What To Know When Marketing To Millennials



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From one generation to the next, we do things differently. We live the “YOLO life” (You Only Live Once) and take selfies rather than ask strangers to take our photos (God forbid). Despite this, I still wonder why brands find it so hard to market to #MillennialMe.

I have never seen so much fixation over any generation, perhaps I don’t see the fuss because I am a Millennial myself. Many brands admit they have a tough time in figuring Millennials out which is what spurred me to write this post. Here is what a Millennial (me) feels a brand should know when marketing to them:

Millennials Express Themselves Through Brands

Millennials express themselves through brands and want brands to have much more than a just a logo. They want brands to have a personality that they like and can relate to.

Millennials use brands to show who they are, particularly the younger Millennial. It is important that Millennials either want to be like your brand or already are like your brand. Half of millennials aged 18-24 years feel that brands say something about who they are, their values and where they fit in. Forty percent are even willing to pay extra for a brand or product that reflects the image they wish to convey about themselves.

Almost sixty percent of millennials say that the brands they buy reflect their style and personality (BCG Perspectives)

Worldwide studies show that the majority of Millennials agree it is important for them to find brands that reflect their personality. Brands should look at their Millennial customers and create a brand personality that mirror that of Millennials themselves.

Millennials Want To Be Your Friend

Friends are hugely important to Millennials, and they have a large circle of friends. Millennials have more friends online and probably offline than any other generation. They also look up to their friends and marketers should develop their brand in such a way that Millennials would like to befriend it.

Millennials most of all want friends who are trustworthy but also genuine, sociable, mature and humble. Brands should bring these qualities across in their brand when marketing to Millennials.

(Graph: McCann Worldgroup – The Truth About Youth)

Coca-Cola attempted to make friends with Millennials by developing the hugely popular ‘Share a Coke’, campaign. It was probably the first time the company made major changes to their packaging. They probably realised the need to connect with Millennials.

The campaign had a lot to do with brand attributes and the personality traits of Coca-Cola. Aoife Nagle from Coca-Cola Ireland explains that Coca-Cola was losing share and brand relevance. The ‘Share a Coke’, campaign was aimed engaging consumers in a way that reinforced core brand attributes.

They Want To Experience Your Brand

“Spend money on experiences, not things” – is true for Millennials more so than any other generation. Millennials love experiences, after all they are the ones attending the parties, concerts, festivals, shows and sports games. Nearly 8 in 10 Millennials say some of their best memories are from an event or live experience they attended or participated in.

Based on recent studies, 78% of Millennials are more inclined to become part of a brand if they have face-to-face interaction with it. This signals that brands should engage more in experiential marketing when targeting Millennials.

It is no wonder that many of the top fifty brands for Millennials are engaging in experiential marketing. Coca-Cola, which comes in at number eight, has done plenty of experiential marketing where Millennials hang out. ‘Coke Hug Me’, took place in numerous college campuses around the US and Canada.

Similarly, Dove also engaged in experiential marketing for their ‘Choose Beautiful Campaign’.

Brands that understand Millennials are eager to sponsor events to bring their brand down to a Millennial level. Alcohol brands like Budweiser love sponsoring sporting events that many Millennials attend and mobile phone networks like Vodafone sponsor music events and festivals.

Check out how Vodafone Ireland attempts to interact with live events – I think you will agree it screams Millennial marketing. It is clear that Vodafone understand Millennials.

Millennials are also more likely than any other generation to share their experiences with others on social media. This is great for marketing because it increases the reach of your brand much further than just the people attending the event.

(Graph: Eventbrite – Millennials Fueling The Experience Economy)

Millennials Love Word Of Mouth (even from strangers!)

Most customers trust word of mouth but Millennials in particular love online word of mouth more than other generations. Eighty-four percent of Millennials say that user-generated content on company websites has at least some influence on what they buy, compared to seventy percent of Boomers. In fact, there are many purchase decisions – big and small – that Millennials won’t make without user generated content.

When it comes to recommendations from friends and family, Millennials value their opinions much less than boomers. While Millennials still value friends and family considerably, they trust strangers just as much – in fact slightly more. Fifty-one percent of Millennials trust strangers compared to only thirty-four percent of boomers.

(Graph: Bazaar Voice – Talking To Strangers, Millennials Trust People Over Brands)

No wonder there has been an increase in the number of YouTube videos and websites reviewing everything from makeup to cars. Many Millennials listen to people online and through social media. That is no surprise because many millennials grew up with it social media.

When looking for opinions on products, millennials are more than three times as likely than Boomers to turn to social channels. Also, Millennials believe that companies should offer more ways for them to share their opinions online in the future.

Millennials Don’t Like Traditional Marketing

I feel the biggest challenge in Millennial marketing today is that Millennials don’t like traditional marketing. The marketing industry is changing to keep up with Millennials. For example, Millennials did not like Facebook advertisements, so they introduced sponsored posts. Marketers realized Millennials were doing research online before they buy, so inbound became popular, and HubSpot was born.

I don’t want to see a traditional advertisement for a Travel Agent that reads: “Cheap Holidays For Spring Break”. Instead, I want to see a sponsored post for “The Top 10 Destinations For Spring Break”. Millennials love native advertising (which is far from traditional). According to AdWeek, fifty-seven percent of Millennials are willing to check out sponsored online content, as long as it’s interesting.

(Graph: Adyoulike)

Brands need to market to Millennials in non-traditional ways that involve thinking outside the box. Whether you are creating an advertisement or hosting an event aimed at Millennials you need to think different rather than marketing like you would to boomers and other generations. You need to empower Millennials offline, online and on social to put them at the heart of your marketing and win them over.

They Want You To Care

Millennials are loyal to brands who listen to them and care about them. When you look at the top fifty Millennial brands, you will recall most of them doing just this. They care about their customers and listen to what they say. For example, I will always defend my Apple iPhone (number 2 on the list) against my friends claims that Samsung phones (number 3 on the list) are better, and they will do the same. These brands have done a good job at making us Millennials loyal.

As the inquisitive and opinionated people millennials are, we question why brands collect our thoughts. The majority of Millennials (71%) say companies care about customer opinions simply because they impact how other consumers will view the brand, rather than genuinely caring about what they think. We want you to care.

Also, both Millennials and baby boomers believe consumers care more than brands. This might suggest why we don’t hold back on sharing our thoughts about brands and products on social media.

Brands should care more about their Millennial customers and take into consideration what they say. Engage in social listening, respond to Millennials positively and do what they tell you. That is the recipe for success.

Millennials Need To Be Marketed To

Millennials must be considered as a target market for the majority of brands today. There are now as many Millennials as there are Baby Boomers and Generation X. While they are all given the one label ‘Millennials’, they vary in age quite a lot. That said they have a lot in common. Millennials are the social generation and founders of social media. They should be marketed where they know best through social channels.

(Graph: Nielsen – Millennials: Breaking The Myths)

By 2017, Millennials – currently in their mid-teens to mid-30s, will have more spending power than any other generation. Millennials also have considerable influence on other generations so by marketing to them you can indirectly target other generations too. Jeff Fromm of Forbes explains:

Millennials are a hyper connected cohort that has influenced the consumer market in general.  Now, consumers who are not millennials by definition have adapted to a Millennial Mindset.

Spend less time trying to figure out Millennials and more time listening, caring, befriending and of course marketing!

Do you have any thoughts on Millennial Marketing or Millennials in general?  I would love to hear what you think – let me know in the comments below.

Padraig O’Connor is a business student and Irish marketer specialising in digital marketing. Klout listed him as being in the top 1% talking about marketing and social media online. To read more of this Millennials thoughts visit his blog

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