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If you haven’t started thinking seriously about how to market to Millennials/Generation Y with the Millennials marketing strategy, it’s high time to factor them into your planning.
Why? Two big reasons:
One, millennials are already the largest generation in the world. With roughly 80 million in the US alone, they officially displaced Boomers a few years ago, and more of them are entering positions of power and economic strength every year. Economically speaking, their ranks will keep growing for many years to come, since the next official generation are currently young children.
And two, millennials are fundamentally unlike any previous generation. While there are of course some similarities, in terms of outlook and personality they are vastly unlike their predecessors. What this means to you as a marketer is that they cannot be marketed-to in the same way as Boomers or Xers. New approaches are necessary.
They’re confounding, they’re hard to get a handle on, and in many cases they absolutely defy conventional wisdom. None-the-less, marketers must start coming to grips with Generation Y, or they’ll be left behind in years to come.
So, let’s start with some basics. What distinguishes a Millennial/Gen Y from other generations? Who are millennials?
Give or take. Even more than most generations, there’s considerable disagreement over when, exactly, the generation began. (More on that in a moment.)
Arguably the biggest distinguishing feature of Ys is that they came of age alongside the Internet, and online interactions are second nature to them. The psychological impact of this cannot be understated: for many, the virtual world is more “real” than the physical world.
As a consequence of their online upbringing, Millennials are much more likely to embrace global-level concepts, ideas, and concerns while often rejecting “tribal” concepts of jingoism, racism, sexism, etc. Overt bigotry is generally shunned and seen as “backwards.”
Because the Internet and social media allows nearly unlimited connections around the world, when Millennials do see themselves as part of a group, it will be based on shared interests instead of local geography. One’s birthplace or city of residence is largely seen as just an accident of circumstance, not a point of pride.
If you’d like to know how to target Millennials on social media, I can tell you that Snapchat is one of the best way to do so.
More Millennials have high school and college degrees than any previous generation.
Only around a quarter of Millennials are married, with many waiting until age 30 or later. The reasons for this are complex, and not really on-topic, but it’s important to keep in mind.
Asking a Millennial to single-task for very long is not a good strategy. They grew up in a multi-media, multi-tasking environment and their brains are wired to match. Constantly switching up content types and keeping focused activities short is key to keeping their interest.
And a quick side note:
Not really. Most people use the terms interchangeably, as we’ll be doing here. However, occasionally some suggest using Gen Y to describe the oldest Millennials, particularly people born in the mid-to-late 70s but happened to have very technologically-focused households and thus used computers and online services ahead of their peers. For example, those who would typically be classified as Gen X but had an upbringing more like the Millennials.
So, with all that established, what does that mean for you as a marketer?
If there is one key takeaway you get from this article, it is this: Traditional outbound and push marketing strategies DO NOT WORK on Millennials. Exceptions are very few, far between, and limited almost exclusively to the ubiquitous international mega-brands who can afford to engage in global media saturation techniques.
Millennials are painfully aware of how much marketing surrounds them and how much control the mass media has over many people, and they resent it. Many outright hate it. They will actually go out of their way to avoid brands they see as wasting their time with mass-market homogenized messages or intrusive advertisements.
In fact, according to Hubspot, an amazing 84% of Millennials distrust outbound marketing. That alone should tell you how ineffective push marketing is with them. Continue using it at your own peril.
Inbound marketing is THE way to market to Gen Y.
Millennials are extremely independent-minded, and many are downright contrary. Tell them what to do in a dictatorial fashion, and they’ll do the opposite just to spite you and to demonstrate that they aren’t controlled by the media. (Even when they are.) The best approach is to present an argument and let them come to their own decision, much like you would when dealing with a prickly my-way-or-the-highway CEO.
Remember: Millennials are entirely comfortable researching topics for themselves online and generally prefer to do so. If you make a solid argument and the real-world facts are on your side, you can generally trust them to give your ideas a fair shake. They just want to feel empowered to make their own decisions in the end.
Millennials are all about personalization and individuality. They hate being lumped into large demographic groups, even if the lumping is generally accurate. (Hashtag #NotAllMillennials) Anything you can do to make your Millennial marketing materials feel organically personalized for them will be beneficial to your outreach efforts.
In practical terms, this means engaging in a lot of market sub-segmentation and doing plenty of research on your target markets to understand their personalities, interests, hobbies, etc.
Whenever possible, look to include them in the process as well. If one says “I think your product should have X, Y, and Z,” that’s not just complaining – it’s because they legitimately believe those features would be useful to them.
This is another key factor when marketing to Millennials: The more authentic, the better. Even more than the hippie-Boomers of the 60s, Millennials outright despise hypocrisy and value those are authentically true to themselves. This is reflected in nearly every area of their lives, from purchasing to politics.
On the other hand, gaining their trust via authenticity can turn them into devoted, or even fanatical, fans of your brand.
This also leads to another absolute commandment of Millennial marketing: NEVER LIE. Due to their ease of doing online research, fact-checking is ubiquitous and deliberate deceptions will be discovered. If so, your credibility is ruined with all who see it.
For better or worse, Millennials have grown up in a world where actual ownership is becoming increasingly rare. They’ve accepted business models such as online app stores where they only buy licenses for software, not ownership. They are far more likely to rent rather than own a home.
What this means for you is that the service being provided is more important than the details of the product’s ownership. If your product fills a need in their lives, they’ll embrace it – and this particularly opens up avenues for (X)-as-a-Service products based in renting rather than buying.
Millennials generally have a “work to live” attitude, not “live to work” like their parents and grandparents. It’s not that Ys are lazy (a common misconception) but rather they value their limited free time and almost always favor work smarter, not harder solutions. Use that to your advantage.
They especially like it when they can mix work and play. The popular crafts website Etsy, for example, is as much about showing off creative works as actually buying or selling anything. For many, the experience of online shopping is a form of recreation, and the actual purchase a secondary consideration.
Ys also highly appreciate demo products, but there’s a significant danger, especially with their short attention spans that the demo will scratch whatever itch they have and they’ll lose interest before buying.
Finally, in brief, here are what we’d say are the most important tactics and ideas to deploy in Millennial marketing.
Millennials are wired to want authentic, content-driven, personalized, and above all HONEST experiences with the brands they interact with. Understanding this, and working it into your marketing, will be key to converting Gen Y customers and turning them into fans of your brand.
Understand that, and you should have success creating inbound campaigns and advertising to Millennials.
What are your tricks or strategies for marketing to Millennials? Do you think the Millenials marketing strategy mentioned above are effective? Let us know by leaving us a comment down below!
Updated: 20 October 2017