There's been much written of late about the so-called--implicitly or explicitly--'blank generation', otherwise known as 'Millennials', including a feature New York Times Magazine story (18 August) penned by Robin Marantz Henig ('What Is It About 20 Somethings?"), so I'm not going to belabor the point here.  The recent Pew Research Center report on Millennials was particularly noteworthy, concluding that the generation defined by the turn of the calendar - that is, those born after 1980 and the first generation to come of age in the new century - are 'confident, connected, and open to change.'  When those Pew millennials who claimed that their generation was unique were asked to explain in what sense, nearly a quarter said 'technology.' 

So far, so good.  Yet we are also hearing more and more the 'vacant' label in association with discussions about a brand new life cycle stage, 'Emerging Adulthood' - the developmental period between adolescence and adulthood.  Not yet considered by marketers, this is the stage of in-between, what with financial independence delayed, schooling prolonged, progressively increasing delay in moving away from home, and the responsibilities of raising a family lingering beyond the far-off clouds.  Emerging adulthood does not appear to be a uniquely American phenomenon - it's happening here in France (where 60% of male and 49% female 20-24 year olds still live with their parents, about a 10% increase compared to 1982), India, and elsewhere.  And then there was that button-pushing report issued by the market research firm Civic Science (who?!) claiming that their research shows that millennials don't run hot or cold about anything - the 'tepid generation'?  According to a Civic Science spokesperson,
"When we looked at our first month's worth of data, we found almost NO
contrast among brands.  Not only do the Ms not dislike anything.  They see to
think that ''Love" is too strong of a feeling for a brand.  Our 5-point scale quickly
turned into a 3- or even 2-point scale.  It seems that "Neutral" is about the most
damning way these Ms can feel about anything."

Regardless of the validity of this claim - and my millennial students assure me they hate this kind of market study, there is no question that millennials love technology.  Maybe they just don't know it because they're so used to it.  For an old fogey like me who once upon a time owned a manual typewriter and had to keypunch cards to get my doctoral research data analyzed in the dark caverns of a converted church on Temple University's urban campus in Philadelphia, every new piece of technology that makes my life easier and more enjoyable is embraced as avidly as a passionate new love affair.  But as Pat McCarthy adroitly pointed out at the WOMMA blog yesterday, today's not-quite milliennial teens are, ho-hum, used to technology and its changes because, for them, it’s always been there.  That's a pretty meaningful statement, and an important one for marketers to note.  According to McCarthy:

If marketers want their brand to captivate teens, they need to think about technology from a teens perspective. David Trahan of WOMMA Member company Mr Youth recently outlined this perspective. For teens today:

1. Devices Have Always Been Portable
2. Mobile Phones Have Always Existed
3. Technology Is Always Evolving
4. Brands Have Always Been Online

I'm also reminded of a Keller Faye analysis showing that whereas most WOM takes place offline, when you break down the analysis according to age, the younger the age group, the greater the proportion of online WOM.  Younger people (13-17 year olds) communicate 19% of their comments about brands, companies, etc. via email, IM/text, and chat/blog, and that percentage steadily decreases across subsequent age groups, resulting in a mere 3% for 60-69 year olds, yes, the ones who predated those punch cards.  In short, if you want to reach and connect with young people these days, technology is the answer.
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