Essential Tools for Marketing to Millennials

Let’s be honest, the world of marketing is a terrifying place. The constant gladiatorial struggle to gain fame and fortune at the expense of your foes is driven by who can market the next big idea. And for every Apple or Nike that exemplifies the apex of marketing prowess, history is littered with countless more examples of companies who failed to take heed.

Not scary enough for you? Let’s add some flavor then. By 2017, Millennials will outspend baby boomers. That same group of young, highly connected, overly distracted and vastly impassioned generation that makes up roughly a quarter of the population of the U.S. is about to become the largest spending population in the world.

The familiarity of the old regime is gone. The influence parents had over these same young tots just a few years ago is now a thing of the past. The idea that marketing is marketing no matter who it’s for is now useless.

This trend goes far beyond the U.S. According to the Center for Generational Kinetics Research, “Millennials are the most consistent generation in the world. Whether they work in Chile, Egypt, India or elsewhere, Millennials are the most consistent group of all the generations. This is due to many factors, including inexpensive mobile technology.”

So now what? Huge populations of the world are connected like never before and feed off the actions of their fellow generation. Yet traditional marketing doesn’t work when only 6 percent of millennials in the US consider online advertising [the logical next step that evolved from print advertising] to be credible. You need to be innovative in your approach to marketing to millennials. But where to begin?

First, take a deep breath and resist the urge to scream. Just like in sports, when things get tough, the easiest solution is to go back to the basics. Times might have changed and marketing with it, but applying marketing 101 in a new way will prove both innovative and necessary.

1. Know who your audience is.

Rule numero uno of marketing is as natural to a good marketer as breathing. But it usually gets misapplied when it comes to marketing to millennials. There are three key points to remember:

  • Millennials seek entertainment as well as informationThank the Internet, Netflix, and the power of instant gratification. Millennials grew up in a world dominated by Google and YouTube, so anything they might ever want is just a few quick keystrokes away. This means that they’ve already got the information they desire, so trying to pack a commercial with tons of information is a waste of time. They’ll simply hit fast forward or skip it all together.
  • Millennials care how you think –  That’s not to say that no generation before them didn’t care about the issues of the world, but like no generation before, millennials let the actions of companies in the world affect their buying decisions. Want proof? Look at politics. According to Psychology Today, “They care much more deeply about issues than candidates, which is one reason why same-sex marriage and marijuana legalization are getting so much traction.” The same thing applies to companies. Just take a look at Tom’s shoes, which exploded onto the scene in 2006, promising to give away a pair of shoes to kids in need around the globe for every pair bought. As a kid, I remember half of my grade owning a pair of Tom’s shoes. The support was overwhelming, even if the shoes weren’t the best in the world. Forbes confirms this, saying “Whereas boomers were loyal to brands based on advertising, Millennials are attracted to brands who think and act like they do. If you are hip enough, Millennials are willing to pay more to be associated with you than with others.”
  • Millennials have zero attention span – The average attention span of a millennial is roughly that of a goldfish, so it comes as no surprise that millennials are primarily visual buyers and learners. This generation has been conditioned to make purchases while looking at a screen, skipping blocks of marketing and advertising text.
    So when it comes to millennials, keep it entertaining, be active on the social level, and communicate all of that and your product quickly. No problem, right?

2. Feature positive reviews.

Sarcasm aside, how do you actually do that? Let’s go back to basics. The easiest way to market is to have your customers market for you. There’s no amount of advertisement that can compare to a favorable review from a trusted friend. In fact, “For 95 percent of millennials in the US, friends are the most credible source of product information.” It’s simply one of the only means of communication that our limited attention span actually listens to.

And here’s some good news! Not only are millennials consistent across the globe, but they are connected as never before. “An infographic on AdWeek shows that over 56% of millennials use social media apps, 90% of millennials can be found on Facebook, and 66% follow brands on social media. For marketers, this means that shareability of content is vital. “When marketers stop asking ‘What do I want to achieve from the advertisement?’ and begin asking ‘What can my consumers achieve if they share the advertisement?’ they then start the process of creating truly consumer‐centered advertising, that which benefits the consumer’s social needs.” This is why an entertaining video is a great way to market to millennials – it can convey your product and your social activism quickly and can be shared most easily across multiple social media platforms.

3. Cultivate trust.

A broad advertisement designed to cast a wide net is never as effective as a targeted campaign going after one group of people with a specific need. The same applies to social services; donating money to every charity under the sun will never mean as much to consumers as making a real difference for one. When consumers see results in either case associated with a brand, they will trust that brand wholeheartedly.

At the end of the day, millennials share one characteristic with past generations. They want to be appreciated for what they do and what they think. This means they expect the same thing out of a company. They desire an authentic company that has the same values they do, a company which they trust. “A brand’s authenticity breeds trust, and when you have a customer’s trust, it’s easier to grab his or her attention.”

The real challenge with millennials is how you do this when they have so many ads and forms of entertainment vying for their attention? Take a look at Apple. They cut down their product line form many products to just a handful, created a new product (the iphone), and marketed it as the way of the future. People buy Apple products today just because it has the Apple logo on it, and consumers trust what the brand stands for. Their continued success of marketing new products lead to increased trust inherent in their next project no matter what it is.

This is the end goal of marketing. Building trust with millennials is a necessity just as it was for every previous generation. The means by which you do it is just different. According to mobile workforce management, “Technology surrounds us with an overwhelming amount of stimuli, and our attention spans are so short to begin with. Perhaps today, the goal of marketers is no longer to grab our attentions with a single ad, but rather to build them up through consistency and authenticity.”
See? Marketing to millennials isn’t impossible. You only need to follow the basics: Know your audience; their desire to be recognized and what they value. Utilize their connectivity; give them a story to share with their friends. Finally, build trust; deliver what they want and be the company that recognizes their influence. You may not become the next Apple or Nike, but by remembering these tools, you can tap into the near limitless potential of the millennial generation.

Brooks Kimberly – Content Creator

Created in partnership with Furman University.

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