The Generational Connection: How Millennials and Their Parents Interact in the Consumer Marketplace

From their natural fluency with technology to their disinterest in leadership status, millennials — the rising group of Americans born between 1979 and 1993 — seem vastly different from their achievement-driven parents, who came of age decades before the dawn of the internet era.

However, all may not be as it appears. A recent study Influence Central conducted revealed that millennials represent among the most complex and misunderstood generational cohorts. Our study took an in-depth look at 1,100 American millennial women, focusing on areas ranging from consumerism to peer influence to social media preferences.

What we found demonstrated that despite the common perception of profound differences between the two generations, deep synergies actually exist between millennials and their parents. These similarities take place both in millennials’ lasting interactions with mom and dad as well as in how the two generations impact one another’s purchase decisions. Consider the following insights to emerge from the survey:

  • Maintaining close ties: Unlike previous generations that set off to explore the world around them once young adulthood hit, millennials remain firmly entrenched in the family fold. Nearly 90 percent of millennials talk to their parents once a week or more, and 50 percent talk to their parents every day. Contrast that with our generation who went off to college and said, “I’ll talk with you next month — pay phone’s busy” or “See you at winter break.” These lingering family ties also extend to where millennials put down roots, as 50 percent live less than 30 miles from where they grew up. Millennials tendency to stay close to home represents another contrast from their parents’ generation, who often let jobs and relationships dictate where they lived.
  • Keeping mom and dad cool: Not only are millennials close to their parents, but our survey showed that they feel they have a serious obligation to keep their parents on-trend. Instead of viewing mom and dad as hopelessly out of date, 74 percent of millennials say they frequently advise their parents on product recommendations. They also often act as primary introducers for technology purchases, making recommendations to their parents on the latest app, smartphone, tablet, etc., that they need to check out. As a result, millennials significantly influence their parents’ purchasing decisions — something marketers don’t often think about when they attempt to reach this demographic. They forget that kids might present a very strong mechanism to trigger parental purchases, particularly when it comes to technology spending.
  • Advising kids on big-ticket items: At the same time millennials feel compelled to keep their parents ahead of the latest trends, they still seek out and value mom and dad’s opinion on their own purchases. Millennials traditionally gather advice from multiple sources before making a purchase, but 80 percent say they rely most on their parents’ recommendation — ahead of the opinion of a spouse or significant other (61 percent) or the advice of a friend (35 percent). Moreover, when millennials embark on a big-ticket purchase (e.g., a house or car), 66 percent frequently look to their parents for guidance. While we might think that millennials just want a parental gut check, they actually seek input early on. In fact, almost 50 percent often go shopping with their parents.

All in all, millennials defy easy categorization and prove to be a bundle of contradictions, which can make them a challenging demographic for brands to reach. By understanding the unique consumer connection between millennials and their parents, marketers can develop new strategies to reach both this growing consumer cohort and make inroads into their parents’ generation at the same time.

Founder and CEO of Influence Central.
Publish date: June 23, 2015 © 2020 Adweek, LLC. - All Rights Reserved and NOT FOR REPRINT