How does the Consumer Behaviour of Millennials Differ from Previous Generations in the Area of Entertainment?


Who are Millennials?

As age is considered one of the key determinants of consumer behaviour, it is important to consider how and why this is (Vanhomissen, 2012). Generational theory, first proposed by Mannheim (1952) proposes that people born in the same time period who grew up in the same socio-economic climate, will possess similar traits, values and expectations. These similarities across members of the same generation are said to be due to significant events (e.g. war, recession) that influenced culture and needs in this time. Millennials is a term used for those born roughly in the period of 1982 and 2004, that describes individuals who grew up in a time of fast-paced change technologically, and are highly influential in the current business environment (Williams & Page, 2011). They value self-reliance and have a need for acceptance from peers and a constant connection with the world, and are said to be the best educated and most culturally diverse generation yet (Howe & Strauss, 2009). This page will look at differences between this generation and others in entertainment, specifically that of music and film.

Baby Boomers and Generation X

The term Baby Boomer is used to describe a member of a post-war generation, born between 1946 and the early 1960's. Possibly due to events such as the war, they value optimism and tradition, and are highly career driven (Williams & Page, 2011). Though it is seen as conventional to have the view that as one ages, they become less accepting of technology, this generation are in fact open to new technologies as they witnessed their development (Kumar & Lim, 2008). Generation X describes those born between these two groups, in the period of the 1960's to the early 1980's. They represent a group who values community, family and making time for relationships (Williams & Page, 2011). This generation is said to be the best educated, which leads to high levels of scepticism and caution, an attitude which may be carried across to their consumer behaviours.

Decision making processes

Consumer Behaviour Model

A popular model used to illustrate the consumer decision making process is that by Kotler and Armstrong (2010). This model is widely used as it considers the wide array of factors that could influence the final purchase decision, as opposed to simplifying it as previous models have done. The key parts of this model in context of the aims of this page are price, technology, motivation and evaluation of alternatives, which will be later discussed.

Model of Consumer Behaviour, adapted from Kotler and Armstrong (2010)

AIDA Model

The traditional AIDA model stands for Awareness, Interest, Desire and Action. However, it has been argued that this model is inappropriate to describe Millennials as it is strictly linear, whereas a non-linear model could be more suitable as Millennials are dynamic consumers and do not necessarily make decisions in this manner. By adapting this model, it allows a visualisation of the differences between Millennials and previous generations.

Adapted AIDA Model, from Millennials Matter

The consumer behaviour of Millennials differs from that of previous generations from this model as after their interest is captured, this does not necessarily lead to an action. This generation more than others seeks peer acceptance, and so are likely to explore the product or service by asking their peers and looking online for opinions before making a purchase. Following a purchase, this then links back to the importance of the Internet as experiences are shared which may then reinforce the future decisions of others.

The Generation of Technology

One of the key differences in how consumers in the Millennial generation behave in the field of entertainment compared to previous generations is due to technology. As previously mentioned, Millennials grew up in an Internet fuelled world, where technology was at the key of their upbringing. This has meant that they are dependent on technology, and with that the need for the instantaneous gratification it provides (Simoes, 2008). From this, they expect a wider choice of products and services to choose from, which is facilitated by the efficient distribution provided online (e.g. Amazon Prime). Sweeney (2006) outlines several key characteristics of Millennial Consumer Behaviour which are discussed below.


Millennials expect flexibility from services, which essentially refers to the ability to utilise them where and when they desire. This is a key difference from previous generations, as on demand streaming services such as Netflix and Spotify have made it possible for Millennials to have this convenience, whereas beforehand consumers would have needed to visit a shop to purchase a CD, or go to the cinema to see a film. They are then able to, for example, pause a film or TV series and resume it, whether that be on the train to work a week later. A report by Mintel (2010) found that watching films online is becoming increasingly popular, with 66% of those aged 16-25 in the sample reporting that they regularly stream online. This is possibly since On Demand services remove the task of scheduling and fitting in to the times given by a cinema to watch a certain film, and give the consumer more control over their entertainment choices (Savage, 2013). Moreover, only 30% stated that they purchase physical CD's to have a tangible product, compared to 53% of 45-55 year olds, and 51% of over 55's. This demonstrates how the motivations behind certain purchases differ, as younger generations seem more concerned with the ease and convenience of using on demand services. Another report reported that the laptop and tablet markets were worth £3,270,109 in comparison to the desktop computer valued at £447,744, further highlighting the growing value of portable devices (Mintel, 2015).


Personalisation is also key for this generation to continuously tailor their entertainment needs to the ever-changing tastes and trends. This is facilitated by systems such as Netflix and Spotify, that suggests new content to users based on what they have already watched or listened to, meaning they are more likely to be of interest to them. Millennials in particular are more likely to respond to personalised messages and content as they value brands that make them feel "special", also increasing their loyalty to a product/service (Smith, 2011).


The importance of evaluating alternatives is especially key when discussing reliability. Millennials are likely to be loyal to products and services that they know will deliver what they expect, whenever they wish to use it, which is pivotal in the current competitive market as there are many possible alternatives in the entertainment industry. Due to the technology available to them, they can effectively filter through the options by reading online reviews, or instantly being able to ask their peers. As many as 84% of Millennials have stated that their purchase decisions are generally influenced by "user-generated" content, such as reviews from previous users (Trends Magazine, 2012). This highlights differences from previous generations, as Millennials must weigh up the loss of time and effort in going to the cinema, over simply being able to watch a film instantly in their home.


Millennials are commonly attributed to have highly developed multitasking skills, and using technology can seamlessly switch from one task to another (Brown, 2011). This does mean, however, that they can be impatient if they experience interruptions in this due to their expectations of instantaneous results. Sweeney (2006) highlights here that Millennials almost never message someone without carrying out a task alongside. This reaffirms the tendency for these consumers to prefer streaming movies at home while carrying out daily tasks and messaging friends, over dedicating time solely to going to the cinema to watch a film.


It is evident that in comparison to previous generations, Millennials have different expectations and characteristics that may influence their consumer behaviour in entertainment industry. The key differences are effectively highlighted using the AIDA model, as Millennials are more suited to the edited version which accommodates their need for sharing experiences and thoroughly researching a new product or service through their peers. Baby Boomers and Generation X, on the contrary, have more of a linear pattern in their behaviour and do not place as much emphasis on peer review and acceptance, or sharing following their purchase. The role of the Internet appears to differ from generation to generation, as although the earlier generations do not repel the utilisation of modern technologies, Millennials grew up using them, and are arguably more dependent.

That is not to say that Millennial consumers do not still enjoy going to the cinema, or visiting a shop to purchase a physical CD. However, due to the differing needs of each generation, Generation X consumers and Baby Boomers who value tradition and making time for family relations, may be more likely to put effort into planning a trip to the cinema, for example. Tryon (2013, 5) goes on to discuss how the cinema industry has become more expensive in recent years through increased admission and food prices, which may also discourage younger generations as they have lower disposable income than others. Overall, while there are similarities between the three generations discussed here, the contrasting expectations and values of the Millennials seems to have led to fundamental differences in their consumer behaviour.


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Photo Credits

  • Millennial Photo: iStock (
  • Netflix Photo: The National
  • Old and New Technology Photo:
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Created with images by jeffdjevdet - "Millennial Scrabble" • TeroVesalainen - "mindmap brainstorm idea"

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