More than a million millennial women become mothers each year, according to Pew Research; in fact, millennials accounted for about 8 in 10 births in the US in 2015. And while this generational group is delaying parenthood until later in life (relative to baby boomers or Gen Xers) due to myriad economic and social factors, more than half of millennials state that having children as an important life goal. Here’s what you need to know when engaging these young families.
Marketers shouldn’t just talk to mothers
The way we talk about parenting can be inherently gendered, informed by all kinds of different assumptions based on years of deeply ingrained stereotypes. A commonly cited offender is referring to a dad taking care of his children as “babysitting.” This is not something that is ever said of mothers. And considering that millennial women are more likely to have careers than any generation before them, and the in fact millennial families are increasingly eschewing these out-dated gender roles in favour of a more equal parenting style.
Additionally, assuming that a family equals “one mummy and one daddy” is heteronormative, erasing LGBTQ couples and single parent families. Not to mention that half of millennials believe that gender isn’t limited to a male/female binary, according to research by Fusion.
One interesting tidbit on millennial parents from Think With Google is that a lot of content crafted for parents reaches more male eyeballs than female. 86 per cent of dads use YouTube tutorials, and 82 per cent of dads who watch YouTube use it as a resource for keeping up to date with the things their children are interested in.
While traditionally, dads in marketing have been portrayed as well-meaning but clueless in household matters, we are now seeing a shift towards depictions of men as sensitive, caring and capable fathers, thanks to “dadvertising”.
At present, only 7 per cent of men feel they can relate to portrayals of masculinity in media. As industry watchdogs around the world take a harder line on gender stereotyping, it is likely that ads will serve up a more diverse array of men, women and families with whom consumers can identify.
The parent-child relationship is evolving
Another traditional parenting archetype is that “mum and dad know best.” But millennial parents are less concerned with projecting an all-knowing persona than they are with having frank and honest conversations with their children, and fostering a more equal relationship. According to the Google research, almost 80 per cent of millennial parents say that their child is one of their best friends, and 74 per cent involve their children in household decisions.
And just as women are no longer pigeonholed as solely responsible for childcare, millennial parents are not defined by having children — retaining a sense of self is important to them. 75 per cent continue to pursue personal passions and interests after having children, and 91 per cent like to stay on top of current events and pop culture.
The 00s might have been dominated by the stereotype of the pushy suburban mom, thanks to a plurality of stereotypes from soap operas to books like Amy Chua’s Battle Hymn Of The Tiger Mother, but helicopter parenting is on the way out, according to insights from research company Magid. Instead, millennial parents are adopting a “passenger plane” approach.
“As passenger plane parents, millennials expect marketers to reach them on their terms, and demonstrate how the needs of the family—mom and dad included—are being met,” says Magid’s SVP Sarah Holmes. “They’re most receptive to tailored messaging, authentic experiences and products that stir their personal interests, and those of their children. This newest generation of parents has styles that are as unique as the experiences that have shaped them—from the acceleration of technology they have witnessed while growing up to the histories that shaped how they were parented.”
The family home will look different, too
The living room, that hub of family quality time, will probably look remarkably different to that of the past — and not just because of the giant smart TV on the wall. A recent piece in the New York Times examined how the collector mentality of the 90s has been usurped by the Kondo-esque minimalism of the 21st century, with younger generations less inclined to accept heirlooms from their parents and grandparents, either due to a difference in mentality or merely a living situation where space is at a premium.
So while it has become reductive to say “millennials prefer experiences over things,” there is some truth to the cliché when it comes to bric-a-brac; the act of passing down treasured objects may one day become obsolete as more and more family memories are immortalised online.
“Separate togetherness” is another trend identified among millennial families; namely, parents and children spending time in the same room, but consuming different content on their own respective devices — Magid’s data puts more than half of respondents in this category. It makes sense, considering millennials were the first generation to grow up with a choice of media designed especially for them.
There are huge opportunities for brands to gain love and loyalty here, and become a trusted member of the family. According to Google’s research, millennial parents are highly receptive to branded content, with 3 in 4 open to watching sponsored videos when seeking advice or guidance on specific parenting topics, and 72 per cent heeding video reviews when considering purchases for their child. And if the positive response to “dadvertising” is any indication, brands which shrug off last century’s notions of parenthood and embrace diverse, relevant family messaging will receive a warm welcome.
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