Post Millennials: a new age of selfishness?

London, 3rd July 2017

James Page, Associate Director at M&C Saatchi PR, reflects on M&C Saatchi’s recently publishing study on the newly dubbed ‘Post Millennial’ generation and what this may mean for the future of brands communications.

James Page, Associate Director, M&C Saatchi PR on what 'Risk, Realism & Ritalin: a study of the post-millennial generation' means for the future of communications.

James Page, Associate Director, M&C Saatchi PR on what ‘Risk, Realism & Ritalin: a study of the post-millennial generation’ means for the future of communications.

M&C Saatchi has recently published a new study into what is being dubbed the ‘Post Millennial’ generation; those born after 2000 who are now starting to enter the workplace, and who will soon be driving on our roads and – before soon – voting on their (and our) future. The findings suggest we’ve created a generation of middle-aged teenagers – a more risk averse and pragmatic generation than those that have gone immediately before them.

Their mantra is ‘think small, dream small’ and they are already seemingly resigned to their life being tougher than it was for their parents, and who could blame them? They’ve grown up knowing a near-permanent state of financial meltdown; endless austerity; climate change beyond the point of no return; the failure of the establishment; separatism; extremism; terror; globalisation; and lately, just for good measure, the spectre of nuclear war coming back to haunt us all.

‘This is a generation that has grown up seeing and hearing about big complex issues: terrorism, climate change and the recent threat of nuclear war.’ – Risk, Realism & Ritalin (2017)

Why should the Post Millennials have pretensions to greatness when all of the evidence says that no matter how hard you work something totally out of your control could take it all away from you? So far, so depressing.

Risk Realism & Ritalin 2017 post millennials the source M&C Saatchi PR

What’s more, the research showed that this world view has impacted that of brands. They are deeply cynical of CSR, PR, and marketing campaigns that have nothing to do with what a business actual does.

It’s now seventy years since, Dave Packard coined the phrase ‘Noble Purpose’ – the idea that if a company is to survive, it needs to fulfil a role in society over and above just making money. But searching for the millennial dollar has taken this to extremes which have in turn stretched credibility and today’s teenagers are seeing through it. They don’t really believe that a brand of toilet cleaner exists to save the whale or that people make chocolate bars to address social inclusion issues. They’re too pragmatic and down to earth for that. Their ‘think small’ mentality means they want their companies, brands and institutions to stay closer to home.

‘High minded moral crusading is replaced by down-to-earth pragmatism.’ – Risk, Realism & Ritalin (2017)

As our worldwide Group CEO Moray MacLennan said while launching the research, “For this generation, companies and brands need to be to the point. You need to tell them what you are good at, what you do and why. That for them is integrity. Being clear and realistic about your capabilities and limitations.”

The Way The World Is Going M&C Saatchi

Worldwide Group CEO Moray MacLennan speaking at launch event ‘The Way The World is Going’ on ‘Risk, Realism & Ritalin’ (2017)

So what does it mean for PR? Well, I think it’s good news for our industry – we’ve always had to be good listeners so we know how to reply to each audience on their terms, in their language, speaking in their tongue.  PR professionals must develop a detailed understanding of the audiences they are trying to reach in order to make sure our messages get across. The development of new communication channels over the last decade has moved us even closer to the audience by removing the ‘middle man’ channel the industry was all too wedded to, namely media relations. Today, through our management of social and digital media, we are at the heart of the communications mix which engages most directly with target groups and individuals.

PRs may therefore be best placed to really get under the skin of the Post Millennials. The bigger question for us is what approach to take, given what we now know about their mindset. Do we accept their pragmatic and risk-adverse nature and develop campaigns that reflect that? Or do we act as the catalyst for them to think big again; empower them not to focus on challenges but to break free of their pragmatism and act the driving force behind a new generation of excitement, invention, innovation, and change?

Please contact for copies of the “Risk, Realism and Ritalin” report and to arrange briefings on how it can help you engage with the post-millennial generation.