How Millennials Are Way More Like The Rest Of Us Than We First Believed

August 26, 2015

Written by Benjamin Potter | Creative Director, CLICKON

Millennials seem to come up in every content marketing conversation, don’t they?

“How do we hit Generation Y with content that is sharable?”

“Are millennials even important to our sales?” (Barf)

Most people I have sat with in these conversations make wild claims about how young adults are different to previous generations. But on what grounds are they making these assumptions? If we look at the core values of millennials, it is remarkable how similar they are to Generation X, according to a recent study on 18-24 year olds done by Universal McCann.

top 5 values of 18-24 year olds

By the way, Number 6 on the list is the centrepiece of the American Dream – owning a home. 60% of 18-24 year olds agree this materialistic possession is important to them.

Perhaps most important on the list is number 4, in which young millennials admit to feeling the need to create envy. Just like Generation X and their predecessors did before them, this generation is just as obsessed with status and making other people desire their lives. Young millennials do not do this through buying a fast car or a big house. They do it through the greatest symbol in youth culture – social currency.

Social currency is “the entirety of actual and potential resources which arise from the presence in social networks and communities, may they be digital or offline.”

Having something in life to discuss amongst your social network is the main reason why topics from latest fashion to breaking sports news is a driving cultural force amongst them. It defines them. 


In the map below created by UMWW, we can see the rapidly evolving values of 18-24 year olds between 2009 and 2013. In these four years, there has been a monumental shift in the “30 key personal values UM tracks via its survey, Media in Mind.” Both men and women are now craving more utopian values, contrary to what many content marketers believe millennials crave. Statements such as “I want a happy family” or “I want to be happy with who I am” have risen over the past five years, as have increasing insecurity typified by statements such as “Life is very stressful” and “I’m unsure how to achieve my goals in life.”

young millennials

Nothing new, huh?

Millennials, just like their predecessors, have to face the stress of making money while balancing relationships and family life. Their anxieties include “dating, peer group acceptance and related areas such as social media stress” according to UMWW. If you replace social media stress with “social stress”, their anxieties look remarkably similar to Generation X’s.

What does this have to do with content marketing, you ask?

Generation Y is a lot more like the rest of the world than marketers think. While they crave new forms of content, are more adventurous and admire stories over product videos dangling in their face, it is important to remember that content must speak to them just like it spoke to their predecessors. The main difference between millennials and Generation X is that social media envy is what motivates them, something older generations cannot grasp. Market to them and make them look better online than they do offline, just like buying a big house and fast car did 20 years ago for people.