Millennial Data Love Debate: Why We Keep Arguing Over the Data We Discover

Are Millennials more influenced by advertising than previous generations, or less influenced? Depends on the data we love the most.

by David Kinnaman

Millennials (or Gen Y, or Mosaics) have caused a lot of new study and discussion. I was reading this morning about their media use and response to advertising. One analyst claims in AdAge that Mosaics are the least likely to be influenced by television advertising. However, in a MediaPost article, another observer strongly refutes this claim. In fact, she describes her efforts as “myth busting.”

Two observations struck me:

First, the AdAge article confirms some things we have been learning at Barna Group about teens and young adults: today’s young adults are media blenders. They use terrestrial radio and digital radio. They view television plus Internet videos. They consume digital music and purchase vinyl records. They are increasingly comfortable with multiple forms of input: digital and analog. Most of us assume that next-gen adults are only comfortable in the digital domain, but their “blending” means that communication with and to this generation is more complex, especially because this broad menu of inputs makes them increasingly distracted.

Second, these articles reminded me of the controversy that many statistics generate, especially within the Christian community. It seems that data love debate. (Yes, that’s grammatically correct. “Data” are plural; “datum” is singular.) In most arenas of culture — media, the economy, retailing, healthcare, government, and so on — there is a debate about what is really true. The same thing happens with Christian statistics: there are different sources of information about the world of faith, but when these sources conflict, we often resort to impugning the motives and methods of others.

I believe we should have good, healthy debate about data — their accuracy and meaning. The more important the decisions we are making, the more crucial it is that we get our data right. But, from my standpoint, in the Christian community we too often resort to the wrong spirit of “myth busting” on the work of our brothers and sisters.

I predict that the debate over data will increase in the next decade. There are more of us doing research about Christianity and faith. The threshold to enter the “research” field is as low as ever (hello, survey monkey). And the world is changing very quickly, so we need insight to make sense of the change.

My suggestion: we need to work very hard at finding constructive, Jesus-like ways of debating data.

What’s your best idea how we might do this?

 

See also:  How Millennials Who Gave Up on Church are Redefining Faith and Re-engaging Community.