Discovery's Manu Singh on the Differences Between Gen X and Millennial Tech Enthusiasts

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Cover image for  article: Discovery's Manu Singh on the Differences Between Gen X and Millennial Tech Enthusiasts

Discovery and Omnicom Media Group have partnered in a new research study that discerns the impact of technology on consumers’ lives.  Focusing in on “tech enthusiasts,” a psychographic segment identified by tech ownership and attitudes, the study delineated the generational differences between Gen X and Millennials.  “While technology has created more opportunities to reach consumers through increased touchpoints, a lengthier purchase process and receptivity to advertising, there are significant generational differences,” explained Manu Singh, Group Vice President, Commercial Insights and Digital, Discovery Communications.  "We found that technology empowers and inspires Gen X enthusiasts while Millennials find technology more stressful.”

I found this insight fascinating and followed up with more questions for Singh (pictured below).

Charlene Weisler:  Why do you think there is such a stark difference between Millennials and Gen X in tech attitudes?

Manu Singh:  Both groups feel more productive and empowered by technology and have no desire to step away from their technological lives.Differences stem from how pervasive technology has been in their everyday lives from the start.  Millennials are accustomed to technology being woven into all facets of their interactions while Gen X’ers have clear memories of a lower tech life.

Millennials are exposed to the pressures of staying on top of technology and being judged by their peers.  They are more likely to follow new tech releases and get the latest devices but also report feeling more stressed by technology.  While the social benefits of technology are important to both generations, they are stronger for Millennials.  Technology facilitates their main modes of communication, creating an inherent social “burden” to stay relevant.  Gen X’ers appreciate and respect the benefits of technology but tend to focus more on how it can improve and simplify their daily lives.

Weisler:  What should an advertiser do to reach Gen X and Millennial enthusiasts?  Is there different messaging by generation?

Singh:  Both say they are consuming more video due to advances in technology so there are more opportunities for advertisers to connect via video. TV is still a go-to device for a majority of both generations across a variety of viewing experiences -- including live TV, Smart TV, VOD, DVD and DVR -- and as such should be at the core of a multi-platform strategy.

It is critical, however, to consider the expanding ecosystem of consumer content consumption.  This is particularly important when looking to reach Millennials who have a greater propensity towards consuming content via streaming.  Making the content viewers want available in a format that works with their expanding consumption habits is a key driver of Discovery’s GO strategy and success.

When thinking about messaging for Millennial enthusiasts, it’s about having access to the world, freedom of creative expression and career benefits.  For Gen X, messaging should express empowerment and innovation.  These are reasons they are driven to use technology and it will feed into existing excitement about capabilities and benefits.  Both groups of tech enthusiasts are open to advertising, but it’s important to recognize the high value they place on relevance and personalization.

Weisler:  What should programmers and content providers do to reach both groups?

Singh:  Technology is integrated into all areas of their day-to-day.  It is a lean-forward mindset.  Networks like Discovery successfully resonate with tech enthusiasts because of innovative content that fuels their curiosity.  [Our]tech enthusiasts are more likely to notice and be receptive to advertising than non-Discovery enthusiasts.  It is also important to make content available where consumers are.  Millennials are more likely to view on mobile devices as well as layer streaming services on their cable/satellite subscriptions.    

Weisler:  What is the future peril and opportunity with each group with these attitudes towards tech?

Singh:  Recently there has been a movement towards simplicity (Tech Free Tuesdays, adult coloring books, etc.) in response to perceived oversaturation of technology.  While a mass exodus from all technology is unlikely, there should be a focus on the role of technology in enhancing lives more than it detracts.  Focus on smart-tech product creation with the goal of life-improvement (lower utility bills, reliable home security) as opposed to the mere creation of more products.  Technology has created new ways to learn about brands, simplified purchasing and expanded product options.  Tech enthusiasts are becoming smarter, more efficient and global shoppers.  Their curious nature creates opportunities as they are open to new shopping experiences.

Weisler:  What is the future of linear TV with each group?

Singh:  TV is not dead!  The traditional TV set is still used most often for viewing video content and over half of enthusiasts have cable or satellite service.  There will continue to be shifts as on-demand culture grows alongside streaming and social platform offerings, but we see linear TV maintaining its base position.

When we look at what is coming in the tech space with Apple’s 10th anniversary iPhone, a new round of consoles hitting the market for the holidays and a smart speaker spending war brewing between Amazon, Google and Apple, the need to connect with tech enthusiasts is stronger than ever. And, since eight out every 10 tech enthusiasts watch Discovery Networks, I have to say that makes our content a must-buy!

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