Marketing to Millennials

November 25, 2014

Millennials are not a homogeneous cohort, but here are a few key points to keep in mind if you want to engage them:

  • Price is the most important factor when it comes to Millennials’ purchase decisions. It also dictates where they shop. Brands need to consider their affinity for a good deal when developing their marketing plans for a new product or service.
  • The economic downturn has impacted the Millennial generation’s willingness to be loyal to a brand. While brand loyalty may not count for much among Millennial consumers these days, brands can win easy brownie points—and loyalty—by engaging with Millennial consumers in a fun and real way.
  • Millennials need a reason to choose your brand. Brands need to focus on value. Ask yourself what differentiates your brand from another? Why should a Millennial choose you over your competitor? Show Millennials your assets, and demonstrate why they should choose you.
  • Customer service ranks high with Millennials. Brands that show Millennials how much they value their business are finding increasing success. At a time when brand loyalty can be difficult to maintain, this can be a way to secure Millennial loyalty. Brands should make loyalty part of their brand identity.
  • Millennials want to make a positive impact on the world, and they express a willingness to shop with companies that do the same. Win over these bighearted consumers by supporting a cause that has a relevant connection to your brand.

In addition, here are some considerations and suggestions that will help your organization reach out to Millennials:

Keep Up with Technology Trends
Technology fuels Millennial culture, as members of this generation are quick to embrace emerging digital, social, and mobile technology. Consequently, Millennial culture generates entrepreneurs who create new social and mobile tools. This means it’s critical to stay abreast of what’s next in both technology and Millennial culture. After all, they’re related. And the emerging trends will likely both enable and impact consumer behavior.

To keep up with these developments, subscribe to cultural and tech-trend sharing websites such as Trend Hunter, Iconoculture, Mashable, BuzzFeed, and PSFK. These sites have thousands of active participants who stay on top of what’s new and share tips online.

Within your own organization, consider creating a content-sharing platform to capture and distribute ideas on Millennials and emerging trends. Your company likely has several Millennial-age employees who would be eager to share their insights. It would be wise to tap into an already built-in audience within your organization.

Last but not least, content-sharing social tools such as Pinterest can help gather and organize articles on Millennial consumer trends. Such sites are also inundated by Millennial users, offering the opportunity to gain insights from and communicate with this generation.

Engage Millennials in Everything You Do
Millennials are active participants, not passive consumers. When developing a strategy that will effectively engage these consumers, consider using a 2 x 2 matrix to evaluate your brand potential and ideas. On the x axis of the matrix, “participation” measures the degree to which consumers are actively engaged in the brand. On the y axis, “shareworthy” evaluates how much the core brand idea enables consumers to share with peers.

There are two common roads to shareworthy ideas: purpose and disruption. If your idea has both a purpose and is disruptive—causing people to stop what they’re doing, pay attention, and engage with your brand—then you’ve reached a high-high on the matrix. At the end of the day, shareworthy is directly related to both peer affirmation and understanding that Millennials share because it makes them feel better about themselves. It’s not all about your brand.

When you apply the matrix to your brand’s activities, ask yourself:
—Am I working on a shareworthy idea?
—Have I enabled opportunities for Millennial participation?
—Can I set up a framework for seeking Millennial input on your products or services, customer journey, and marketing efforts?

Brands that can successfully engage Millennials will rank high in both shareworthiness and participation.

Ultimately, Millennials want to participate in all phases of product development. By not only considering their input but taking the extra step of building your functional and emotional brand benefits around it, you add a catalytic agent to your marketing. Similarly, if your brand has an undeniable shareworthy quality to it, it becomes increasingly enticing for Millennials.

Good Content Is Key
As social creatures, Millennials seek interaction with their favorite brands. And social interaction requires interesting content that will grab the attention of the Millennial generation. The task of creating that content is up to the company or brand.

Do you have a content curator on your team who can help channel and facilitate these interactions? You may consider adding the role of chief content officer to your team, a person who keeps all content throughout the company on the same set of higher business objectives, ensuring consistency of the brand’s voice across all channels.

Companies are beginning to recognize content as a highly valuable business asset. Though not yet fully embraced, companies are recognizing the ability of content to differentiate their brands at a time when almost everything else has been commoditized. Companies are searching for ways to stand out to their target audiences. And nothing stands out like content.

If appointing a chief content officer isn’t feasible (given budgetary constraints, for instance), consider identifying an individual within the company who has not only the requisite knowledge but the authority and backing of the C-suite as well. If you approach content creation correctly, the impact of this role should reach across all aspects of your business.

In the “Age of the Customer,” a time when the customer matters more than any other strategic imperative, empowered buyers demand a new level of brand experience. At the forefront of this movement are Millennials. They are social creatures who expect their brands to engage them. If that expectation isn’t met, they’ll leave and spend their money elsewhere.

When planning content management, be sure to address and identify the processes, tools, and resources required to launch and maintain ongoing quality of the brand message. You must determine how those decisions are made and who has ownership of the decisions (as well as their effects).

Reference: Moira Dorsey, Kerry Bodine, with Allison Stone, “Why Customer Experience? Why Now?,” Forrester Research Inc., October 4, 2011.

© 2013 Barkley, Inc. All rights reserved. Adapted with permission of the publisher from Marketing to Millennials: Reach the Largest and Most Influential Generation of Consumers Ever (AMACOM, a division of American Management Association).

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About The Author

Jeff Fromm is executive vice president at Barkley, the largest 100% employee-owned ad agency in the United States. Christie Garton is a lawyer and entrepreneur whose U Chic Media company and bestselling college guidebook series for women have received national attention. They are coauthors of Marketing to Millennials: Reach the Largest and Most Influential Generation of Consumers Ever, from which this article was adapted.

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