Marketing to Millennials

Marketing to millennials is a hot topic these days.  As millennials enter the job market and start to earn money, they represent one of the largest consumer base today!  However, marketing to this generation requires a different approach.

First of all, millennials is a very complex generation.  Demographically, it spans the entire cohort that comes behind GenX-ers.  It spans people who were born in late 1970s to early 2000s.  As such, millennials is not so much a demographic description as much as it’s a psychographic description.  This generation grew up with technology, and that has a huge impact on how this generation approaches life in general.

Technology is a great enabler.  Technology unlocks a lot of potential, and millennials are all about capturing all of it.  This generation is surprisingly optimistic, despite the current economic conditions.  This generation has been told that they can be whatever they want to be and that they can make a difference.  This is a generation that can and will start a non-profit in their backyard with an idea and a laptop in a single day.  With that said, this generation knows what they want from life, and more or less how to get there.  It’s not about money.  It’s about dreams and passions.  Therefore, to market to this generation, you need to figure out how your brand fits into their existing life plans and their passions.

Technology has also given this generation voice.  Most marketers have learned the lesson that we no longer own our brands.  They co-own our brands.  They can be our greatest advocates or our greatest enemies.  They are not a generation to be marketed to, but a generation to be engaged with and build a relationship with.  It’s a relationship that needs to be cultivated, just like any other relationships in life.  This generation is inherently creative, empowered by technology.  They’re building a personal brand online before they graduate high school.  Facebook, Pinterest, etc., are all channels with which they are expressing themselves and their passions.  How can your brand tap into that creativity?  What information can you provide that will be relevant to them?  Also, what do they get from their relationships with your brand?  One tactic is to create exclusivity.  Make them insiders to your brand.  They’re creating their own personal brands.  They are sharing online.  They are creating contents.  They need contents, preferably exclusive contents.  Your brand needs to be part of their brand.

BJMAB touches down in Burlington, VTAs information is readily available, this generation expect to find whatever information they want when they want them.  So, as marketers, it’s our job to keep the information available.  So, when they’re ready to engage, they can.  Also, since there is an abundance of information nowadays, information needs to be curated.  It’s not about dumping everything you can out into the world, and let them navigate the information themselves.  It’s about information that’s relevant, that’s timely, that’s interesting, that’s engaging.  “Social” is not about just Facebook or Twitter updates.  “Social” is not about telling them more about you.  It’s about engaging in the conversations that are happening about your brand.  It’s about telling them what they want to know.  Your Facebook fans are already your fans, so they represent only one set of conversations.  Understand what conversations are happening where, and how to engage into these conversations is what being social is all about.

Finally, what about alienating your existing customers who may not be millennials?  If you are all about millennials all of a sudden, would you offend your loyal customers through the years.  The only answer to this, and it’s the answer to many marketing questions, is to stay authentic.  Your brand equity shouldn’t all of a sudden change.  You may be leveraging different tactics to bring this brand message to life.  But the core of who you are is still who you are.  You may be used to entertaining your friends in your perfect formal living room.  Nowadays, millennials may want go behind the scene and eat in the kitchen instead.  But, you are still who you are.  If you’re funny, you’re still funny.  If you’re classy, you’re still classy.  You are still who you are.


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How I learned this lesson (and how you can too):  Many of the tips here I got from a seminar hosted by New York American Marketing Association, sponsored by Ypulse, featuring speakers from MTV, Teach for America, and Intel.


Photo credits:  Ed Yourdon, Meng He

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