CES 2014: Millennials in “Play”: 5 Key Millennial Behaviors with Consumer Electronics

We’ve all seen the rap sheet on millennials. They’re the “Me Generation.” Their narcissism, sense of entitlement, and constant over-sharing is what make them a menace to work with and even harder to engage with on a deeper level. – or so we hear.

Maybe you know some of them.

• Those friends sitting in a park listening to their Jambox, Instagraming their Sunday picnic (#nofilter).
• The hipster walking head-down, headphones-in on a crowded sidewalk in search of that “free craft beer” check-in on Foursquare.
• The fitness guy wearing a FitBit – saving and sharing his workouts on Facebook to show everyone how enviable he must be.

So, millennials just like to play their own game and show it off, right?

Well, sure. But not because of the egotism many claim. The way they interact with their world represents the new experimental stage of life and consumer tech they find themselves in. Millennials are coming of age at a time when they have more expansive tools to construct, edit, and report their world than any generation before.

They want to uncover and direct their own path, not follow a linear one.

They want more seamlessness between their life and their work.

They want to engage more to further explore the possible and write their own story.

Simply put, they are a generation of “grown-up kids” in an extended period of play.

Playing drives personal discovery and learning, and in the electronics world, leads to fun and sometimes revolutionary products. For economically struggling Millennials, the vast and interactive consumer tech market has enabled a generation of young adults to continue their explorative childhood into their 20’s – a time to seek freedom and enjoy their customized journey.

For brands, it’s a moment in time to be as bold and fun as millennials want to be for themselves – always staying true to self, but stepping into a place of vulnerability to enable personal growth and new meaningful experiences.

The five key behaviors of millennials at play:

1) “We’re Not Rebels, We’re Reformers”
Millennials have grown up as “digital natives.” This has meant that not only are they better versed in tech than any other generation, but also, it’s changed the ways their brains are wired. The rules of the game have changed. They learn differently (Google, Wikipedia), shop differently (Amazon, Yelp), speak differently (Facebook, Twitter), document differently (Instagram).

Millennials look to rework – not reject – the rules and status quo in order to put their mark on the world. Giving them the power to co-create with brands and products, in their own way, builds ongoing trusting relationships.

2) “We’re Minimalists at Heart”
Millennials want to get back into the real even though it looks like all they care about it digital. Yes, they spend more time in digital, and, yes, own more devices. But that’s because millennials value getting out into fruitful real life interactions and relationships – digital connectivity simply enables that in the most efficient way possible.

3) “When It’s Big, We Want Chaperone”
Millennials weren’t able to experience the sense of individual achievement that comes from large purchases – buying a home, car, or appliances – because of the economy. They’ve always needed a guardian to help them achieve big goals. Relying on social networking, crowdsourcing, friends, and parents is second nature when encountering anything close to foreign.

4) “We Need a Bridge”
In order to participate in things millennials don’t think they can achieve, they look for “bridges” to get them to things they can’t reach themselves. These are things that extend their current circumstances and experiences – like a Jambox speaker system instead of surround sound. Millennials look for hip stopgaps until the time is right.

5) “We’re All Millennials Now”
Not only have older generations been adopting tech and electronics pioneered by millennials at a higher rate than ever before, but the world has shrunk from the perspective of any single generation needing a lift from it: people of all ages are in a period of struggle. This struggle creates an atmosphere where we are all defining and redefining out of necessity. Across all generations, your tech is my tech, and because of that, play is here to stay.