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).


Zakta said...

I’m just a tad too old to be considered a millennial, but I’ve certainly witnessed the nomad phenomenon. On reaching 19, my nephew decided that, like Kerouac, he’d head west, seeking the open road with nothing but a few belongings slung into a backpack (he made it a few states south and ended up still on the East Coast). Other friends have picked up and moved to places as varied as Peru, Moldova, and Kenya. I’ve even become a bit of a nomad myself, living at various times in Asia and Europe, although I confess I’ve never lived in my car. I suspect that the trend is partly a result of the fact that it’s simply easier to travel today than it once was, and partly, as was mentioned above, a response to pressure to conform and to accept social and economic responsibilities.
It does, however, present unique challenges to marketers. How do you present your product as an object that is not part of the burdensome “stuff” of life, but in fact frees buyers from restraint? How do you encourage consumers that purchasing an item will actually help them to live lighter? The trend highlights the importance of seeking new ways to reach millennials, now that the “bigger is better” philosophy no longer applies.

Nick Black said...

Hi Zakta - Thanks for your thoughtful comment. It will certainly be interesting to see if US millennials will reject the "bigger is better" mentality as they move into adulthood.

If they do, perhaps US culture will begin to more closely resemble European culture?

Sherni said...

The brand 'Fast track' essentially utilises this 'live in the present' nomadic way of living and creates a connect with this generation. It's tag line 'move on' is intertwined well with the storylines in its communication