Dun & Bradstreet Logo

Catherine Colbert

Understanding the Millennial Mindset

by Catherine Colbert | Dun & Bradstreet Editor

September 17, 2014 | No Comments »

Becoming well-acquainted with the mighty Millennial generation should be part of every business’s marketing plan, whether this modern consumer crowd is a target customer today or within the next five or 10 years.

Known for their finesse in the fast-paced tech and social media worlds, this generation of savvy young adults is poised to make its mark on corporate America. For uninitiated businesses seeking this generation’s acceptance, the impact of Millennials’ flexing muscle will feel more like a sucker punch if they aren’t positioned to offer innovative and meaningful products and services with transparency and in an engaging way. Companies who are well-versed in Gen Y’s motivations and happily embraced by this old-soul generation are likely to morph into Wall Street darlings.

Astute businesses that tap into the Millennial psyche and cater to them will fare far better than those who don’t. This generation is assured to breathe new life into established companies, create opportunities for small businesses and startups, and serve as a revenue lifeline for businesses that have earned a place in the Gen Y lifestyle.

Here are a few Gen Y characteristics to consider.

Millennials Fly Solo Longer, Focusing on Education First

  • Fewer Millennials are married as they enter their prime spending years. They’re less likely to be married by the age of 32 (26%) than Gen X (36%) and Boomers (48%).
  • They’re characterized as well-educated, entrepreneurial, tech-savvy, idealistic, and hopeful.
  • They take on less debt.
  • They grew up when both the divorce rate and poverty under the age of 6 peaked.
  • Many Millennials were raised by actively involved parents, who’ve been preparing them — and their resumes — for college since they were in preschool, moving to and attending the best schools and getting involved in scores of extracurricular activities.
  • Millennials crave awards and are achievement-hungry.

Millennials Are Not Establishing Households in Their 20s, as Expected

  • Millenials are more likely to live at home. During the 2008 financial crisis, more Millennials remained in their parents’ house longer.
  • In 2012, 40% of Millennial men (ages 18-31) lived at home and 26% of them lived in a multigenerational household. (The US Census counts young adults living in college dorms as living with their parents.)
  • According to the US Census Bureau, 15- to 34-year-olds comprise the smallest percentage of total home owners and renters.

Millennials Shop Strategically

  • The more adventurous Millennials are less consistent than Boomers in where they shop, but they’ll pay extra for products they value. Rather than making a one-stop-shop, Gen Y will shop for basics at mass merchants and organic and specialty foods elsewhere.
  • Millennials, who have a penchant for unique items, tend to shop locally and from retailers with whom they can establish a relationship.

Millennials Value Exercise and Healthy Eating

  • According to an APA study, 72% of Millennials say they exercise once a week, compared to 59% of Gen Xers and Boomers. They are also more likely to use exercise to manage stress (50%) than are Xers (44%) and Boomers (40%).
  • This active generation eschews traditional gym memberships in favor of more personalized, communal activities such as cycling, Zumba, and CrossFit.
  • According to First Research, more people — particularly Millennials — are growing their own food. The number of young people (ages 18-34) who grow their own food rose to 13 million in 2013, an increase of 63%, according to the National Gardening Association (NGA).
  • Gen Y diets less frequently, yet consumes fewer calories daily.
  • The popularity of high-quality cold-press juices is a fast-growing multibillion-dollar juice category as process technology continues to improve.

Millennials Are Socially Conscious

  • Globalization at the turn of the century helped to expose Millennials to the world.
  • Having the world open to them via cable and the Internet, Millennials feel a responsibility to take care of it — and in turn hold companies and institutions to the same standards.
  • Millennials vote with their purchases. They shop and buy products and services from businesses that prioritize social causes that align with theirs, including the environment.
  • They represent the most racially diverse generation in American history (the US Census Bureau predicts that the full US population will be majority nonwhite around 2043).
  • Their early lives are marked by both foreign and domestic acts of terrorism, such as 9/11, the Oklahoma City bombing, and the Columbine shooting.
  • They’re the most upbeat generation about the future of our country.

Millennials Are Social Media Powerhouses

  • This tech-focused group, which has enjoyed instant access, expects to be catered to by big companies.
  • A thumb culture was born during Millennials’ earliest years of video gaming, emailing, and texting.
  • 81% of Millennials are on Facebook, according to Pew reports.
  • They’re savvy web researchers and love to comparison-shop.
  • They’re more likely to use text messaging, social media, instant messaging, and blogging to communicate with others about a service, product, or brand (Goldman Sachs’ Proper Insights & Analytics for the Media Behavior and Influence Study).
  • 60% of Millennials actively rate products online vs. 46% of other generations.

Millennials Travel Differently

  • They treat travel as a way to explore the world they see online and network with others for career and life pursuits.
  • They’re spontaneous, taking on average four or more trips per year.
  • Akin to adding a pushpin to a map to track their travel progress, Millennials share each stop along the way through social media sites.
  • Three out of four Millennials will post to a social network at least once a day while they travel.
  • Gogobot’s Tribes feature, used by Millennials, allows users to create unique resident-only type experiences.
  • For Gen Y without or between jobs, they see travel as a way to expand their career networking influence — preferably into global locales.
  • They also want to see the world now while they have time, rather than wait until they retire or are empty-nesters.
  • To do this, some of these young adults work to cut travel costs by getting advice from friends and family and using popular sites Airbnb, Couchsurfing, and flight aggregator Skyscanner.

Millennials Don’t Chase After Status Symbols

  • Many don’t chase after traditional status and wealth symbols.
  • 64% of Millennials would rather make $40,000/year at a job they love than $100,000/year at a job they think is boring, per an Intelligence Group study, reported in The Columbus Dispatch 3/30/14.
  • Millennials don’t care about driving or owning luxury cars.
  • Teens are not as interested as previous generations in getting their driver’s licenses. Twenty years ago two-thirds of kids had a license by age 18; but only about half do now.
  • Rather than owning a car, Millennials are choosing public transportation, biking, and car-sharing
  • Millennials consider experiences more important than “things.”


Could be that marketers worldwide have many more Millennials on their hands. What I discovered years ago, when I began tracking the ebb and flow of this young generation, is that you don’t have to be Millennial to act or think like one.

Regardless of your birth year and generational cohort, you may identify more with Millennials than your own generation. Boomers and Gen X can take on Millennial characteristics no matter what birthday they’re celebrating.

Take this quick 14-item “How Millennial Are You?” quiz, developed by the Pew Research Center. Be forewarned, though, as it asks about tattoos.


This is part of our Millennials Rising series. For more information on the economic and business impact of this generation, see these related articles:

Savvy Businesses Embrace Millennials

Catering to Millennials Creates Opportunities

How Juiceland Attracts Millennials (Interview)

The IC2 Institute Looks at Millennial Entrepreneurs (Interview)

HomeAway Opens Doors to Millennials (Interview)

Whole Earth Provision: Turning Unique Into Growth (Interview)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *