How To Market To Millennials
What do millennials want? That's the main question here.
Good marketing is about finding out the thing people want and convincing them they need it, so naturally, the job of a marketer is to find out what makes people tick.
The simple definition of a millennial is anyone born in the '80s or '90s. We're the generation that experienced the most marketing pressure to date, the generation that was told they could be anything they wanted to be.
Millennials learned to be wary of traditional marketing techniques, to believe they had a special purpose, and to expect immediate satisfaction from the products and services they used. These sentiments have reigned true as this generation has grown into a significant consumer demographic.
Given the fact that when and where you are born are significant indicators as to how you will be persuaded to buy, there's no question there's a code to crack with my generation. Luckily the code has been cracked by many companies who have turned their marketing efforts toward the values the millennial generation share.
Netflix, Dollar Shave Club, TOMS, Uber; these are all excellent examples of businesses that have focused on reaching millennials in a highly effective way.
How do they do it? What's the practical takeaway?
Who are millennials? This question is different from what do millennials want. There are so many cliches surrounding this generation, like how millennials all got trophies for participation. How they have no follow-through and experience high levels of anxiety while performing routine tasks. The reality is, the statistics tell a much less depressing story.
Millennials are the best-educated demographic in the United States, with a whopping 33% of them receiving a four-year college degree. They also make up a significant amount of the consumer market, as almost 90% of them have taken management roles in their respective companies over the past 5 years. They're generally not interested in working 9 to 5, but that doesn't mean they're not interested in working. They want to change the system, are early-adopters of technology, and are far more likely to start their own business than any other previous generation. Just like every group, they tend to be represented by the loud minority, which has steered the conversation about them into a negative light. I am a millennial, and I still believe we are guilty until proven innocent. Fortunately, the stats hold up; we don't suck as much as everyone might want to believe we do.
One major aspect of what draws millennials into a company's brand is how charitable the company is. It's not good enough to have a good product, we want to know if you're giving back. This is why we've seen marketing change over the last 20 years. Large brands are spending significantly more money on advertising their charitable side, and it's working. 50% of millennials will choose a company that gives to a cause over one that doesn't. This is because of the overwhelming distrust we have with major corporations.
There's this narrative that big companies hoard their wealth with no regard for the little man. While this might be fairly reductionist, the principle is carried out in the media millennials consume. Every few months, a slew of documentaries come out about how we were tricked by big pharma, lied to by the meat lobby, sold a purely profit-driven bill of goods. These are the stories companies are now having to overcome, and doing that starts with showing your philanthropic side. This is why 75% of companies have switched to this model.
Where are millennials? There are few marketing principles more significant than going where your audience is. If your potential customers can't interact with you and your work, they can't be conditioned to love it. Millennials are where I am right now, behind a screen, most likely scrolling through Instagram, checking their twitter feed, writing some blog posts. I don't mean to be too self-deprecating here, but the truth is, we millennials do seem to think a lot of ourselves considering how generally lazy we are. So how do we sell to people who deep down believe the world revolves around them? We make our products and services easy to find, easy to buy, and exciting to interact with.
Netflix ate Blockbuster, why? Because Netflix took immediate satisfaction and made it their brand promise. Netflix capitalized on how lazy we are and won. Now you don't have to drive down the street to pick out a movie or show, now you just turn it on.
Dollar Shave Club took trips to the store out of the question while also capitalizing on the stick-it-to-the-man message their commercials are known for. It's cool to buy from Dollar Shave Club because you're not buying from the evil corporate machine that controls the razor market; that's what they would have you believe, and we do. The reality is, they understand the value of a subscription model, they cut out the middle man and direct ship from their warehouses. It's a financial model that works, but more importantly, the message is explicitly geared toward their largest demographic.
What marketing tactics work on millennials? First, we'll start with what doesn't work. My generation has become blind to traditional advertising. Studies show that 94% of millennials are likely to discredit any type of banner advertising, Facebook ads, etc. This is not the best news in the world for companies that think they can just throw money at advertising and see customer conversion. On the flip side, this is excellent news for products and services that speak for themselves.
Nowadays, almost 98% of millennials will most likely choose a company based on the referral of a friend. This means you have to focus on social proof if you want to capture this demographic. Brand loyalty revolves around developing testimonials and driving people to your product by showing them how and why it works. If you want millennials to care, show them how much everyone who uses your product or service cares.
This is where reputation management comes into play, as well. We care about reviews, we care about how active you are on the web, how much time you put into explaining your brand to the digital world. Again, millennials are almost always online, you have to optimize your digital platform if you hope to be seen.
The good news about this demographic is that they are much more inclined to leave a review of your product if you just ask. That's a great thing about a group that cares about social proof, they're willing to become loyal brand ambassadors for you if you show your worth.
Interact with your customers! We want to be apart of your progress, we want to feel connected to your success. With how easy it is to reach out via social media, there's a real opportunity to bring your customers into your marketing efforts. Ask your customers for feedback on how to improve your products and services, then listen. Not all advice is good, but if 70% of your audience is telling you to change something that you can change, do it. When we feel like we have some level of input, we become loyal to your brand.
All of this should be good news because it means you don't have to have a million-dollar marketing budget. All you have to do is be consistent and intentional for you to stand out.
Be unique. We all want to be special, and we want the brands we align ourselves with to support that idea. This is why millennials tend to support brands that are unique and innovate in new and exciting ways.
Do your best to shoot for personalized and customizable models for your products and services. Set yourself apart from your competition by branding yourself less corporately, lean into the fact that you're a smaller company. Millennials are attracted to supporting the little man; adopt branding that communicates the grassroots nature of your enterprise. A significant way to connect with your customers is to speak back to them who they want to be. This is not a new idea, we just have to adjust the messaging for this new generation.
The luxury car market is driven (pun intended) by the need to experience high-level status. This older demographic dresses the same and spends their time the same way for the most part. Millennials, on the whole, are looking for something a little different than status. We want a brand that supports our quest to be sovereign. If there's a way you can make what you do as a company reflect your customer's most aspirational qualities, you're going to see sales.
At the end of the day…
1. Support a cause.
2. Go to where millennials are (online).
3. Interact with your customers and encourage them to do the same.
4. Be unique.
There's no reinventing the wheel here, just turning it in the right direction. If there's any major takeaway from this, it's how are you going to make your customers feel heard. Just like every other generation, millennials just want the people they buy from to understand what they want. How much time are you going to spend trying to understand what your customers want?