Marketers Are Wrong About Millennials And Boomers
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Holmes Report
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Marketers Are Wrong About Millennials And Boomers

How well do marketers and PR experts understand the two largest generational markets? Not very according to research by YouGov.


Marketers Are Wrong About Millennials And Boomers

YouGov asked Millennials and Boomers about their targets and aspirations and who they admire in the world. We then asked marketing and PR professionals to tell us how they thought each generation would respond.

What Is Important In Your Life?

The stereotype of bright-eyed idealistic Millennials serving their community and searching for creative outlets isn’t always supported by the data. Neither is the notion of Boomers with a laser focus on accumulating enough wealth to secure a comfortable retirement. In reality, the similarities between each segment are much more pronounced than the differences.

While the top priority for both groups are: making the most of every single day, supporting their families and personal health and wellness, they also agreed that career, wealth, philanthropy and individualism are much lower priorities.

Marketing and PR executives correctly assessed Millennials as aspiring to be fit and healthy, but didn’t recognized that for 90% of Boomers it was one of the most important goals in their lives.

What is important

In Your Wildest Dreams

Where marketing and communications execs were most off target was the pragmatic concerns of Millennials towards retirement planning. 

Only one-third (33%) of marketers thought that retirement savings were important to Millennials but nearly three-quarters of Millennials (73%) recognize the importance of working today to ensure an enjoyable retirement in the rather distant future. They are only a few points behind Boomers (79%), for whom retirement has either already arrived or is looming close.

Again Millennials and Boomers were in general agreement; real-life restrictions temporarily lifted they would like a lottery win, but also aspire to have a happy and successful family and to be fit and healthy. 

Health and fitness is an important theme for Boomers and was generally underestimated by our panel of marketers.

Marketers incorrectly assumed Millennials and Boomers would place career aspirations above other options. They were also off base in their assumption that the ‘selfie’ generation would hold beauty, which only accounted for 5% of the total vote, in higher regard.

In your wildest dreams

Who Millennials Do Admire? Probably Not Who You Think. 

Millennials are wary of corporations and the culture of celebrity, which they made explicitly clear in their responses to the business figures, politicians, and media personalities they admire most. In each category, Millennials cited that they did not respect and admire any media, political or business personalities as one of the top three responses.

Marketers and communications experts seemed more attuned to the Boomer responses. 

Ronald Reagan and John F. Kennedy topped the Boomer list for most admired politicians and were correctly identified by marketers, however, Boomers also included Barack Obama — and not Bill Clinton among their top three.

Walter Cronkite and Barbara Walters topped the Boomer lists of top media personalities and were correctly identified by the professional panel marketers. Marketers, however, were incorrect in their assessment that Oprah Winfrey made it to number three for Boomers, a spot which was claimed by Rush Limbaugh.

Marketers were on the mark with business personalities matching the Boomer choices of Warren Buffet, Bill Gates and Henry Ford.

Millennials, however, continued to confound our experts. Jon Stewart was correctly identified in the top three media personalities; however, Oprah Winfrey came in at number two, with “I do not admire any media personality” at number one. Marketers surveyed predicted that Stephen Colbert and Bill Maher would be two and three. Colbert made it to number four but Maher was behind Whoopi Goldberg, Anderson Cooper, Barbara Walters and Rush Limbaugh. 

Millennials may have a social conscience but they don’t necessarily espouse liberal political ideology.

Bill Gates and Steve Jobs topped the admired businessperson list for Millennials, but not Mark Zuckerburg as assumed by marketers.

JFK, no political figures and Barack Obama topped the Millennial political list — not the  Clintons (Bill and Hilary) as posited by the marketers.

most admired

Methodology and Timing

Total sample size for marketing and PR professionals was 185 adults. 768 for Millennials and 434 for Boomers. Fieldwork was undertaken between July 9 - 22, 2014. The survey was carried out online.

Anne Gammon is associate director at YouGov Omnibus.

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