All work and all play: How Millennials are redefining leisure

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Mobile technology means working 9 to 5 isn't the only way to make a living, so marketers must adapt their messaging accordingly

One of today’s great paradoxes is that mobile technology makes life more efficient and productive, yet it generates enough distraction so it seems there is less free time.

According to a new study from MRY, Millennials experience this conflict acutely, which means brands looking to target them must understand the shifting notion of leisure time.  

The New (Micro) Leisure study is based on an online survey of 829 full-time working smartphone owners, aged 21 to 55, and discussion groups via MRY’s Millennial audience research panel. It explores how the boundary between work and leisure has blurred and the implications this has for brands.

The study found that almost half of Millennials surveyed (48%) worry about spending too much time on their smartphones, but 60% agree that smartphones enhance leisure time "a great deal or somewhat."

Half of these Millennials (49%) said smartphones make it hard to focus on a single task and a similar percentage (48%) have tried to implement a "no phone at the dinner table" policy with friends and family. Yet 71% agree that smartphones make it easier to plan the things they like to do in their social lives.

This conflict is altering how Millennials view work: Forty-six percent of the Millennials surveyed said mobile technology makes it difficult to escape work at home and on the weekend, while 51% believe using cell phones at work reduces stress.

MRY describes these contradictions as "the Leisure Paradox," and something that Gen X-ers are better at overcoming. "Millennials never really turn on or off," said Ian Chee, chief strategy officer at MRY.  He explained that brands need to rethink the times they attempt to reach them with their messaging, especially that the post-work "golden hour", which brands like Miller have tried to own with the "It's Miller Time" campaign. 

The survey highlighted how tech and media companies, like Channel 4 News in the UK and Snapchat have adapted their content distribution to meet this shift. 

"Technology companies are reshaping the way they deliver information and brands need to take the lead from that in how they shape their own marketing."

The research shows how Millennials use cell phones for moments of relief, so brands should consider making their messaging short and snackable. Context is also key for posting content that is suitable for "micro leisure."

"Brands should ask: ‘Is this a context where we are adding value and can we deliver on that value in real time?’ " Chee said.

For example, gym chain Equinox sends early-morning workout posts to capture the attention of people perusing their social media feeds when they wake up. 

Meanwhile, food-delivery service Eat24 targets people with late-night food cravings by posting food-porn images late at night on Instagram.