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How to Market to Millennials (Without Pissing Them Off)

Ah, millennials. Their loyalty is impulsive, their tastes flighty, and the second they feel like you’re marketing to them, they’ll ignore you completely. Look, I know that I am not the first to write about how to market to millennials. In fact, I just did a Google search for “marketing to millennials” and got over 11 million results in less than a half-second.

millienials-search

But there’s a lot of fuss about it for good reason. Millennials are on track to be the largest generation ever, make up the largest segment of the American workforce AND represent over $200 billion in annual spending. Yet companies are still missing the mark when it comes to connecting with them. Instead of completing comprehensive research, many marketers assume they understand this generation based on what they think they know and what has worked in the past. But, it’s just not that simple. Trying to understand the needs of this group is essential because this generation is not facing the same problems that Baby Boomers, Gen X, and even Xennials have had to face.

From extreme college debt to social anxiety, Millennials are dealing with very different issues, and therefore exhibit completely different purchase behaviors than previous generations. So go ahead and toss your traditional marketing philosophy out the window. Here’s what you should consider instead.

Focus on individual, 360-degree engagement

Individual, personalized attention is not only valued, but it’s expected. There’s this new demand for one-on-one engagement. In other words, make them feel super special. Engagements at this level will help you build brand evangelists. It’s important, however,  to make sure that your tactics balance audience appeal while staying true to your brand positioning. If you deliver irrelevant content, you risk being dismissed from their purchase consideration –– forever.

Peer influence is a huge deal

Even though millennials demand to be treated and engaged as individuals, they place a huge value on peer-review and peer-approval. In fact, it’s more important for millennials than any other generation before. A recent survey from Collective Bias showed that non-celebrity influencers are 10 times more likely to drive in-store purchases. Peer-to-peer reviews fulfill three important characteristics of influencer marketing –– expertise, real conversations, and originality.

Look beyond age and life stage

This generation is unique in that there are no longer specific ages that they enter typical life stages. In addition, traditional adulthood milestones are happening later, not chronologically, and for some, it’s not happening at all. Therefore, marketers should stop focusing on age and life stages, and start focusing on social groups instead. No other generation has put a higher value on lifestyle choices. Regardless of their age or stage in life, millennials are making purchases that support the lifestyle they want and the causes they believe in.

Consider your impact on the bigger picture

Millennials are super focused on the betterment of society. They will even choose to spend more money if it means purchasing from a company that prioritizes social initiatives and is open about how they are helping the world around them. Now, cause marketing movement isn’t new. Small businesses and big corporations alike have long incorporated giving back way before Toms or H&M made it cool. But this philanthropic focus is changing from being something that’s trendy, to becoming mandatory. Keep in mind that your connection to the cause needs to be clear, relevant and genuine. If the consumer doesn’t understand the connection immediately, you risk the cause-sumption effort looking like a marketing tactic instead of a genuine effort related to your brand’s overall mission.

Focus on the opportunity versus the challenge

Ok yes, marketing in a completely new way than you’re used to is a challenge. But, if you continue to look at it as such, you will get nowhere. With how much time and money millennials spend online and via mobile, this generation actually presents much more opportunity for marketing because there are so many more touchpoints available to connect. I suggest opening your creative minds to consider how much of an opportunity this really is.

 

With this shift in your marketing, don’t completely abandon your older customers. Boomers don’t want to be left out, they want to learn and use the new technology, too. Aim for a more inclusive strategy, and you’ll be on your way to making some very happy customers.

Emily Warner

Author: Emily Warner

As Chief Marketing Officer, Emily works closely with our clients to ensure project satisfaction and success. With a passion for creativity and strategy, Emily oversees all aspects of digital marketing from search engine optimization and content strategy, to social media management and on-going digital marketing campaigns. When she's not in #marketingmode, she's likely testing her luck in the kitchen, watching sappy animal videos on Facebook, or starting an impromptu dance-off in the office.

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