Most of us have heard a lot about millennials, especially if you work in marketing or advertising. They are the so-called “selfie”, digital, and narcissist generation, and these are just some of the many other characteristics that have been attributed to them. In a nutshell, millennials are the consumers between the ages of 16-35 years old, or born between 1980 and 2000. A generation that lived during the turn of a century and a millennium, a generation that experienced growing up with technology but still had the notion of what the world looked like before technology took over, and a generation that grew up in the midst of numerous economic and social uncertainties.
There are hundreds of articles out there that talk about how difficult it is to market to millennials, how different they are from previous generations, how hard it is to understand them, and even work along with them. In terms of marketing and advertising, it seems that today almost every brand primary target market are millennials. This is no surprise since they constitute 27% of the U.S. population and hold 21% of direct consumer purchasing power, which represents $1.3 trillion annually and these numbers will only rise in the next few years.
So why are brands and marketers having so much trouble marketing and communicating with these consumers? This post aims to tackle some of the obstacles that marketers are currently facing and offer some insights from the perspective of a millennial marketer.
BRANDS CAN’T PUT MILLENNIALS IN A NUTSHELL
The most common mistake marketers make is assuming all millennials are the same, and that they can be addressed as just a few homogenous groups. In most articles and research papers about millennials, marketers try to segment these consumers in a very similar way to past generations, which is a big mistake. For this generation, demographics are more irrelevant than ever and psychographics are everything.
Brands are trying to identify some common traits among millennials and target a few groups based on the traits they share. So why is this not working? My opinion is that they are going for a very big slice of the cake. What I mean by this is when brands try to target millennials, they don’t realize that this generation is the most diverse ever. Even though there might be some shared traits and values, millennials are characterized for their individuality and uniqueness, as they are constantly looking to be different from everyone else and this is what makes it harder for brands to successfully market to large groups.
The conventional way of targeting is understandable. It is cheaper, and takes less time and resources to market to larger groups. However, if brands are looking for better results and higher engagement, executing several strategies tailored to different types and personalities of millennials could yield better results. As mentioned in the previous post, millennials don’t want brands that simply sell to them, they want brand partners they can relate to. Marketing needs to become more personalized, tailored to a more specific type of consumer.
UNDERSTAND MILLENNIALS BEFORE MARKETING TO THEM
Most current marketers in the US are Baby Boomers or Generation X’ers. If you ask around, these marketers have the perception that millennials are a group of entitled, narcissist, and selfish kids. Great marketing is that one which can relate and understand its consumers and therefore communicate effectively with them.
Current marketers need to understand that there are reasons why millennials behave and act the way they do; and by doing so, they will be able to market more effectively to them. Most marketers don’t understand that millennials grew up during an economic recession, walked out of college with higher unemployment rates, and for the ones that got jobs, walked into the marketplace with lower wages, compared to the Baby Boomers and Generation X’ers.
These are just a few factors that have driven millennials to behave the way they do, along with the evolution of technology of course. So to market effectively to millennials, you’ve got to understand them to make your job easier. So it’s best to stop criticizing and try to empathize with them.
BRAND LOYALTY IS DRIVEN BY VALUE NOT PRICE
If understanding millennials wasn’t enough of a challenge already, research has shown that they are the least brand loyal generation we have ever seen. They are also some of the most price conscious consumers, although this may not be based solely on financial reasons.
Millennials are the most informed generation we’ve ever had. They are constantly connected to the world around them, thanks to technology. And this gives them two things: knowledge and power. They are marketing-savvy, and they know the options that are available to them. That’s why brands are having so much trouble creating brand loyalists from this generation, because millennials see brands and instantly question them. They know about their marketing tactics and will move to the next product or brand without hesitation if they feel that they are not getting the bang for their buck.
Price differentiation does not influence the loyalty of millennials. In fact they are willing to pay a premium price if they perceive the product is worth it. However, they are less loyal and more reluctant to stay with one brand because they are aware of all the alternatives and they want to receive the best value for their money.
LEVERAGE TECHNOLOGY AS YOUR PRIMARY COMMUNICATION CHANNEL
This will come as no surprise to most people, but it’s surprising to see how many marketers and brands are still trying to reach and communicate with millennials through traditional media tactics.
Millennials want unique experiences and they want brands that engage with them, not market to them. Brands that successfully utilize social media and other digital platforms are having the most success getting through to millennials. Just take a look at Taco Bell and the way they use their Instagram account to depict millennials’ lifestyle and values while subtly promoting their products and brand. They even introduced a Taco Bell mobile app around 3 months ago, which lets you order online, get updates, and receive special promotions. They clearly know how to reach millennials.
Ruffles recently shifted its entire marketing budget to digital because they know that’s where the millennial consumer is – online – on their smartphone, tablet, or computer. The key is not only to advertise and promote products online, but also to find ways in which consumers can interact with brands and create meaningful experiences through digital platforms. Instead of simply pitching brands and products, pitch what the brand stands for and what they represent. Coca-Cola gave us a perfect example with their campaign last year called, “Share a Coke”.
It isn’t that hard to market to millennials – it simply requires something that most marketers are not used to doing, and that is engaging before selling. Remember that millennials want experiences and relationships, so use your brand core values and propositions to explain why they should reward you with their business.