Engineering for Engagement: Millennials are a Digital-First Generation

As marketers, we know Millennials. We know about how mobile they are, the sacrifices they make to live in cities and how they’ve reshaped the workplace. We’ve observed and we’ve studied them, and in so many ways, this generation has bucked every cultural norm our society has, being more diverse than any other generation before them. But as the Millennial generation (the oldest of which are already in their mid-30s) continues to age into full adulthood we’re seeing something interesting happen. In one way they’re no different than generations before them--they still desire and value the single most, timeworn tradition of adulthood: home ownership. While many Millennials are still working their way to a down payment, many more are becoming first-time home buyers--and as they do, they’re applying a uniquely Millennial perspective to what makes a “home.”

Despite getting a late start compared to other generations, the oldest of this cohort are beginning to settle down, marry, start families and even buy homes. In fact, a survey by housing finance giant Fannie Mae found that the majority of millennials said they consider owning a home more sensible than renting for both financial and lifestyle reasons. Many young renters (49%) said their next move would likely be to own a home.

But as the world’s first digital-first generation, it comes as no surprise that when they decide to settle down and take the plunge into home ownership, they are bringing their affinity for technology and connectivity with them. The Connected Home--or Smart Home--is becoming a reality for many, and a necessity for Millennials.

The Connected Home Generation

While today TVs are as commonplace as cars, it still took many years to get to the point of saturation. Compare that to the adoption rate of smartphones, particularly amongst Millennials, and it’s no wonder that this generation is used to being constantly connected and on the go.

From connected thermostats and refrigerators that can stream Pandora, to vacuums that (for better or worse) can map the layout of your house, the “Connected Home” has gone mainstream. With growing interest and popularity–along with greater accessibility and more attractive price points for Millennials–the idea that we can manage our entire living space through the internet is widely desired amongst this generation who grew up with it. The main driver of this widespread connectivity? The voice-activated smart speaker.

Connected device usage is up 31% from 2015, with Millennials being the heaviest users (34%)[1]. And Millennials are 5% more likely to purchase a smart-home device than non-Millennials[2]. In fact, Parks Associates recently reported that 46% of Millennials planned to purchase at least one connected home device and another 36% planned to give one as a gift this past holiday season.

More Audio Please

The latest and most exciting entrant to the Connected Home are voice-activated smart speakers. With cutting-edge voice technology, audio and voice are the main ways we can interact with these little devices–and by extension all the other devices they are linked with. Now, our voice is all we need to harness the vast digital world.

But taking advantage of these opportunities requires an understanding of how they’re currently being used. For example, a recent study we did with Edison Research showed that a whopping 50% of Millennial smart speakers owners use their devices every day, and 23% of them use their devices to control other home devices that they have synced to their smart speakers, i.e. turning on or off their lights, TV, etc. However, the main thing Millennials are using these devices for is audio. In fact, 57% of Millennial smart speaker owners purchased their devices to listen to music, and another 22% purchased their devices to listen to other audio content such as podcasts, news or sports.[3] Which isn’t surprising, seeing as Forbes recently reported that the majority of podcast listeners today are Millennials (A 18-34), and of those, 42% listen to podcasts at least once a week.

Audio is the one medium that consumers of all ages take with them everywhere. From the podcasts we listen to on our morning commute, to the voice-activated devices that control our entire home, audio is already a prominent part of our lives, and will only continue to increase as more devices emerge and saturate the market.

For both content creators and brands looking to reach a connected audience, audio has never been a more pertinent or powerful engagement platform. So, with much of our interactions with technology moving toward voice, marketers of all industries should seriously consider creating a Sonic Identity (which includes everything that creates the “sound” of a brand–from a sonic logo, to a musical jingle and even the voice profile of the actor) for their brand. Put together, these elements form a powerful, auditory representation of the brand that will ultimately be able to reach people at a times when visual branding can't.

The Opportunity for Brands

For brands, this means considering an audio strategy alongside a visual strategy in order to reach consumers in new locations through these emerging devices. However, communication is not a one-size-fits all with Millennials. Today, sometimes one emoji can say it all. It’s important to not treat Millennials as one big segment, but rather ensure that your brand message is in the right format on the right device and being served in the right context that will resonate.

For example, depending on your message and the exact audience you’re trying to reach, advertisers should test out both 10 and 30 second ads. Our early testing has shown that ad recall rates for shorter audio ads have been highest amongst Millennials (A 25-34). But don’t worry - this doesn’t necessarily equate to less time spent with the brand - for in one test we found that a 10 second ad actually drove higher time spent with the advertiser’s landing page than the 30 second spot.

Another thing to keep in mind is connected home devices provide advertisers with highly contextual moments to reach digitally savvy Millennials. Millennials have already embraced digital audio on their mobile devices, in the car and on TV. We can only expect this trend to continue in the home, a place that offers plenty of contextual moments to for brands to resonate.

We’ll leave you with this one question: how will your brand stand out in a world where there’s no guarantee that your brand logo or visuals will be seen?


Want to learn more about the audio advertising landscape today and how to get started with an audio strategy for your brand? Grab a copy of our second annual Definitive Guide to Audio here:

Source: 1. eMarketer, “The Internet of Things for Smart Homes - Voice Control Hastens Adoption,” 2. UPS, “Pulse of the Online Shopper: Tech-Savvy Shoppers Transforming Retail” in association with comScore Inc. and the e-tailing group, June 8, 2016 3. Edison Research, National Smart Speakers Study, Spring 2017