Understanding Millennials: Why It Matters

Everyone is talking about Millennials.   We are talking about them, trying to figure out how they think, and attempting to navigate the weird marketing space that reaches this generation.  But why? Eventually, they will be a buying force, but they are not there yet. What do they offer the jewellery industry right now?


Baby Boomers

The jewellery industry as we know it is dominated by Baby Boomers. Boomers own or manage most jewellery stores, suppliers, and related businesses. Boomers make up the largest demographic of jewellery consumers. They are the prime target market for fine jewellery. Baby Boomers are at a stage in their lives that allows for greater disposable income.

Baby Boomers have two important attributes. They were the first generation to grow up in front of a television and to experience a constant barrage of advertising messages. More importantly, they were the largest, most affluent group of consumers to ever hit the market. They are easily reached through standard media outlets…. radio, TV, print, and billboard.


Baby Boomers have more in common with Millennials than you might think. The Millennial generation is huge. They are the first and second generations of Baby Boomers, the previously largest group.  They are everywhere. Like the Boomers, Millennials are a first generation raised with new media technology. They have never had a time in their lives when they were not connected to virtually all the knowledge and all the people of the planet. Many of them were online before they could read or write. Their world is instant and social and most are uncomfortable without the constant contact and approval of their peers.

But for the moment, Millennials are a difficult market for the jewellery industry to reach. Most US Millennials are deeply in debt with student loans. Job opportunities with decent wages are scarce worldwide. They don’t  have much money to spend on fine jewellery, and currently have  little interest in it. Marketing efforts directed at Millennials may not pay off for another decade or more.

Millennial Influence

In a recent talk, Ben Smithee, an expert in digital and Millennial marketing for the jewellery industry, points out that most generations pass their culture, preferences, and ways of interacting with other people downstream to the next generations. Millennials are the first generation to pass their culture upstream to their parents and grandparents. Boomers created the technology and in return, Millennials taught them how to use it to create communities.

Baby Boomers rapidly adopted Millennial social and technical media into their daily lives. They populated social platforms in force, soon driving Millennials to explore new, more immersive experiences. Boomers took over Facebook, Millennials moved to youtube and Instagram.  Again Boomers followed and Millennials moved elsewhere.

They are the guides

Millennials lead the way and Baby Boomers follow. Total media and social immersion is becoming a way of life for Boomers and is already as important and natural as breathing for Millennials.  Millennials continually find new and innovative ways of sharing media and using that to market products. They are good at it. Seeing what is current for Millennials is a way of learning what Boomers will want tomorrow. Eventually, they will be a buying force for jewellery, but until then we must watch them and learn.

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