When you hear the word “millennial,” what comes to mind? Often, the stereotype is a twenty something, somewhat self-obsessed person from a middle class background. But millennials are much more than that.
For one thing, there are about 80 million of them in US, according to research from Accenture. For another, not all of them are in their twenties. Since marketers typically classify anyone born between 1980 and 2000 as a millennial, plenty of them are in their thirties while a good number are still teenagers.
Whether they are 34, 26, or 16, millennials have an immense buying power. Some reports estimate than they collectively spend more than $1 trillion a year. Accenture offers a more conservative figure, estimating that millennials spend around $600 billion annually in the US.
When targeting millennials, there are a few key things marketers need to do.
Admittedly, people of all ages like the personal touch when it comes to being marketed to. But getting personal tends to matter the most to millennials. According to a 2015 survey, conducted by Elite Daily, just one percent of them admits to be influenced by traditional advertising. They skip commercials, use ad-blocking software or generally ignore ads.
Instead of being advertised to, millennials are looking to be engaged with. They prefer it if brands act like their friends, providing real, useful advice and guidance, rather than simply presenting a product to them.
Influencers, whether they are celebrities or bloggers, can be an effective tool for marketers who want to reach millennials. According to the Elite Daily survey, a third of millennials are likely to check out a blog about a product before they buy. More than 40 percent are looking for something that is authentic and something that they can trust.
Embrace Their Diversity
The common stereotype of millennials — the 26-year-old, college-educated, middle class white person — focuses on just one small subset of the generation. Although many millennials have gone to college and some have earned masters degrees or doctorates, a fair number aren’t college educated. Some are still in high school. They also come from a variety of backgrounds and many speak multiple languages or do not speak English as their first language.
Some millennials have fully embraced adulthood. They own their homes, their cars and have kids of their own. Other might still live with mom and dad or in roommate situations and have a less stable grip on their finances. Some have decided to live a completely unconventional life, plan on never getting married and don’t anticipate owning property any time soon.
That means that one single message or marketing approach won’t work for this demographic. If you focus on them as a group of post-adolescents who rely on their parents, you’re ignoring the millennials who have begun living adult lives and who might resent being grouped with those who haven’t started adulthood yet. If you focus on them as people who are getting married and starting families, you turn off those who don’t want to live that lifestyle or who aren’t at that stage yet.
It’s more helpful to focus on who your millennial customer is, not where he or she is meant to be in life. For example, you might decide to target millennials who are into a certain style of music or who believe in supporting a particular social cause. You can create different campaigns to target different social sets of millennials, instead of taking a one-size-fits-all approach based on perceived cultural norms.
Use Social and Digital Methods Wisely
Many millennials are digital natives, meaning they can’t remember a time before the Internet. Some might be young enough that they can’t remember a world without social media. It’s great to jump on the social media bandwagon and create accounts for your company with the hip, millennial-focused networks, such as Instagram and Snapchat.
But, millennials are going to see through that. You can’t just create social accounts and expect them to come to you. You need to give them a reason to follow your brand. If your business is one that isn’t even on millennials’ radar or if yours is a company that they associate with the “olds,” they aren’t going to follow your accounts.
Use social media to connect with and engage with potential customers. You can use Snapchat, for example, to show people how to use your products or show people using your products in creative, unexpected ways. The thing to remember when using social media is to be subtle. Don’t push your product or service on millennials. Instead, try to be a helpful guide to them and they’ll be more likely to become loyal customers to you.
The secret to marketing to millennials is figuring out what they want. And really, that same trick holds true when marketing to people of any generation or age group. Baby Boomers and Generation X might not be crying out for authentic, personal stories. But once you start incorporating that into your marketing, don’t be surprised if you find that it helps you reach customers of all ages.