Last week, MTV unveiled their recent study on young Millennials, delving into some of the differences between these 14-17-year-olds and their older generational counterparts. A generation of 80 million individuals can’t be looked at as one universal group (which is also why we are Reassessing Millennials at our Mashup and unveiling our segmentation of the generation). Younger Millennials are not just mini-me versions of older Millennials. They have spent their formative years in a different world and the effects are clear. Younger Millennials were raised in the recession, and 60% of them believe their generation is going to be worse off than their parents’ generation. More of them are being raised by practical Gen Xers, as opposed to the more idealistic Boomers who brought up older Millennials. They’re more pragmatic, more invested in planning for their futures from a young age, and more cautious.
These differences are to be expected when you consider the greater environment of stress and exposure to strife that younger Millennials and post-Millennials have been exposed to from a young age. But the ways that young Millennials are coping with the demands and stresses of being young today are perhaps the most interesting piece of the study’s findings. One of their “adaptive strategies” is something that MTV is calling “Mono-tasking,” being totally absorbed by one activity to tune out the rest of the world. 82% of young Millennials say that when they are stressed or overwhelmed they like to do one thing at a time. The rise in mono-tasking shows a sharp divergence from the behavior of their older brothers and sisters, who have long been known as rabid multi-taskers. But perhaps more importantly, it sets the stage for a group that is turning to super-niche interests to both soothe themselves and to stand out in the crowd. From baking and crafting to being into Victorian art or old soap operas, young Millennials are a demo looking for and celebrating increasingly narrow diversions.
This “Go Niche, or Go Home” mentality is a key distinguisher of these younger Millennial cohorts. While older Millennials grew up being taught to pad their college resumes with a wide range of activities and learned to become “slash kids” (artist/musician/student), young Millennials are finding one thing that they are passionate about and making it their focus. We’ve seen that older Millennials have started to respect expertise in recent years, and young Millennials are making it a goal from a much younger age. According to MTV, 84% say they love being an expert in things and 78% claim that someone they know would consider them an “expert” in at least one thing. Niche expertise is a new social currency.
Unprecedented access to information about any topic imaginable, as well as pocket communities online where they can showcase and foster their niche pastimes, are key elements to the super-niche interest side of young Millennials. They are a group with all the tools to dive deep into specific subjects at their fingertips, and they are taking full advantage of them.
It seems the more focused and unique the interest, the better. MTV found that almost 2/3rds of young Millennials say, “I am into something “random” that other people aren’t.” One young MTV panelist watched the entire Buffy series in two months and carves vampire stakes to showcase her fandom. She’s now getting into old soap operas that are streaming on Netflix and Hulu. Ypulse’s own research has found that young Millennials are more likely than older Millennials to say that doing things their friends don’t do is important to them, and the most likely of any age group to say expressing their individuality is important to them. Where previous generations and older Millennials generally tried to blend in with their peers, young Millennials are looking to niche interests as a way to stand out.
Much of the niche interest movement is playing out in the DIY arena. A Wall Street Journal article entitled “Tweens Say It With Duct Tape” delved into the rapidly growing craft market directed at tweens, who are personalizing everything that they can get their hands on with tape, sharpies, fabric paint, sequins and more. The piece refers to sixth graders with “crafting workspaces” and 12-year-olds with their own DIY YouTube channels. For those who wondered if the DIY movement would last, it seems it won’t be over for some time as young-Millennials (and we can speculate post-Millennials as well) breathe new life into the industry with their ever growing super-niche interest needs.
WHAT IT ALL MEANS:
Brands need to be prepared for a consumer group with a more fractured sense of what is cool. The fragmented niche interests of young and post-Millennials could mean greater opportunity for brands that help to foster and feed niche interests, and at the same time result in pockets of focused passionate consumers that need to be targeted on a more personal level. Young Millennials are looking for ways to showcase their niche interests, and gaining attention for their unique passions is a point of pride for them.