main reason millennials say they are not able to lead a “greener” lifestyle or assist refugees, according to CEB data.