Millennials. Everyone has heard of them. Some of you might be one. And as millennials grow up and start occupying a larger percentage of the workforce, they’re becoming an increasingly important target audience for marketers and advertisers.
Right now, there are 83 million “millennials” in the US. That’s more than 25% of the population. And they have an estimated purchase power of $1.68 trillion. So it’s no wonder that they’re becoming a more and more valuable target for advertising efforts.
The thing about millennials, though, is that they don’t seem to respond to advertising methods that have worked for decades. Why not?
The biggest difference between millennials and baby boomers is that, for the former, adulthood is non-linear. It’s not about graduating -> getting a job -> getting married -> buying a house -> having kids -> retiring. Millennials will likely do all those things, but they’ll do them in whatever order they want.
Traditional advertising focuses on life stages. This life stage = this group of people. Millennials throw that bell curve way off. Millennials prefer to be identified by their choices and lifestyles. They thrive on ever-changing social trends, on feeling as if they have a unique identity and the power to make the choice that’s right for them.
So what should companies do to reel in the millennial dollars?
Though millennials aren’t a monolith, they do have a lot of things in common. Mobile marketing is essential. Social media is overwhelmingly popular as the way millennials learn about new brands or companies. Videos that can viewed from any platform (and, interestingly, men respond slightly better than women to video content). Millennials own smartphones, and they use them. For almost everything. All the time.
Millennials, as a group, want the feeling of contributing to brands that promote their lifestyles. User-generated content is vital to make them feel as though their two cents has been heard. They want a unique, shareable experience.
Companies that have relied on gimmicks to grab attention in the past will have a tough time building a millennial customer base. Millennials are always looking for the next simple, relevant solution to make their lives easier. It’s the reason “life hacks” are so popular. Use a binder clip to organize your electronics cords. Put pancake batter in an empty ketchup bottle for perfect pancakes every time! Microwave vinegar, lemons and hot water to clean your microwave! These things aren’t popular because they were previously secrets. They’re popular because they seemingly make something easy that many people struggle with.
Millennials, though they have a short attention span, actually have a high degree of brand loyalty. But they expect a lot in exchange. Intense brand loyalty usually requires a great deal of transparency from the company. If a millennial is going to get behind your brand, promote it on social media, and give you their money, they want to know with certainty that the brand compliments their lifestyle.
So we know how millennials want to feel, but how is this achieved?
For any target audience, companies need to first identify who they want to reach, design advertising that will speak to that audience, then deliver the advertising to the audience.
This seems simple enough, but a failure to connect the second and third steps is surprisingly common. If your target audience is baby boomers, and you create a practical, compelling and relevant :30 TV commercial to air during NCIS, you’re golden.
If your target audience is millennials, and you create a compelling, relevant, passionate :30 TV commercial, it doesn’t matter if you air it during NCIS or Vampire Diaries – you’ve missed your target.
A tent pole of advertising is to meet your audience where they are. And for decades, where they were was sitting on the couch watching evening television. Sitting at the breakfast table reading the Sunday paper. Driving down the highway, looking at billboards.
Millennials aren’t doing those things. They’re watching TV, but they’re doing it online when they have free time and they’re tweeting about it simultaneously. They’re reading the news, but they’re doing it online and on modern, non-traditional news sites. They’re constantly on the road, but they’re checking email on their tablets while an Uber driver looks at billboards.
Meeting millennials where they are, not where you think they are, requires an understanding of their values. In comparison with the baby boomer generation, millennials value more highly happiness, passion, diversity, sharing and discovery. And what do they value less? Justice, integrity, family, practicality and duty.
Millennials have a pretty bad rep. They’re often considered lazy, unambitious, unmotivated and selfish. And while there are people who fit that bill in every generation, millennials have grown up in a very different world than their parents. Rather than continue to create marketing for “grown ups” and wait for millennials to “grow up,” it’s important to understand that adulthood simply looks different for this generation than it has in the past. And consumer patterns that have been regarded as traditional are quickly becoming outdated for the millennial generation.
So if you’re looking to capture millennials as a target for your business, make sure you’re meeting them where they are. It’s not a new concept. They’re just in a different place than you might have thought.
Sources and further reading: forbes.com, “Inside the Millennial Mind,” Entrepreneur.com, “3 Essntial Tips For Marketing To Millennials,” Mashable.com “5 Effective Ways To Market To Millennials,”
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