8 Modern Tips for Marketing to Millennials

You’ve seen the articles lamenting the death of certain industries and changing consumer attitudes, all paying tribute (negatively or positively) to a certain generation born in the 80s and 90s. It seems that journalists love to write about Millennials and marketers love to analyze them. Why, though? 

Boomers hold 57% of the wealth in the U.S. and are at peak buying power. With that in mind, is there a reason we never seem to stop hearing about Millennials?

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Why Millennials Are Important to Marketers

As Millennials enter their 30s and 40s, often with student loans or young children, they haven’t yet reached their full buying power compared to GenXers or Boomers. Nonetheless, there are multiple reasons to pay attention to this generation: 

1. Millennials are the most lucrative market.

Even though as a group, they haven’t reached their full buying power yet, their buying power eclipses that of other generations. They make up 25% of the population, and with an estimated annual buying power of over a trillion dollars, they are the most lucrative market. Plain and simple: Nearly every marketer today is making Generation Y a priority – or at least working to understand what drives and delights this instrumental group.

2. Millennials switch brands. 

Millennial market research performed by Daymon Worldwide suggests that only 29% of Millennials will buy the same brand, which is a much lower brand loyalty score compared to previous generations. 

This indicates that brands must do more to attract and keep Millennial customers, leading to the need for constant innovation on marketers’ and service teams’ parts.

3. Millennials are tech-savvy. 

According to Pew Research, “Almost all Millennials (nearly 100%) now say they use the internet.” Having grown up with or only slightly before the internet, Millennials are not shy about using technology. This is attractive to brands who sell technology or use technology to sell. 

4. Millennials use devices. 

Pew Research also found that 9 out of 10 Millennials have a smart phone. With widespread device ownership and use comes a higher likelihood of consuming web content, which gives rise to different modes of marketing.

One key element that justifies Millennial domination of the marketplace is the fact this new marketing style – which we’ll delve into in just a minute – isn’t just a fad. Here, we’ll discuss important tactics for marketing to the demographic of the hour and explain why these tactics are lasting ones.

1. Create authentic content.

Millennials are spending an average of 242 minutes online or using apps per day, and they’re craving content-driven media. They’re scouring websites, blogs, and social media because they feel empowered by all of the remarkable content they’re discovering. They’re also sharing, liking, pinning, tweeting, snapping, forwarding, and commenting on all of their findings to impart this sense of empowerment to the online community. So, what makes this type of content really resonate with this group? Millennials trust what they feel is authentic.

Interacting in a user-centric environment is what engages them, as 90% of Millennials say authenticity is important to them when deciding which brands they support. Today, young shoppers’ attitudes and behavior are largely inspired by people they know in person or online, or even strangers who share their interests on social networks. Millennials carry these “advisors” with them on their smartphones and everywhere they go. They trust relevant, authentic opinions from real product users they can relate to. In fact, Millennials believe that user-generated content is 35% more memorable than other media.

For brands that want to successfully reach Gen Y-ers, they simply need to speak their language. People ages 18 to 34 will perk up when hearing or reading words that could have come from the mouths of their peers, as these messages warrant comfort and trust. When you offer your audience content they would proudly share with others, you’re building a real brand-consumer relationship.

2. Ditch outbound marketing methods.

Millennials want to feel connected and involved when it comes to their purchases, and traditional marketing does not encourage this. Outbound marketing methods, like magazine ads, direct mail campaigns, and radio spots, do not impress Millennials. In the mind of a young consumer, these campaigns are impersonal and company-focused, filled with logos and void of any real substance. This generation demands more customer-driven, personalized marketing. Only 1% of Millennials say a compelling advertisement can build trust (Crowdtap).

That’s why these young consumers do a lot of their research via blogs, forums, and YouTube videos. Odds are that an intrusive ad isn’t going to be a deciding factor. While such ads may be relevant to the person’s search history and may put the idea in the their head, seeing it wasn’t their choice. Millennials feel empowered to make their own online choices – which are usually inspired by their peers or other authentic content.

3. Be informative with inbound marketing, instead.

Millennials support businesses that are dedicated to improving their customers’ lives with informative content. Rather than product and service listings, Millennials want e-books, whitepapers, blog posts, videos, and other how-to information – and that’s inbound marketing. They appreciate thought leadership and expertise, so this is your company’s chance to provide killer content that ranks highly in Google and show young consumers that you’re the industry buff.

Mac Cosmetics’ YouTube page is a great example of how brands can offer their audience how-to’s from the experts. People want helpful guidance, and when your company takes the time to provide that, they appreciate it and respect what you stand for. Mac is giving young viewers exactly what they want, where they’ll find it. 54% of Millennials check YouTube daily, so utilizing YouTube is perfect. A Millennial makeup lover is much more likely to tell her friends to check out Mac’s makeup tutorials than show her friends a print ad of Mac talking about how great they are. 

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4. Put them first and connect organically.

