Millennials Say “Don’t Waste My Time”

Have you ever posed a question to a teen via a text message? Chances are you got back fewer letters than you sent.  I question the necessity of a full qwerty  keyboard for my 16-year old son as his responses generally consist of “K“, “Ya“, “idk” or “?”

We often conduct research via online research via chat conferencing among Millennials, and compare it to similar research among older adults to identify differences. Beyond the substantive differences, it’s striking how abbreviated Gen Y responses are, while being no less expressive. While older respondents will use complete sentences and punctuation, Millennials fire off faster, shorter messages, sometimes in rapid succession.

Economy of words is part of a general, generational aversion to waste – wasted money, wasted effort, wasted environmental resources, wasteful government, wasted time. They use multi-tasking to eke the most out of every minute of every day. Even sleeping can seem like a waste of time.

Why all this emphasis on efficiency? I think it has to do with the very high expectations Millennials have of themselves. Their bucket lists are full of high aspirations. Millennial, Kayla Brown, 23 years, answered the question of what she hopes to accomplish by the time she retires with “I suppose you mean other than world domination….?”

Consequently, they have little patience for things that get in their way, like inefficient technology, slow loading web sites, long voice mails, and inadequate customer service. Some read this quality negatively as ‘impatience’, or worse, ‘entitlement’. Millennials mainly see their economical ways as a virtue.

It’s my opinion that Gen Y’s general aversion to paid advertising messages is, at least in part, an aversion to wasting time.

Source: Mintel, March 2010

Interruptive advertising is not just guilty of often being irrelevant. The worse crime is that irrelevant ads steal time that could be better spent with better content.

Research by Mintel among DVR owners shows that Millennials are actually MORE likely than older adults to say they would like to be able to see commercials that are selected for them based on their preferences or on demand on a DVR. This suggests there is a place for TV ads, but it has to be ads worthy of the time spent watching them.

When creating marketing targeted to Gen Y, it’s worth asking, “is this worth their time? Is it status update worthy?” If he answer is no, a brand may run a greater risk than simply being ignored – it may run the risk of being an irritation.  Conversely, positioning a product as a time saver or productivity tool can be a great way to win Millennials’ attention.