Global study reveals Millennials’ profoundly different approach to achieving happiness
Young people have a fundamentally different approach to achieving happiness compared to previous generations, which has profound implications for brand marketing. This is the key finding of ZenithOptimedia’s latest global consumer insight study: The Pursuit of Happiness.
In its qualitative and quantitative study of the lives of Millennials – consumers aged 18 to 34 – ZenithOptimedia found that this generation shuns the ‘free spirit’ goals of the Baby Boomers and the consumerist desires of the young in the 80s and 90s, and has a completely different understanding of what constitutes adulthood.
Achieving happiness is a life goal that unites all of us, so ZenithOptimedia looked at the generation that is most focused on personal happiness to understand the role that brands can play in helping young people lead happy and fulfilled lives. In order to do this, we spoke with over 6000 Millennials across 10 key countries around the world, via online surveys and an online portal that garnered the views of ZenithOptimedia’s own Millennial employees.
Millennials’ attitudes to life have been shaped by a unique set of factors: a prolonged recession – the worst in living memory – technological empowerment, and more life freedoms than were enjoyed by previous generations. Understanding this, ZenithOptimedia discovered that for Millennials happiness is achieved through a unique construct of factors that divide into two key areas: freedom and control. Faced with the conundrum of an array of opportunities awaiting them, but a lack of money or the financial security needed to pursue many of these, Millennials are having to impose far higher levels of on control on their lives in order to realise their ambitions.
In contrast to the hedonistic ideals of previous generations, we found that the areas of life that Millennials consider important for achieving happiness are: health and wellbeing, financial stability, career, following your dreams and pursuing your passions, and formal education. While previous generations rebelled against controls, Millennials believe they need to be in control of finances, work, social and family lives in order to take advantage of freedoms and opportunities.
We discovered that Millennials who are in control of their career are 56% happier than those who are not in control. Similarly, Millennials who are in control of their passions and interests are 55% happier. And, those in control of their social life are 35% happier. ZenithOptimedia also found there are significant country differences in terms of the areas of control required to achieve happiness. For example, in the US the key areas of control are finances, social life and work/life balance, but in Spain it is career/education, ambitions and finances. In general, career and finance are considered by Millennials to be the two most critical areas to control in order to achieve happiness.
With controls in place, Millennials have the freedom to pursue their passions. We discovered that having ‘meaningful experiences’ is critical to happiness for Millennials. Such experiences are key to all areas of social life and the majority of Millennials we spoke to considered experiences – such as spending time with friends or going to a concert – to be more important than material goods. And, in contrast to previous generations, Millennials feel they are judged on how they express themselves, not by what they own. This explains why social media has become so important for this generation – it is their primary platform for sharing stories and creative expression.
With such a different approach to achieving happiness, not surprisingly Millennials have very different views on what constitutes adulthood, compared to previous generations. Only 17% of Millennials consider buying a house as a milestone of adulthood, and only slightly more – 20% – believe getting married is a sign of being an adult. And less than half – 39% – thought that moving out of their parents’ house was a key part of being an adulthood. In contrast, today’s milestones of adulthood for young people are: becoming a problem solver (47%), becoming a decision maker (59%) and financial independence (60%).
With such pressures of fulfilling life potential, seizing opportunities and maintaining employment, ZenithOptimedia discovered that happiness can dip sharply for older Millennials. We identified a significant dip in happiness at age 28 – the lowest levels experienced in the UK where Millennials of that age experience a 10% drop in happiness. Overall we identified a clear ‘Quarterlife Crisis’.
From our ‘Pursuit of Happiness’ study, we identified several clear opportunities for brands to help Millennials achieve happiness. We have a devised a Marketing Manifesto to enable brands to achieve meaningful and sustainable engagement with Millennials:
- Help Millennials to live more fulfilled lives
- Help Millennials to give their best
- Deliver meaningful brand experiences
- Empower Millennials to make wise decisions
- Help Millennials to write their personal stories
- Enable and facilitate control
- Respect the brand relationship
Brands that can help Millennials achieve happiness stand the best chance of securing long-lasting and profitable relationships with this important consumer group. While Millennials might seem a very care-free audience, obsessed with social media and celebrities, scratch below the surface and you will discover very savvy, discerning and astute consumers.
Linda Tan, Strategic Insights Director, Worldwide, ZenithOptimedia