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Millennials are sometimes referred to as the "me me me generation". They are well travelled, well-educated and adaptable. Photo: Bloomberg

What is the difference between a status symbol and a status update? This is a crucial question for future markets, according to branding guru, Matt Britton. Over the past ten years, he has earned a reputation as one of the US's leading experts on millennials and their consumer behaviour. He is the person that the world's largest companies call when they want to find out about consumers of the future. He is also a regular commentator for the likes of CNBC, Bloomberg, Financial Times and Forbes.

The hunt for a status update

Young people are not as concerned with owning status symbols as older generations are. Millennials are more interested in moments that can be captured on Snapchat, Twitter or Instagram. Why pay thousands for an expensive Gucci dress when you can hire one for the evening and share the pictures on social media for a fraction of the price? For future consumers, it is the status update itself that is goal rather than permanent ownership.

The example of the Gucci dress may seem irrelevant in a broader economic context. However, it is an illustration of a mega trend which may have far-reaching global economic consequences that can offer new opportunities to the vigilant investor. The retail industry, the real estate market and the automotive industry must all be innovative to avoid losing ground to new disruptive players. These come in the guise of a generation born into the digital age, and they are in the process of rewriting the rules.

Prepared to compromise

Future consumers are prepared to compromise in a broad range of areas, as long as they can afford the big shareable moments. They agree to move in together and live in far smaller accommodation if it means living cheaply. They need to be as centrally located as possible though, so that their personal story has the best backdrop against which to unfold.

They would not dream of owning an expensive car. Cars stand still most of the time and fall in value. They would prefer to travel cheaply with Uber and pay a high price to drive a photogenic Porsche for a couple of hours now and then. And when they do their daily shop, they want to buy the cheapest products, so they can afford the big experiences in life. If they do end up buying something expensive, it is the story or the brand which matters most. Quality and good craftsmanship take second place. They make an exception for expensive brands and a good bargain. According to Britton, everything in between will disappear over time. One thousand year old market forces are undergoing major changes thanks to this new generation.

The new digital age has made it possible to create strong sharing networks and the millennial generation is the first to jump on board. "Why own when you can rent," is the new mantra that has brought into being companies like AirBnB, Uber and Lending Club. The sharing economy is already here and according to Matt Britton it will revolutionise the market as we now know it.

Inspiration to find future winners

The advance of the sharing economy is just one example of the topics that Matt Britton will address at our upcoming New Year's Conference. The publication of Matt Britton's bestselling book YouthNation has cemented his position as one of the US's foremost experts on youth culture and their consumption habits. His presentations are known for being fast-paced and providing inspiration to the curious investor. Be prepared to learn about brands and trends you have never heard of.

Millennials in 15 seconds

Millennials are defined as those people born between 1981 and 1996. The eldest are therefore now in their thirties and entering the workforce. They were born into the digital age and have grown up with the internet. Millennials are sometimes referred to as the "me me me generation". They are well travelled, well-educated and adaptable.

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