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The Five Big Millennial Motivators (Part One)

Today’s post is by Ypulse President Dan Coates.

What motivates Millennials? We’re asked this question more often than any other. Usually we’re asked in the context of encouraging trial of a new product, switching allegiances from one brand to another, or discouraging bad behaviors (e.g. the campaign co-created by teens to combat childhood obesity for the American Beverage Association at

We’ve always pointed to the executional elements of Millennial marketing success at Ypulse: for 2014 you should have a strong mobile focus, should be on a visual platform, and your social media presence should be engaging and plentiful. Additionally, you should work hard to facilitate amplified, individualized experiences, and you should work even harder to abandon any anachronistic markers of the way the world used to work. (Oh, Barbie). Great tactical advice, but ideas that will help improve your strategy rather than define it. When it comes to defining your Millennial strategy, the harsh reality is that tweens, teens, and twentysomethings don’t really care about your dreams of world domination or your quarterly targets, they’re simply living their lives, embracing what ‘fits’ and discarding what doesn’t. So what ‘fits’ and why?

Last year we conducted a segmentation of Millennials ages 13 to 32, looking to leverage not only demographics, behavior, and attitudes, but psychographics as well. Psychographic segmentations are like catnip to researchers and we just can’t keep ourselves away from this data. A recent examination was inspired by a youth marketing team member within a global CPG company, who asked us to help define key youth values, understand what factors influence these values, and identify manifestations or real world examples of these values in action.

Since 2007 we’ve been asking a battery of 50 youth values questions within our panel.  We’ve reviewed them over time and while these values have ebbed and flowed, we haven’t deemed any of them irrelevant. Meanwhile, we’ve been hard pressed to identify new values to add to the list (if you can identify any opportunities for improvement within our youth valumeter, pretty please send us a note). We performed a factor analysis to roll the 50 values into some overarching dimensions and found five dominant motivators:

1. Integrity & Ethics
2. Hedonism
3. Family
4. Spirituality
5. Relationships

And five secondary motivators:

6. National Pride
7. Security
8. Cutting Edge
9. Self Sufficiency
10. Civility

Let’s unpack one of these today, diving deeply into whether one of these motivators can fuel your Millennial strategies in 2015. We spun the big wheel of motivators and landed on Hedonism. Hurray! Lining up this motivator with our valumeter statements, Hedonism is driven by the following values:

  • Owning lots of stuff
  • Being really famous
  • Being popular
  • Getting drunk
  • Being really rich
  • Getting high / stoned
  • Getting an adrenaline buzz

If you’re an Xer, you’d look at this list and state that these values were the hallmarks of your generation. You’d be right about that—youth culture has incorporated these themes since the ‘60s and the hedonistic pursuits that the Boomers invented were perfected by Generation X. Manifestations of these values are readily available through generations: from beer pong, consumer-culture, and Fast Times at Ridgemont High to Mean Girls, EDM and Molly. The long boom that began in the ‘80s and peaked in 2007 was a heady, hedonistic ride. (Some of us miss it…)

So what’s different with Millennials?  The inflection point is how low these values are within the priorities that Millennials hold. Here’s a rundown:

  • Being really rich is ranked #41 of our 50 statements (only 32% of Millennials say that this is very or somewhat important to them)
  • Getting an adrenaline buzz is ranked #43 of our 50 statements (only 27% of Millennials say that this is very or somewhat important to them)
  • Owning lots of stuff is ranked #45 of our 50 statements (only 21% of Millennials say that this is very or somewhat important to them)
  • Being popular is ranked #46 of our 50 statements (only 19% of Millennials say that this is very or somewhat important to them)
  • Being really famous is ranked #48 of our 50 statements (only 13% of Millennials say that this is very or somewhat important to them)
  • Getting drunk is ranked #49 of our 50 statements (only 8% of Millennials say that this is very or somewhat important to them)
  • Getting high / stoned is ranked #50 of our 50 statements (only 7% of Millennials say that this is very or somewhat important to them)

In our segmentation, we found that some segments found these values more important than others, however, across the Millennial generation as a whole, these are the least powerful motivators that you can use to sway the largest generation in American history.

So the next time your creative team decides that the secret to motivating Millennials is to appeal to their Hedonistic impulses, take a pass.  As we’ll see next week, there are far more powerful motivators than Hedonism.



Dan Coates

Dan started his career twenty years ago as a data analyst in Vancouver, Canada’s most beautiful city. Abandoning the idyllic pleasures of the Pacific Northwest, Dan has since lived and worked in Toronto, San Francisco, Cincinnati, Dallas, and now New York. While Dan has worked for big companies such as SPSS (now IBM) Burke, The Angus Reid Group (now IPSOS-Reid) and Millward Brown, his passion lies in bringing new businesses to life. To date Dan has been a founder of three companies: Planetfeedback (now Nielsen Buzzmetrics), Eppointments, and SurveyU as well as an early participant in Polimetrix (now YouGov USA) and Globalpark (now QuestBack). He wakes up every morning, eager to see Ypulse reach its full potential.