Marketing to Millennials

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What is a Millennial?

There is no universal agreement on what a ‘Millennial’ is. Broadly, the demographics of this society grouping are people born between 1977 and 2000. It is estimated that there are 80 million of them in the US alone with a combined purchasing power of 170 billion. It is quite an epidemic. Before I get chastised for making any generalisations on this breed of person, I should caveat the blog by saying, I was born in 1987 and I am a millennial.

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Now we’ve got that pledge out of the way, what is clear is that this consumer generation is going to have a significant impact on the world economy. As the first generation ever to be digitally native, they are said to be the most technologically savvy generation to date.  

What do they want?

You can imagine the meeting. A group of executives sat round a table. ‘So here we have an audience that are frequently online… let’s serve up online adverts to them!' They then all pat themselves on the back and set the designers to work. In reality, only 6% of Millennials trust traditional online ads and 98% are more likely to engage with a friend’s post than a brand’s post. I for one have never clicked on a display advert that has appeared on my LinkedIn or Facebook feed. 

To truly engage with this generation, brands need to inspire millennials to be advocates for their product. 95% say that friends are the most credible source of product information and that 91% of millennials would consider purchasing a product if a friend recommended it. The best way to build their trust in your product or service offering is to increase engagement with them and their network.  

Last October AdWeek decided not to rely on broad characteristics and took to the streets to interview 100 millennials in New York, leading to some interesting findings about their social network usage:

  • 91% are on Facebook
  • 73% on Instagram
  • 56% on Snapchat
  • 44% on Twitter
  • 39% are on LinkedIn

Interestingly, 68% of respondent’s parents are now on Facebook, which means they may be more likely to be passive on this channel despite having a presence. These figures should be considered when reviewing a millennial channel strategy. Recently overtaking Twitter, Instagram’s user base hit 300 million just before Christmas. With the introduction of sponsored adverts and pages displaying company cultures rather than products, this channel is expected to be a big player for lifestyle brands in 2015. 

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Even though they were born after the widespread adoption of the internet, don’t be fooled into thinking that’s the only way to reach them. Retro trends like vinyl, books and vintage clothing are incredibly relevant resurgent purchases, especially to the generation who is cited to have the most disposable spending power. 80% of millennials prefer reading printed books over digital versions so the age of print is not a dying trend for this audience. Mark Zuckerberg has even started a book club recently. 

How do you engage with them? 

Knowing broadly what their likes and interests are is not necessarily conducive to engaging conversation. One way that companies can reach out is through user-generated content. Think back to your last holiday, did you review the trip on your return on a generic review site? If so, think about how you can enhance experiences by getting millennials to provide public-facing feedback on your products and services. This may be via your own forums or on third-parties. 

This approach can produce highly credible feedback, but be careful you need to be quite thick-skinned to adopt this and be ready to refute any negative commentary as it could seriously damage your brand. Being transparent and open to feedback will be key to companies’ evolution to meet these needs. If you don’t adapt before it’s too late people will probably start bad mouthing you on social networks without any process for rebuttal in place - which is dodgy ground to be on.  

Being a socially responsible brand is important to millennials. When targeting content to this audience, try to demonstarte an awareness and affinity with social and environmental issues where possible, as they are more likely to engage with it. The ‘what’s in it for me’ factor should be a consideration when producing any new content, especially so when reaching out to a traditionally sceptical market.  

Something I touched on earlier was Instagram sponsored adverts, which were rolled out in the UK in September 2014.

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By natively appearing in a user’s feed alongside pictures of the Grumpy Cat and their best friends Selfies, these adverts give brands a new voice. A picture really can tell a 1,000 words about what a brand’s values are. The advert is also two-way as users can comment, like and share (across channels not just in-app). This rational feeds in to the open and transparent tactic mentioned above. 

Subcategories 

Like all generations, they are not just one neat demographic. Included within the broad groupings are mums, carers, fitness fanatics, bloggers/vloggers, students and office workers. It is a dangerous assumption to just target millennials in one way as a homogeneous cohort. Your target market may use a more niche way of communicating, such as Mumsnet, or Tumblr. Thorough analysis to link together products to subcategories should be carried out before any channel strategy is defined. 

Conclusion 

Whilst attempting to avoid any clichés, this generation is incredibly switched-on. Anyone who is considering targeting this youth subset should do so with the awareness that they won’t fall for in-your-face selling techniques. Perhaps neither should any generation anymore. Expectations are changing and going native is here to stay. 

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