Buying Behavior Similarities and Differences within Millennials And other Generations In Entertainment Industry Using Learning Theory


Consumer behaviour can be defined as a set of activities or decisions that consumer engage when searching, buying, using or evaluating particular product or service that satisfying his/her needs. It is essential for marketers to study consumer behaviour in order to predict consumer reaction toward specific product or service, innovate new marketing ways that suit consumers’ needs, build effective communication channel with customers, and also help marketers to create suitable and effective marketing strategy.

Background of different age cohorts

Cohort theory suggests that people who born in the same period and grew up in the same circumstances might have similar needs and attitudes (Valkeneers and Vanhoomissen, 2012). This presentation will focus on three main cohort groups. Firstly, Baby Boomers who are born after the World War II between 1946 and 1964, who are between 53 and 71 years old. Secondly, Generation X, this cohort born between 1965 and 1976, who are between 41 and 52 years old. Finally, Generation Y (Millennials), who are born between 1976 and 1994 and aged between 23 and 40 years old (Kotler, 2002, 141). Each generation had grew up with different characteristics, values, attitudes and experiences that affect their spending power and behaviour

Bill Gates- Co-founder of Microsoft


Elon Musk - Co-founder and CEO of TESLA, Co-founder of PayPal

( Generation X)

Mark Zuckerberg- Co-founder and CEO of Facebook


Millennials Buying Behaviour

71% of Millennials are using internet as a tool to compare prices and searching for product reviews before they make a buying decision and 55% of other Generations have gone online to compare the prices (Fleming, 2016).

One study conducted in 2015 suggested that Millennials are willing to spend more on vacations than Generation X and Boomer in 2016. It also showed that 42% of Millennial travelers are more likely to stay in hotels during their vacation compared with 36% of generation X and 30% of Boomers (Travel Agent, 2015).

willingness to spend more on vacation (Travel Agent, 2015)

A report from Urban Land Institute revealed that 37% of generation Y love shopping, while 48% enjoying it. Half of men and 70% of women perceive shopping as an entertainment tool (Urban Land Institute, 2013).

(Urban Land Institute, 2013)

Millennials are more attracted to advertisement on internet, specific TV programs and video games (Williams and Page, 2011).

Another report from Verizon-USA showed that 49% of Millennials were using internet to watch TV programs online, 45% listen to music, 40% watch a movie they like, and 31% play a video game on a game console (Verizon, 2014).

(Verizon, 2014)

Millennials are more likely to go to live sport events, music festivals and nightclubs than other Generations. However, Millennials and other generations are go to pub to have a drink or dine-in (Mintel, 2016).

Millennials and Generation X

A research studied the differences between generation Y and generation X found that there were differences noted between Generation Y and Generation X for video games consumption, Generation Y respondents were more likely to play video games than Generation X Participants (Bennett et al, 2006, 44). The same study found that watching televised action sports were more likely for generation X than Generation Y.

Furthermore, one study found that both generation X and Generation Y are tech-savvy and uses internet on a regular basis including online purchases. However, Generation Y have greater satisfaction using internet than members of Generation X (Reisenwitz and Iyer, 2009). Williams and Page (2011) pointed out that both Generations are less convinced watching TV.

Millennials and Baby Boomers

Baby boomers are internet-savvy, make online searches and purchases for memorabilia from the end of World War II to Early 1970s using general-auction website like EBay (Black, 1999).

The dominant media channel for Baby Boomers is TV, while Millennials have less interest in watching TV, and more attracted to online broadcasting (Williams and Page, 2011).

Both Millennials and Baby Boomers are more attracted to adventurous vacations, music-based tourism and dine-in restaurants as a type of entertainment (Williams and page, 2011).

Both generations are attracted to discounts and coupons and they are very comfortable with searching and shopping online. One the other hand, Millennials are largely affected by recommendation from their friends, relatives and collages about specific product or services. While boomers are more affected by customer service advice and traditional advertisement (Synchrony Financial, 2014).

Baby Boomers are most likely to own entertainment devices such as DVD player, digital cameras and home cinema devices than Millennials; due to Boomers have a disposal income and can afford buying those devices (Mintel, 2015).

