The Millennial Generation Becomes Parents

Posted by: Jeff Fromm

New study reveals millennials are creating a wave of new American pragmatism

KANSAS CITY, October 3, 2013 America’s often-watched millennial generation, traditionally viewed as young and unattached, has grown old enough to have children. Among the older half of millennials, those between ages 25-34, there are now 10.8 million households with children. New research reveals that millennials, especially those who have become parents, are a misunderstood generation whose buying habits, media consumption and parenting philosophy rarely match their stereotype.

“We often hear the same ad-nauseam facts about millennials—they are social media gurus, living with their parents, self-absorbed and coddled,” said Jeff Fromm, EVP, Barkley and co-author of Marketing to Millennials: Reach the Largest and Most Influential Generation of Consumers Ever. “At best, the current assumptions about millennials are misleading, and at worst, completely false. The data shows that this generation’s behavior and buying habits run very contrary to popular perception. By ignoring millennials’ transition into parenthood, brands will find themselves channeling resources and money in the wrong direction.”

The new study, “Millennials as New Parents,” first analyzed exclusive research records of the 10.8 million U.S. millennials with children. The second phase included a one-to-one survey of 1,000 American adults aged 25 to 34 who have children living with them. The resulting in-depth report studied the political, social and economical environment that affects millennial parents and how those factors have determined their behavior with education, finances, child rearing, and brand preferences, to name a few.

“First let’s remind ourselves that the oldest millennials became young adults around 1999. In that time, they have experienced the dot-com bust, September 11th and large banking and housing crises,” said David Gutting, VP, strategy director, Barkley. “Further, the Iraq and Afghanistan wars were largely fought by millennials, who suffered injuries and casualties that have been kept further out of the spotlight than any other generation that has stepped up to fight. We found that it’s these factors, among many others, that make millennial parents far more pragmatic than marketers realize.”

In one specific example of millennial parent pragmatism at play, the data showed that before they had children, millennials over-indexed against the U.S. population with brands including H&M, Apple, Macy’s and Sephora. After they become parents, those brands not only drop on the list, they disappear. Instead, millennial parents over-index against the U.S. population for brands including Dollar General, Kohl’s, Lowe’s, Wal-Mart and Value City. Put another way, millennial parents favor Kohl’s and Wal-Mart more than generation X and baby boomers.

In addition, the “Millennials as New Parents” report reveals the five distinct groups of millennial parents that emerged from the data. It’s in these five groups, or “orbits,” that a new trend is apparent. The “Image First” orbit embodies widely accepted millennial behavior. The group places a premium on brand names, continually stretching beyond their means to achieve a certain lifestyle. “Image Firsts” are immersed in technology, are well educated, but their income level is low. Yet, the “Image First” orbit accounts for just 7% of all millennial parents. The remaining orbits tell a completely different story, debunking universally held beliefs about what this generation of young families looks like.

“Millennials as New Parents” lays out several emerging trends for marketers—covering changing views on technology, what “cool” now means, thoughts on price vs. quality, and just how much weight they place on the usefulness of a product.

“We found that millennial parents barely break the 100 index on statements such as, ‘I try to keep up with the latest developments in technology,’” said Fromm. “Have they suddenly become Luddites? Hardly—the rest of society is just catching up with them. Digital integration is now taken as a given, a new normal. For marketers, this means you are talking to people who simply want technology to make life better; gadget envy is dying.”

About the “Millennials as New Parents” Study:

For inquiries about the full content of the 68-page “Millennials as New Parents” study, please contact Jeff Fromm at [email protected].

From June 14th to June 20th, an online survey was fielded by Vision Critical and conducted and analyzed by Barkley among 1,001 randomly selected American adults age 25 to 34 that have children living with them, and who are Springboard America panelists. The margin of error—which measures sampling variability—is +/- 3.1%, 19 times out of 20. The results have been statistically weighted according to the most current age, gender, region, income, and ethnicity Census data to ensure a representative sample. Discrepancies in or between totals are due to rounding.

About Barkley:

Barkley is one of the largest independent agencies in the U.S. The employee-owned company offers a full range of marketing communications services including advertising, innovation labs, public relations, millennial marketing, cause branding, social media, sponsorships and events, relationship marketing, design, media planning and buying, motion graphics, research and interactive marketing. Barkley has offices in Kansas City, Pittsburgh, Boulder and Los Angeles., @barkleyus,

(816) 423-6228 / [email protected]

About Jeff Fromm

Although not a Millennial as defined by his age, Jeff Fromm is the Millennial Marketing Guy. Jeff is President of FutureCast, a marketing consultancy that specializes in Millennial trends, and is a contributing writer at...See Jeff's full bio.