What You Think About Millennials Is Probably Wrong And Risky For Your Business

Millennials use smartphones for everything. False.

 That’s certainly how they take in and give out information, which has prompted companies to radically shift marketing that relies on social media and digital and mobile channels over old-fashioned television and print. But even with the prevalence of apps, augmented reality and artificial intelligence, millennials still want a strong human element for some services. For example, millennials’ use of traditional travel agents has increased by about one-third since 2015, according to Travel Leaders Group, a Plymouth, Minnesota-based outfit that has 52,000 agents around the United States.

“Conventional wisdom would argue that we’ve got this hyper-technology-enabled population of people who are obviously native to mobile and the Internet, so why would they possibly be interested in using travel agents?” says CEO Ninan Chako. “It turns out that the literally infinite resources online don’t help them come to decisions any better or faster. Plus, millennials want unique experiences and imagery that they can put on Instagram—and that’s where experienced travel agents are helping them.”

Meanwhile, the real estate comapny Winchester Carlisle has been astounded by this group’s demand for old-fashioned classroom instruction in the intricacies of life’s largest investment. “We offer two-hour classes on weeknights and four-hour sessions on Saturdays, and [millennials] come in and want to hear about every single aspect of the transaction,” says Tara Williams, president of the Carlisle Title division.

Millennials like only brands that convey “meaning.” False.

It’s millennials, not the Woodstock Generation, who forced brands to embrace sublime values beyond merely offering goods and services of high quality or at affordable prices. CEOs have adopted a broad mentality toward “sustainability” and other green values to satisfy Generation Y alone. However, “while millennials are more globally minded and politically active than other generations, they don’t need their brands to be,” says Jeff Cartwright, managing director of content for Morning Consult, a Washington, D.C.-based research outfit that recently surveyed millennials.

It’s true that only 25 percent of millennials surveyed by Morning Consult said they’ll buy goods or services from companies that they know have labor practices they don’t support. But only 29 percent said they avoid buying from companies with political positions different from their own.

So, brands should focus on imbuing meaning not in some politically declarative way but rather in the sense of “having a purpose and caring about [consumers] in a way that isn’t viewed as trite,” Reilly says.

That’s what Culver’s CEO Craig Culver had in mind in springing new TV commercials last summer for the line of new chicken sandwiches at the 650 fast-food restaurants owned and franchised by the Prairie du Sac, Wisconsin-based chain across the country. The ads feature him and his own daughter—a millennial mother of two—as they tour a Georgia chicken farm and talk with the owner about the quality of his flock.

Generational expert Underwood says that millennials have “no brand snobbery,” unlike boomer and GenXers, but care more about practicality and price. And because of social media, they are more able and willing to jump on brands that they like—or away from those they dislike. “They want to save the whole damned world and put their money where their values are, like boomers,” Underwood says. “But because they have unprecedented debt, they also have to be careful about their spending. They look for quality products at a good price.”

Read more: How To Lead Generations Y and Z