The video below summarize the similarities and differences between Millennials and other Generations

Consumer Learning Theory

Consumer learning is the past experience and information gathered that shape a consumer behaviour toward specific product or service. Individual learning can be different from one another depending on his experience and information he has about the product. It is an important step for marketers to understand how consumers learn about such products or services through their learning approaches in order to reach high level of customer satisfaction and focus marketing effort toward consumer needs.

Different Approaches to Consumer Learning

There are four approaches for consumer learning; Classical Conditioning, Instrumental learning, Observational learning and Cognitive learning. Classical conditioning means make a link between conditioning stimulus and Unconditioning stimulus to produce a conditioning response, this link can be made through repeated exposure. Instrumental Learning means the choice of products or services based on consumer previous experience or actions. If the consumer satisfied with the offering, he would buy it again when similar needs appear, if the consumer dissatisfied with the offering, he would switch to other alternatives.

Observational learning means learn through observing or watching others behaviours, it could be imitating family members, celebrities and friends behaviours. Cognitive Learning mean consumer decisions are depend on mental thinking rather than repetition or link between rewards and stimulus, the consumer search for information, analyse the information and evaluate the alternatives before make a decision.

Applying Consumer Learning on Generation Cohorts

To illustrate the role of learning on different generation cohorts, let us take an example of watching a movies in cinema theatre, Millennials before purchasing tickets for such a movie, they will search for information about the movie, they may refer to relatives, friends and colleagues to ask for recommendation about the movies, they may go to YouTube to watch the movie trailer, go for movie reviewing sites such as IMDB to evaluate how others rate the movie, then they decide whether to buy a ticket or not depend on their analysis and evaluation of information available. In this case Millennials use cognitive approach of learning because they are affected by their friends or colleagues and spend more time to collect information and analyse the information to make the buying decision.

In the same way, Generation X are like Millennials when deciding to watch a movie, they use recommendation from friends or family, watching the movie trailer and searching online reviews. Thus, Generation X engage in a process of information collection about the movie so they apply cognitive learning approach.

According to Baby Boomers tendency to watch a movie in cinema theatre, they might buy tickets for a movie based on the posters or brochures they exposure in the street, TV and newspapers because the movie tickets are cheap. They are less sensitive to prices (William and Page, 2011). So they won’t waste time on searching for information about the movie, thus they are applying the classical learning which they affected by the repeated exposure of promotional brochures or TV advertisements.

Another example to elaborate consumer learning is behaviours toward spending time on a vacation, both Millennials and other Generations (Boomers and X) will be searching for information about hotel accommodation prices and major activities to do during their stay, they are eager to get the best deal using customers review websites such as Trip Advisor. Also, they are affected by the word of mouth of their friends and colleagues. This search for information and recommendations means that Both Millennials and other Generations are engaged with cognitive learning approach.

However, Millennials and Both generations might take the same hotel accommodation they previously took, or go to activities they like it before. This case depicts that the learning approach is instrumental learning through using their previous experience of such activities or hotel accommodation.

Consumer Learning Criticism


One criticism of the literature on instrumental learning is that the theory was based on testing animals behaviours and didn’t take into account the complexity of human mindsets, and the behaviour of animals cannot be generalised to human behaviours (Chomsky, 1959; Boulding, 1984). Boulding (1984) also pointed out that the theory ignores the notion of transformation of learned behaviour to the next generation through learning process. Moreover, some behaviours can be learned through observation as Observation theory suggest instead of personal experience (trial and error learning).


The main weakness with this theory is that the suggestion of humans are a complex information processing units, where there is a likelihood of getting lost in thoughts as a result of extensive information collection and analysis (Velaytham and Brosekhan, no date; Johnson and Crowe, 2008).


One of the major criticism for classical conditioning made by Pornpitakpan, He argue that there is no evidence for classical conditioning effects on consumer behavior, although he acknowledge that the theory might exist, but the exposure to the conditioning stimuli do not always lead to make buying decisions, referring that to the flexibility of human learning mechanism and the theory cannot be extended to human responses who are different from animals (Pornpitakpan, 2012).


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