The Nomadic Millennial

Over the past year I've had the opportunity to spend a lot of time researching North American millennials on a wide range of everyday topics. Through hundreds of in-depth interviews, and thousands of online surveys, the theme of transience has often emerged.

The nomad, defined as "an individual with no fixed location who wanders in search of pasture," can represent a cultural ideal for this generation. In the face of social and financial pressure, many are attempting to remain free from the feeling of restriction.  

Transience of Home

Millennials often describe feeling at home everywhere and nowhere. Where previous generations define home as a place, millennials often see home in more abstract terms.
Many of the attributes of home (i.e. safety, attachment, relationships) can exist everywhere in the digital environment. With the ability to carry many of these attributes in your pocket, the idea of home has become more transitory and mobile for millennials.

Transience of Objects

Millennials often describe wanting to live light. Where previous generations placed great importance on objects, millennials are often concerned about becoming trapped by stuff.
The objects that are most valued, are the ones that facilitate growth and freedom. Things that provide maximum impact, with minimal inconvenience, are the things that are carried and consumed by these modern gypsies.

So what does this mean for brands?

Paradoxically, despite the desire to remain free, millennials will often feel strongly attached to the things that facilitate detachment. So when a product or brand helps facilitate detachment, it can be highly valued by millennials (think: bikes, smartphones, prepaid visa).

Are Smartphones the Modern Cigarette?

Recently I observed a group of friends in their 20's standing outside a restaurant. In perfect unison they stood staring at their smartphones. Nearby, another group of friends in their 50's were also standing outside a restaurant. In perfect unison they stood smoking cigarettes.

Both groups looked awkward and appeared to be filling time with a pointless activity, which made we wonder, are smartphones becoming the modern cigarette? 

The Control of Time       

For many smokers, the act of smoking can provide a mechanism for regulating and controlling time. Time is a complex and overwhelming concept - studies have found that when people are confronted by time, it can lead to reflection on mortality and changes in daily behavior. Smoking can provide a way to control time, by allowing people to segment their day into smaller sections and avoid moments of emptiness. 

In the same way, smartphones may have become the modern mechanism for regulating and controlling time. People use their phone to start the day, take a break from work, prepare for bed, and fill any moments of emptiness with action. Could it be that we consume a 'data packet a day' to help control time?

The Control of Emotion

For many smokers, the act of smoking can provide a mechanism for regulating and controlling their anxiety and emotion. Studies have found that many obsessive behaviors (like smoking, drinking and over-eating) are actually coping mechanisms for dealing with difficult emotions - allowing people to suppress their feelings with habitual activity.

In the same way, smartphones may have become the modern mechanism for controlling anxiety and emotion. When people feel awkward in a social situation, or frustrated at work, or lonely at home, they can use their smartphone to suppress their feelings with facts and updates. Could it be that we 'chain check' to help control emotion?      

The Modern Cigarette

Realizing the potential parallels between smoking and smartphone use can be uncomfortable. Smartphones have many benefits - I couldn't imagine living without mine - but I also suspect that using any product to control time and suppress emotion isn't healthy.

So what do you think, are smartphones the modern cigarette? 

Embracing Change: New Year, New Career

Change is good. Research has found that being open to new experiences is associated with increased creativity, health and longevity (Turiano et al., 2012). So given the proven benefits of change, I'm happy to announce that after six years of working with Concerto Marketing Group, I have decided to resign and explore some new career opportunities. 

To all of the colleagues, clients and friends that I've worked with over the past six years, I'd like to express my sincere appreciation. Together we managed to deliver some exciting research and strategy projects - and working with you has been a real pleasure    

Regarding future plans, I'm hoping to make an announcement in the next month. In the meantime, I'm happy to confirm that I will continue to lead research and strategy projects across North-America, and look forward to having a coffee with anyone who's interested. 

If you'd like to get in touch my contact details can be found here.

Milking Memories: Five Steps from Insight to Campaign

This month I co-authored an article for the Market Research & Intelligence Association titled, 'Milking Memories.' Appearing in VUE Magazine, the article shared findings from two years of research we conducted on behalf of the Canadian dairy industry. If you'd like to read the original article you can view it here, alternatively a transcribed version is available below. 
To start this article, let’s go back – way back into your childhood. What are your earliest memories of milk? What do you remember doing, seeing and experiencing in relation to milk? How do these memories make you feel? If you’re feeling warm and fuzzy, you may be experiencing nostalgia, a physiological state that’s been shown to make people feel loved, protected and physically warmer (Zhou et al., 2012).