The Economist reveals insights from award-winning research into millennials

Nick Blunden, managing director at The Economist Group, outlined some of the findings and data about millennials, for companies interested in how they interact with the demographic.  

Blunden revealed that The Economist Group wanted to attract, market and interact with millennials. The single biggest group of new Economist subscribers are millennials, he said. And, interestingly, they like print subscriptions. millennials also were a huge force on social media. The Economist’s social media success had been driven by millennials.

So, they quantitatively surveyed 90,000 millennials around the world, and qualitatively looked at the data coming in. The results of the research revealed some fascinating insights about millennials, as a generation: millennials were not the clichés they were portrayed as. They were not all the same. And, traditional media brands played a significant role in their lives.

“The first thing we found was something that runs against stereotypes,” Blunden said. “When you look at the millennial generation, they’re incredibly engaged, which goes against the stereotype of them as lazy.”

Given the insights their research revealed, The Economist delved further into their data. Blunden said they segmented the data by psychographics, looking at millennial interests, values, behaviours, activities, opinions and attitudes.

“We sub-segmented the data and there was one sub-segment of the millennials we surveyed, they had an extraordinary ability to influence,” Blunden said. “They were effective at sharing. We called them the ‘gen-narrators.’”

This group of millennials were characterised with traits that disproved all previous stereotypes and millennial clichés. Gen-narrators had a focused audience, were specialists, had interest networks, and they paid in knowledge rather than in cash, Blunden said.

“Our gen-narrators were active, interested, entrepreneurial, activists and intelligent media connoisseurs,” Blunden said. “They consumed more online news media than any other generation before them.”

The Economist research project found four stand-out traits of the gen-narrator sub-segment. Blunden described them as personal brand managers, influential advocates, fact-finders. “They use traditional media brands to validate the credibility of information, they trust traditional media for unbiased perspective and actively seek the truth. We asked this group of people what their most trusted media sources were, and 78 per cent were traditional media forms.”

Gen-narrators were cultural DJs. They liked to remix content to give it their own twist and  favour visual media to tell stories. Gen-narrators were their own personal brand managers, natural born markers, Blunden explained. “They’ve been exposed to digital tech from an early age. They take their personal online brand seriously. Very seriously. They have an intrinsic feel for personal branding.”

And finally, gen-narrators are influential advocates, who have conscious ideas of how they can use their own personal power to advocate for things they’re passionate about.

“Gen-narrators are just as likely to talk about brands they love as their passions and interests,” Blunden said. “That said, authenticity is incredibly important.”

Applying this information about the generation for companies looking to involve this generation in their products comes down to a couple of important points, according to Blunden. It is important for publishers to enable gen-narrators, to develop audiences of this subset of the millennial generation, he said.

“Make sure you enable influential gen-narrators to build their authority,” Blunden said. “They have a real thirst for knowledge, and there’s a role we can play. Secondly, to provide opportunities for them to participate, for them to debate in a safe and focused space.”

The Economist’s report, “Gen-Narrators,” won Gold this week at FIPP’s Insight Awards at FIPP London.

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