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Technology Updated: 19 Aug 2016

Deconstructing the millennials

Numerous publications have attempted to find out what defines the millennials –the new generation of young people who not only have different values and tastes from their elders, but who are also pioneers in adapting new technologies, and whose uses and customs tend to be copied by older generations. BBVA has conducted a study to find out what they are like and what they really want out of life. It reveals that not only are there are a large number of different types of millennials, but that their preferences vary depending on their country of origin.

BBVA Girl millenial


Companies in all sectors are keen to understand the new generation dubbed the millennials, a group that includes young people aged between 16 and 34, and represents 30% of the world population. But its importance lies not only in its size and in the fact that it offers a glimpse of the tastes of consumers in the future, but in its influence on older generations who are becoming aware of the importance of connectivity and mobility.

María José Jordá, head of the Millennials Project at BBVA, explains that what most struck her at the end of this study –conducted according to design thinking techniques– was that “in fact "millennial" is not exactly a generation, but a way of thinking that will soon convert the whole of society. Understanding the millennial generation means understanding what your future customers will be like”. The example Jordá uses to illustrate this statement is that only four years ago very few people would have thought of checking online for options for hotels, films and so on. “The millennials were the ones who did that –they were born with the internet. Now we don't take any decision without seeing what other people think. We're adopting the digital behavior that's one of the millennials' own hallmarks”.

What are their distinguishing features?

In general terms, the community they form part of is essential to them. Little wonder then that 70% of those surveyed say their friends are the most important thing in their life. They also spend more time than any previous generation taking care of the environment and collaborating in social causes. Sports and healthy lifestyles are another of their priorities, in addition to travel.

The study by BBVA looked at millennials from three countries (the US, Mexico and Spain) in four different cities (Houston, Birmingham, Mexico DF and Madrid) through interviews and group activities, in order to learn more about these young people. This research uncovered some differences based on geography. For example, in both Mexico and the US, the millennials say that what motivates them most is their family, whereas in Spain family links are relegated to third place in their scale of preferences, behind traveling/living abroad and work. In addition, BBVA's study also highlight similarities in what they detest, regardless of their country. Feeling cheated, waiting in long lines, impositions, and feeling isolated are singled out as things millennials hate in all geographic areas.

In the world of work, they consider it vital to be occupied in something they enjoy such as engineering subjects (15%), testing videogames (13%), medicine (9%), graphic design (8%), or chef (8%). 59% consider themselves to be adequately trained and to have a good education. The study also reveals that 58% have part-time contracts.

Their relationship with the digital world

This is the generation that is most influenced by social networks. Two out of three log into several places online to obtain coupons and discounts. Almost nine out of ten have a smartphone. One out of five use their cellphone exclusively, and one out of three use up to four different devices a day. Convenience, ease and speed are essential for them.

The word millennial covers a wide range of people with different approaches to life. The BBVA study distinguishes different groups such as the eco-millennials, who fight for what they believe in, namely fair, positive and healthy causes. They contribute content to social networks, normally associated with a particular cause. These tend to be the younger millennials, mostly Hispanics and full-time students.

The study by BBVA notes that although we talk in social terms of the millennials as a generation in itself, it is made up of young people with different tastes and customs. The most significant conclusion to be derived from this study is that the importance of these young people lies in their ability to adopt new technologies, which in a few years will be used by society as a whole in a massive way.