What Every Millennial Wants

Almost without fail, once someone learns that I am passionate about studying the habits and traits of the millennial demographic, he or she asks: Is there such thing as a global millennial?


I’ve spoken for hours with millennials around the world - from Singapore to Rio - in search of the answer to this question and, unfortunately,  the answer has proven elusive…until just now!

The common characteristic shared by all millennials everywhere is their global, overriding valuation on being “Happy”.

Millennials’ life-defining moments to date include the Global Recession, 9/11, a host of natural disasters including the Asian Tsunami, and countless protests and political upheavals, such as the Arab Spring and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.   In addition, Millennials are facing potential downsizing and unemployment and are bombarded with grim news updates 24/7 on their smartphones (unfortunately, negative headlines outperform positive ones). Therefore there’s nothing this generation appreciates more than something positive and uplifting, no matter how fleeting or small.

And here is proof:

Upworthy, the social sharing site for emotionally resonant videos and links, is the "fastest growing media site of all time." The site’s 100 most popular posts, which include titles such as, This Kid Just Died. What He Left Behind Is Wondtacular, were viewed and shared more than 380m times in 2013, while the two-year-old site's record monthly visitation  figure exceeded  87M – about  the same as the Guardian,  a newspaper approaching its 200th birthday.

Happy, a song written and produced by Pharrell Williams in November of 2013, peaked at number one in over 20 countries, breaking records on the US Billboard Hot 100, Dutch Top 40, and the Singles Charts in New Zealand, the UK and Ireland.  Lyrics from this lighthearted, fun tune include: “Clap along if you feel like happiness is the truth. Because I’m happy,” and “Can't nothing bring me down. My level's too high.”

Levar Burton, the creator and host of PBS' series Reading Rainbow from 1983 to 2006, launched a $1-million Kickstarter last week to bring back Reading Rainbow as a Web series. In just half a day, fueled by the buzz generated on social media, the campaign reached its seven-figure goal (the campaign still has 34 days to go!).  Clearly, Millennials are longing for the happy, carefree days of their childhood and the '90s are the newest "good old days."

Burton's isn't the only Kickstarter campaign to reach the $1 million mark within 24 hours. Last year, actress Kristen Bell's campaign to crowdfund $2 million for a Veronica Mars movie soared over its halfway point within five hours.  These Kickstarter campaigns are proof that Millennials’ strongest desire is to find refuge in the “happy places” of their childhood.

If you need additional proof, read my last post on why McDonalds chose to bring its cheerful clown mascot, Ronald McDonald, back into the spotlight and why Smokey the Bear is giving out hugs instead of stern warnings.  

Millennials continually seek out positive and uplifting experiences, often based upon their memories of better times.   In times of instability and uncertainty, we all tend to appreciate what little happiness we have, which means that now is the perfect time for brands to join in and offer uplifting messages that puts a smile on our faces!

Image credit: Christos Georghiou/Shutterstock

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