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Millennial Marketing: 8 Things You Need to Know

Posted by David O'Sullivan

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Move over baby boomers. Individuals born after 1980, also known as millennialss, are now the largest generation by population in the United States. Perhaps even more surprisingly, these young people are beginning to have some major purchase power. Pew Research reports the workforce is currently 34% millennials, 34% members of Generation X, and 29% Baby Boomers. As boomers begin to retire and current immigration trends continue, Pew predicts that millennials will represent more and more of working-aged adults.

Why Generations Matter in Marketing

Members of each generation grow up in different worlds, which can impact attitudes, preferences, and beliefs. Marketing products or services to millennial consumers dictates a slightly different approach than if you were trying to sell to pragmatic members of Gen-X or fun-loving Baby Boomers. The Montana Office of Public Instruction reports that, by and large, millennials are more likely to:

  • Value diversity and change
  • Want meaningful work and experiences
  • Favor speed, customization and individuality

Creating effective buyer persona profiles of millennial consumers requires understanding of how these individuals learn, access information, and make purchase decisions. In this blog, you'll learn some fascinating facts about millennial marketers, based on the latest research and insights.

1. They Trust Social Recommendations

Traditionally, using "expert" advice in product marketing has been effective. Gen Xers and Baby Boomers are more likely to buy supplements, oatmeal, or running shoes if they come with a surgeon's recommendation. However, BCG Perspectives has found that millennials are far less likely to trust expert opinions if they come from people they don't know.

Instead of medical professionals or other credentialed experts, millennials trust recommendations from friends and family. Essentially, the closer someone is to a millennial, the more they'll trust this. This can explain millennials' love for Pinterest, tendencies to "crowdsource" product recommendations on social media, and other digitally-driven social purchase habits. 

2. They're Image-Conscious

Among millennials, brand purchase decisions are closely tied to identity. Per BCG, millennials are willing to pay more for products that "say something about who I am, my values, and where I fit in." This concept rings especially true for younger millennials, males, and higher-earning individuals.

Values-based marketing campaigns could be an effective tactic for connecting with millennials who care deeply about sustainability, slow food, and social justice. Tom's Shoes, Whole Foods, and Seventh Generation are three examples of brands who compete on values, not price.

3. They Want Authentic Brands

When it comes to customer service interactions, millennials want brands that are "authentic," and have rewards programs for loyalty. Authenticity with brand voice could be a natural product of skepticism for values-driven consumers, who want to avoid purchasing from brands that commit misleading marketing, green washing, or other tactics to overemphasize brand values. 

There's been a noticeable shift even among well-established brands to a more authentic voice, even in customer service interactions. Taco Bell's Twitter persona is unceasingly sassy. Walmart, Louis Vuitton, and Starbucks have all introduced advertising that follows their products behind-the-scenes. In the future of marketing, transparency is likely to be critical.

4. Unique Experiences Matter

As much hatred as the acronym "YOLO" has inspired, it's not an inaccurate summary of millennial attitudes. "You only live once" is a driving force behind millennial consumption habits, including a love for authentic travel, entertainment, and dining experiences. Forbes writes that music festivals and "exclusive events" are just two signs of many millennials' desire to live life in an authentic and socially-shareable way.

The millennials' love for unique, shareable experiences has shaped notable marketing campaigns over the past few years. Coke's named bottles campaign proved to be social media genius, as millennials and older consumers fervently sought out personalized bottles to gift and photograph for Instagram. The rise of personalized product recommendations and content, like on Amazon and Netflix, is another example of brands delivering unique experiences.

5. Millennials Value Choice

Negative analysis of the millennial generation describes the youngest consumers as indecisive and spoiled. However, the truth is that millennials have simply grown up in a world where excessive education, career, and brand choices are the norm. As a result, millennials deeply value the ability to design their own brand experience and choose their own adventure. 

Chipotle's business model of "build your own" tacos, burritos, or salads is a prime example of a business that's based on choice. So are many other fast-and-fresh food companies that allow millennials to design their own salad, smoothie, or cold-pressed juice. When it comes to product development for millennial consumer, integrating end-user choice could matter greatly.

6. They Prefer Risk-Takers

Despite entering the workforce during the great recession of 2008, millennials are remarkably optimistic about life. They enjoy taking risks, and Momentology writes that millennials aren't willing to "settle."

Some of the most brilliant brand marketing that's geared specifically towards millennials includes bold risks. Dollar Shave Club's irreverent, funny video campaign achieved virality. So did Blendtec's "Will it Blend Campaign," the first web series dedicated to putting expensive Apple electronics in a blender. Thinking outside the box can endear your brand to risk-taking millennials.

7. They're Hard to Market to "At Scale"    

Social media, mobile, and sensors are three of the biggest drivers of big data. As challenging as big data is to harness and manage, it's a major component behind the personalized marketing that set Netflix and Amazon apart. It probably comes as no surprise that growing up in the big data age has produced millennials who love personalization and loathe mass marketing messages.                  

MarketingLand writes that in order to "lure in" millennials, marketers must have the "most personalized" messages that are delivered in an on-demand format. Fortunately, you no longer need the custom development budget of Amazon to implement personalized web content. It's possible with HubSpot and other sophisticated marketing tools that are affordable enough for small business owners.                     

8. They Prefer Inbound                

There are few things researchers can proclaim with certainty about the millennial generation, but a preference for inbound marketing tactics is one. MarketingLand writes that growing up among "content saturation" has made the youngest consumers far less "attentive" to traditional forms of interruption advertising. While millennials are likely to upgrade to Spotify Premium to avoid commercials or download AdBlock to filter out banner ads, there are other instances where they simply don't notice paid advertising.

Per MarketingLand, many tech-savvy millennials prefer advertising that doesn't distract from user interfaces. To capture the limited attention spans of millenials, marketers should focus their budgets towards permission-driven strategies and seamless user experiences. 

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