Cautious, Not Reckless: Debunking Perceptions of Millennial Small Business Owners

Cargo leverages neuroscience and AI to demystify the emotional drivers of Gen Y SBOs

TORONTO & GREENVILLE, S.C.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Small business is crucial to North America’s economic climate. Representing over 98 per cent of all businesses, marketers need to crack the code on North America’s small businesses to fully understand the key issues and trends that both motivate and concern today’s entrepreneurs. Cargo, a full-service, marketing and advertising agency, specializing in helping big brands market to small businesses, is doing just this in a new study released today.

The study reveals the make-up and motivations of the newest generation and fastest growing – yet least understood – segment of small business owners (SBOs) in North America: millennials. Recognizing how misrepresented this economically important demographic is, Cargo partnered with neuromarketing consultancy BRANDthro to better understand and analyze the emotional response of millennial SBOs through a combination of neuroscience and emotion artificial intelligence (AI).

The research demystified the millennial cohort make-up and debunked long-held perceptions of millennial SBOs, proving that the stereotypes don’t match the reality. Some of the most significant findings include:

  • The conscientious millennial: When looking at the big five personality traits, myths typically skew millennials towards extraversion and neuroticism, when in fact, millennials are highly conscientious.
  • Cautious, not reckless: Millennial SBOs are cautious when making business decisions, despite previously held assumptions that the generation are risk takers and reckless.
  • Decision-making requires balance: SBOs have traditionally been emotional decision makers. However, the cautious nature of millennials drives them to a balanced nature of both emotional and rational decision making. While millennial SBOs make decisions from the heart, they are also more informed and add more rationality to their decision-making processes.
  • Standing for a cause: Millennial SBOs are driven by purpose and passion, rather than profit or financial success, and want to partner with brands that share the same beliefs.
  • The impending threat of technology: The youngest millennials are concerned about loss of privacy and the scary nature of AI, while the oldest are worried about keeping up with the latest technology. Mid-age millennials, however, embrace technology and are eager to explore new solutions.

BRANDthro’s AI-driven model used social listening to identify the top issues and trigger language affecting millennial SBOs. By looking at brand content, the model extracted the common and reactive language from social media to derive the most relevant language to use in the study. The identified linguistic stimuli were then connected to primary and secondary emotions to measure emotional intensity, resulting in 99.99 per cent accuracy in measurement of target response to the language. Leveraging this data, Cargo can help marketers better identify customer segmentation and build deeper relationships with clients through enhanced trust and understanding.

A SBOs business is their life. We learned that for all SBOs, you need to move the heart to move the mind,” said Dan Gliatta, founder, Cargo. “As organizations look to stay competitive in today’s fast-paced environment, the latest innovations and technologies provide essential tools that can help to strengthen their offering. Through these tools, we recognized that advancements in AI had the potential to revolutionize the way marketers engage with their customers by predicting their response to a given message – even before it’s been created.”

At Cargo, we pride ourselves in bringing a human voice to small business through our Small Talk series and a space we’ve coined Business to Small Business or B2SB® Marketing. We’re excited to continue our never-ending quest to unveil important B2SB® trends and now be at the forefront of a new marketing landscape which enables us to continue leading the way in helping big brands market to small businesses,” said Miki Velemirovich, president, Cargo. “This research is only the first step in our mission to better understand the different demographics of SBOs. We look forward to continue digging deeper into these trends through research and conversations with SBOs, allowing us to have more educated and personalized conversations with our clients to help them build stronger emotional connections with their customers.”

This study takes the guesswork out of marketing to millennial SBOs. We look forward to seeing how the results will arm our clients with the insights they need to navigate today’s changing business landscape, while increasing real value to their bottom line,” continued Gliatta.

For more information and study findings, the full report can be downloaded here:

About the study

Using raw data acquired by leading data acquisition firm Branded, BRANDthro applied proprietary AI and advanced machine learning to compute emotional displacement and identify the most effective language to use, as well as those most likely to be emotionally moved to engage. Further analysis accessed IBM Watson Personality Insights API to assess the personalities of the respondents.

To measure the emotional response of millennial small business owners, the research was conducted through a custom online survey instrument designed by BRANDthro and had a sample size of 200. Participants were defined as small business owners in the United States and Canada, born between 1980 and 1994, and working in businesses ranging in size from one to 99 employees. The survey consisted of 45 multiple choice questions and 20 questions that required respondents to answer on a seven-point Lickert scale. Respondents were given 20 minutes to complete the survey.

About Cargo

Cargo is a new-model marketing and advertising agency that specializes in helping big brands connect with small businesses, otherwise known as B2SB Marketing®. Cargo offers a full suite of strategic and integrated marketing services focused on the important and unique nuances that help large enterprises reach their target market: small businesses. Using laser-guided creative, strategy and technology, we effectively build awareness, intent and loyalty for the brands we work with. Through its “Small Talk” series, Cargo is continuously exploring B2SB trends and the major disruptors that have the potential to impact how big businesses market to their clients and customers.

The agency was established in 2006 and has offices in Greenville, S.C., and Toronto, Ontario to service the North American market. Cargo’s client brands include 3M, Daimler, Detroit Reman, Lenovo, Mercedes-Benz, Pitney Bowes and Royal Bank of Canada. For more information, visit


Catherine Snider
Kaiser Lachance Communications
647.725.2520 x212

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