Millennials want to feel like your content was created with their interest (not their wallet) in mind. When this is the case, they are more organically introduced to purchasing your products or services. Without ever being “pushy,” your educational content helps build strong brand-consumer relationships. People appreciate honesty, and brands with transparent campaigns win.

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And, what’s more transparent than encapsulating the spontaneous adventures of travelers in hostels – with skinny dipping? Hostelworld’s Meet the World advertising campaign, which features genuine travelers that are strangers upon meeting and share a once in a lifetime adventure of skinny dipping, celebrates real travelers in real places who crave adventures, not souvenirs. This successfully speaks to Millennials because it screams “Live!” instead of “Buy!” – and that’s something that’ll stick with them. Most young people would rather have an unforgettable experience than seek out luxury, and Hostelworld gets that. 

5. Market with intention rather than latching on to gimmicky marketing fads.

If you think content marketing is a passing trend, think again! Here are some key examples of how content marketing has succeeded over the years:

  • 1895: John Deere introduces The Furrow, a free publication with tons of farming tips and techniques to help farmers become more profitable. Today, it’s available in more than 40 countries and in 12 different languages.
  • 1900: Michelin Tires released a 400-page auto maintenance guide with everyday drivers in mind, and also included travel tips. 35,000 copies were distributed free of charge before the company started selling the manual for a profit.
  • 1904: Jell-O circulated free copies of its own cookbook, highlighting creative ways to use the unique product. In 2 years, the company saw sales increase to over $1 million annually.
  • 1966: Nike released a 19-page booklet titled Jogging. It was filled with advice on enjoying running as a recreational activity, including posture and striking tips. This brought running, as a sport, to America, and it never once mentioned a Nike shoe.

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We know that Millennial consumers value awesome, authentic content – so it looks like content marketing isn’t going away anytime soon. The inbound methodology, with its emphasis on strong and consistent content creation, is not a fad and will continue to win over your ideal customers. 

6. Be open to collaboration. 

Today, Millennials are interested in having a say and becoming product co-creators. In fact, 42 percent said they are interested in helping companies develop future products and services. In our society, companies usually create products and hope that their target market will consume them. When it comes to Millennials, they want to be more involved with how products get created. So, companies that enable them to be part of the product development process will be more successful. Marketers need to focus on building relationships with consumers by fueling their self-expression and helping them establish their own personal brand.

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Coca-Cola used online co-creation to gather expressions of its brand promise “Energizing refreshment.” They prompted their audience to unleash their creativity by interpreting Coca-Cola as an energizing refreshment in whatever style or format they wished. Coca-Cola gathered these videos, animations, illustrations, and photographs to use in its marketing campaigns worldwide. This method was mutually beneficially in that Millennials all over the world got to pour a bit of themselves into a product made for them, while helping Coca-Cola bring fresh authenticity to the market. 

7. Push the convenient and practical side.

Millennials prefer use over ownership, saying they would rather pay full price to access an item when they need it as opposed to owning it. These shoppers would rather rent, share, and barter than buy.

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In this new “sharing economy,” mobile services and apps such as Spotify and Airbnb, and fashion sites like Rent the Runway and Relapse Clothing, have taken advantage of this crucial opportunity. This is also a new trend in the automotive industry. According to an analysis recently released by car-buying platform Edmunds, Millennials are acquiring cars – they’re just not buying them. Instead, they’re opting to lease more luxurious, tech-forward cars than they could otherwise afford to buy, such as Ram, GMC, and Lexus models. Capitalizing on this “sharing” mentality is a smart move for modern businesses, especially those targeting Millennials. Offer more creative and feasible options so that, in case consumers can’t yet buy, they can at least try. 

8. Lean into the fun and the experiential.

Young consumers increasingly see the act of researching and browsing for a purchase more compelling than the purchase itself. Millennials tend to crave the experience of shopping more than the purchase. In other words, online exploration is becoming more than a means to an end, with many young shoppers viewing e-commerce as a form of entertainment. This phenomenon has been coined as “Fauxsumerism.” Pinterest is a perfect example of how the shopping journey can also become an act of personal expression. This social platform, which helps users catalog prospective purchases by curating collections of items of interest, accurately reflects the facts that 40 percent of Millennials make wish lists of products they want to buy (The Intelligence Group).

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Successful companies understand that young consumers want to have an enjoyable online browsing experience, which is why brands like Etsy show off their products on Pinterest, making perusing and pinning fun and social. No matter what platform you use, you should market to Millennials in entertaining ways in order to effectively engage them and inspire activity.

Marketing to Millennials is a long-term play because this group is wired for authentic, content-driven, honest experiences that cater to who they are and their voices they yearn to share. Empower them with the pieces they’re looking for in this puzzling world and remind them that, because of their generation, the bigger picture is looking brighter. Keep this sentiment in mind as you consider millennials as one of your buyer personas.

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Editor’s note: This post was originally published in August 2015 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.

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