Elusive, scapegoated, confused, self-obsessed, virtuous and just about the hardest demographic to define. With so many ways to get it wrong, who on Earth would want to start marketing to millennials?
The answer, in short, is just about everyone. Accounting for 1/4 of the UK population, those born between the years 1981 and, roughly, 2000, are a key audience brands can’t afford to ignore. This is the largest generation in the history of generations, and claims an increasing share of overall consumer spending power. The problem is few people understand who these people are, what grabs their attention, and how they consume products and services.
When marketing to millennials you need to know who the millennials are
The first thing to understand is that millennials often don’t even know they are millennials themselves, which makes attempting to predict behaviour and gauge psychology less than straightforward.
In terms of age-range, millennials can be loosely categorised as those currently between the age of around 16 and 36 years old. Which means lumping first time house-buyers in with college kids, parents with high school leavers. This obviously means there is a huge difference within the generation when it comes to aspirations, interests and perspectives, making marketing to millennials a puzzling challenge.
There is a common theme, though. The confusion surrounding who should be in this group, and why, reflects an openness and flexibility that runs through almost everything they do. Millennials are likely to have a permissive attitude to issues such as gender, sexuality, race, even what constitutes a career. Which makes sense when flux has been the only constant.
At their oldest, millennials remember pre-digital, when computers were a novelty. At their youngest, social media has been an omnipresent force. Between the two the Internet took over, Communism collapsed, climate change became top of the global agenda, and life goals such like home ownership have moved out of reach. All of these factors combine to create a unique psyche that’s optimistic, open-minded and hungry, yet also cautious, driven by ethics and environmentalism, and worried about the future.
Why market to millennials
No prizes for guessing the answer here. Marketing to millennials is essential given how large this segment of the population is, with a share in the overall consumer wallet that continues to grow. In the US they spent $200billion in 2017 alone, and by the end of 2018 are expected to have the biggest spending power of any generation.
In addition to money there’s also the matter of loyalty. Many big businesses have found themselves floundering in the wake of what is fast becoming a seismic generational wave. Priorities have and continue to change in terms of morals, expectations, goals and dreams; understanding where the current is heading can help win new fans and followers as they mature, helping to establish strong loyalties going forward.
How to start marketing to millennials
There are no hard and fast recipes to success— in a style befitting the generation good marketing to millennials means making the most of every possible resource in the most innovative ways. This demographic’s consistent traits are ideals rather than physical things, which means pin-point targeting is essential in order to reach potential customers.
More so, it’s expected. Millennials have witnessed the rise of spam, pop-ups and paywalls, all intrusions on their consumer experience, so no wonder they place such value on personalisation and relevance, in the digital and real world. When time is of the essence you can’t waste precious seconds fending off pitches for products of no interest.
Although many millennials appear to live much of their life through a screen it’s vital to remember physical locations remains crucial. Not only do late-teens and young adults now have a huge penchant for experiences, their social outlook is such that where they have those experiences also matters. Especially when posting online.
Ethics are crucial when it comes to marketing to millennials. There’s a growing bias in favour of companies that practice genuine corporate social responsibility. Flexible working conditions and unique business environments designed with wellbeing in mind are now par for the course. Hence the stereotypes— privileged, precious, work shy.
Conversely, though, this is the generation that will have to fight the hardest for anything in living memory. Property ladders have been taken up, automation is threatening traditional jobs and the wider economic outlook is uncertain because ongoing technological advancements constantly move the goalposts.
Millennials and the media
Don’t believe everything you read— millennials don’t hate all media, albeit there are major trust issues. Instead, they just use it differently, so to understand how to market to millennials you need comprehensive knowledge of the modern media landscape.
In fact, millennials are leaders when it comes to media consumption, literally; where this demographic goes to read, watch and hear others usually wind up following eventually. From independent news websites to social networks, they aren’t so much ahead of the curve as they are personifications of that curve.
It’s the generation that opts for social networks like Twitter over TV, but prefers to combine the two. The age group that is largely skeptical towards news sources, and has self-appointed responsibilities as citizen reporters. Theirs is a world of 4G connectivity, round-the-clock current affairs channels, instant messaging and content that’s so immediate it disappears completely after 24-hours.
With so much information and all these lines of communication it’s no surprise some say this demographic fickle. They have more choice than ever before, so if something doesn’t suit they vote with their feet. Which isn’t to say they are immune to being influenced by the media themselves— the negative effects of social media on mental health are now widely understood, from Snapchat dysmorphia to Facebook-fuelled isolation.
How Smoking Gun can make marketing to millennials work for your brand
As we have discussed, marketing to millennials is becoming more important the older and more mature the millennial demographic becomes, so the time to act is now.
These are the first young parents and university graduates of the technological era; the pioneer consumers of this brave new world. With that in mind understanding what makes them tick is essential to marketing success, while failure could result in being locked out of a particularly lucrative segment of the population for years to come.
At Smoking Gun we pride ourselves on fine-tuned campaign work, exploiting all the benefits of big data, utilising expert evaluation and employing meticulous measurement metrics to build an in-depth profile of the consumers our clients want to reach. A process that will always prove fruitful, but particularly when it comes to a generation that often appears disparate and difficult to reach.