While many Gen Xers and Boomers can remember the screeching sounds of dial-up Internet and fax machines, most millennials don’t have a frame of reference for it. In fact, it’s difficult for many millennials to imagine a world without unlimited connectivity. Millennials have grown up immersed in a world where innovation has leveled the playing field —the concept of democracy no longer just applies to our government.
Now, everything has been democratized so that consumers have a say in almost every aspect of their personal universe. We refer to this new ideology or mindset as the “Democratization of Fairness.”
Millennials think differently than the generations that came before them. A millennial realizes that they don’t have to be wealthy to access information. If they want to go on an extreme adventure and have it recorded, they don’t have to hire a fancy camera team – they just hook up their GO PRO camera. Millennials are the most empowered generation and have more choices and access then an generation before.
In the past decade, we have experiences a shift in power from brands to consumers. What has inspired this change? Millennials are the most informed generation to date and are influencing the way all consumers are interacting with brands. Now, everyone has a voice and the strongest brands of tomorrow will be the ones that listen, inspire and engage. The brands that shout the loudest because they have the largest budget will not always be guaranteed success—and to millennials, that seems fair.
Social media has paved the way for these empowered voices. Twitter, Facebook and other networks have especially allowed consumers to voice their opinions on important matters and in real-time. You might be thinking, “we already that social media fuels conversation,” but we are saying it does more than that. Let’s explore it through the lens of democratization. Traditionally, when something newsworthy happened, we used to look for cues from experts, celebrities and politicians. Now, the most impactful voices are the ones of the average consumer online. Entire movements are born from one trending hashtag. Consider the Michael Brown case or the Ray Rice controversy – a huge piece of the conversation regarding these topics was happening online in the digital space, which is accessible to everyone.
However, actions speak louder than words, right?
Brands are embracing the new mindset
Uber and Lyft are ride-sharing platforms that allow alternative transportation for regular people from other regular people. In fact, Uber’s motto is “for the people, by the people.” Sounds pretty democratic. By the way, what’s the cost of a cab license in NYC? Not so democratic, huh?
It doesn’t stop there. GoPro and Instagram have enabled users to unleash their inner photographer. With the help of filters and special effects, that sunset looks like it was taken on a professional camera, not an iPhone. Not to mention, platforms like Kickstarter have allowed people to become investors in products and ideas they are passionate about; they’ve allowed ordinary people to fundraise without road shows.
Democratization has transformed the roles of key stakeholders, allowing consumers to drive how brands interact and market to their brand partners instead of their target audiences. Where as brands once relied on creative excellence, they have now turned to Content Excellence®. This transition has also led the way for more user-generated content, with brands like Coca Cola and Miller Lite creating entire campaigns around content sent to them by their brand fans.
Democratization at work
This Democratization of Fairness mindset has also brought major changes to the workforce as well. Millennials have influenced a reimagination of the 40-hour work week. Now, many employers are working to provide more benefits and cut down on the time wasted on commuting – a win for both the enlightened company, as well as the employee. An estimated 3 million Americans work from home and that number is expected to increase 63 percent over the next five years. Freelance work and crowdsourcing have created more opportunities for employees, leveling the playing field for many people looking for new careers.
Having grown up through the recession, and now handling more student debt than any previous generation, millennials have often received a bad rap for being “cheap.” However, millennials have continually looked for new ways to collaborate and make each other’s lives easier and more purposeful. As more industries continue to democratize Millennial Mindset® consumers—those who embrace the philosophy regardless of actual age—will reward brands that are fair, authentic and create differentiation that resonates with a this valuable consumer.
Julie Ray and Brendan Shaughnessy contributed to this piece.