Marketers are all: “What the hell is up with Millennials?”

marketing to millennials


Marketers and advertisers have been trying to harness the attention (and digital wallets) of Millennials since forever (or 1981 at the earliest). Most people know the basics about this generation: they love smartphones, videos and social media. Still, marketing to millennials is tough.

There are a lot of “X factors” when it comes to this bunch. Research increasingly finds that Millennials and their habits cannot be segmented by age or birth year. This group seems to defy the traditional generation boundaries and subsequently, the ability for marketers to segment or lump their buying behavior and trends into age brackets.

The truth of matter is that Millennials, their spending habits and purchase behavior are largely driven by their diverse and wide-ranging cultural, experiential and environmental backgrounds. YuMe, a global audience technology company, ran a survey on over 5,000 consumers to understand these impacts and established 5 unique audiences that fall under the Millennial umbrella:

  • Mobile Mavens (19%) – younger, often female, constantly on the go; they merge traditional values with a love of emerging technology
  • Tech-Savvy Savants (19%) – slightly older than Mobile Mavens and more male than female, this group loves online content for entertainment and research
  • Cross-Training Cord Cutters (22%) – young, ethnically diverse and successful; this group works hard and plays hard to get the most out of life; are the highest paid of the 5 segments
  • Thrifty Traditionalists (22%) – Largely female; this group prioritizes values over traditional consumer behaviors; less connected via social media
  • Casually Connected (18%) – similar age range to Mobile Mavens, but have the lowest annual income of the 5 segments; they spend time on free online sites for entertainment

So it’s more complex than “Millennials love technology and social media.” It’s more like “They love it, they hate it, they’ll use it if it’s free.”

Beyond which audience type they are, it’s important to look at their economic subsets.About 27% of this generation is considered “upscale”, earning more than $75,000 per year. On top of that, the median liquid wealth value for this subset is $157,500.

Millennials are 80 million strong and are the biggest bucket of consumers in the US.They’re spending power is estimated at $600 billion per year by Accenture, so it’s no surprise that they are the sweethearts of e-commerce brands dying to break into the generation’s sizable pocketbook. That spending power should not – cannot – be ignored. At least not by brands who still want to be around in the next 5…10…20 years.

So how do brands harness that spending power? Millennials are widely aloof to institutions of any kind, anti-establishment when it comes to anything financial and very, very picky when it comes to brand affinity.

Step one is to stop trying to change Millennials and embrace their habits and behaviors. They’re not changing anytime soon, so you have to as a brand….if you don’t want to fade away.

Step two is tuning into what they dig:

But what Millennials really love – more than videos, pictures, smartphones and email – is authenticity. This group is willing to spend on what matters to them, on their values. They value experiences and moments over things and wealth. They also trust the opinions of their peers and do their research before making purchases; Edelman Digital reports that 42% check four or more sources when making a purchase decision.

This is why content marketing is so critical to your core communication strategy for this generation. You can’t sell to Millennials – they aren’t buying. But you can provide content to them in a way that allows them to self-select what’s important and consume it on their terms. If you’re producing, distributing and promoting content that is educational, relevant, entertaining, and/or inspiring, you have an opportunity to really connect to Millennials and foster loyalty to who you are as a brand. Once you have that in, they will start to consider which of your products and services make sense in their lives. You have to become part of their value system and build a relationship supported by balanced give and take.

Integrating seamlessly into Millennials’ daily lives is key. They’re not taking time out of their already-packed schedules to engage with what you think they should think is important. Find a way to melt into what they’re already engaged with and you have a chance at earning their attention.

The bottom line is that Millennials aren’t responding to or engaging with the self-serving, biased, jargon-laden sales pitch that resonated with other generations. So leave it at the door in favor of valuable content that does people a favor. Do a favor to win favor.

And why should you bother? Why not focus on the Baby Boomers or other steady streams of revenue?

This article nails it when it says, “As business owners, getting Millennials’ attention early and often, even if only for 20 seconds, is key. If they aren’t your target customer now, they soon will be.”

…They soon will be.

Let’s all give a nod to the fact that this generation will probably wield the majority of the spending power in the next decade. And a quick round of applause that they’ll be wielding it while using five different screens at once.

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