Millennials are ‘the new frontier’ of global economy, BREW speaker says

    Millennials now make up the nation’s largest generation, comprise more than one-third of the workforce and are far more diverse than generations past.

    Like it or not, they are the future of our global economy, and business owners would do well to get to know them better, said millennial marketing expert Tobias Wilhelm.

    “Millennials are the new frontier,” he said. “They are the ultimate game changers in business today.”

    Wilhelm spoke to a small crowd of business owners and entrepreneurs Wednesday at a Baton Rouge Entrepreneurship Week seminar on millennials in the economy, hosted by the Louisiana Small Business Development Center at Southern University. Wilhelm, originally from Germany, works as a business consultant with offices in Alexandria and Dallas.

    As consumers, millennials want to buy an experience, not just a product, Wilhelm said. They’re skeptical of traditional advertising, but loyal to brands that make them feel special, support a cause or their friends use. As employees, millennials want opportunities and to be engaged in the success of the business, not just a paycheck. If they hit career roadblocks, they switch jobs.

    Although they frustrate older generations because they think differently, Wilhelm noted, millennials can be valued customers and loyal employees. He commended brands like Apple and Starbucks for success with millennials because they sell experiences with their products. While baby boomers bring their coffee to work, millennials stop at Starbucks to have coffee and work on their Apple laptops. It’s not about the coffee, Wilhelm said, but the experience.

    It’s why subscription-box services do so well with millennials, who think a surprise in the mail each month is worth the $20. They are driven by experiences, short-term results and are more impulsive, which is why they go out to eat and travel more.

    “It makes them awesome consumers,” Wilhelm told the crowd.

    Millennials take a lot of flack from older generations for their lifestyles and work habits. They aren’t quick to get married, have kids or buy houses because to them it’s logical to wait. They appear unmotivated because they job hop, but their motivation is in finding a fulfilling career.

    “It’s always people outside of our own norm that we tend to look at like they’re crazy,” said Wilhelm, a self-described member of Generation X. “They’re not. We have to look at reasons why they behave that way.”

    Money is a poor motivator for millennial employees, he said. They want advancement opportunities, job perks and engagement. As consumers, they have similar interests. They want products and experiences they can be involved in. They also want to be treated as valued customers and receive special perks and promotions.

    Baby boomer Norma Frank attended Wilhelm’s seminar for advice on how to grow her small business and reach new customers. Frank is co-owner of Madison’s Florist in Greenwell Springs. Her daughter is a licensed florist, and she and her husband own the business.

    Wilhelm encouraged business owners like Frank to target and engage millennials through social media—ask them what they want, let them participate and become brand ambassadors. Frank says she also learned about new platforms and advertising avenues for younger generations, such as Pandora and Hulu.

    “I’ve never really thought about millennials,” Frank says. “But just by listening to his seminar, I’m like, ‘Wow, yes, this is something we can do.’”

    BREW is a weeklong celebration of entrepreneurship and innovation. Earlier this week, BRAC’s Big Think focused on conscious capitalism and St. Joseph’s Academy students took home the first place prize in Big Pitch. 

    —Annie Ourso

    View Comments