Marketing to Millennials… or at Least, How to Market to Me
Written by Rebecca Broad
In some ways, the title of this article is misleading. Not because young adults aren’t an important market for pretty much any service or product, but because it’s very difficult to find a consensus on what millennial even means.
41 years old? The Pew Research Center’s definition of millennial includes you. Teenager? Get back in your Gen Z box, youngster. In your late twenties or early thirties? Congrats; you’re most people’s idea of a millennial.
The stereotypes touted – a diminishing attention span, increasing sense of entitlement – can often be attributed to overall cultural changes, with no statistically significant difference between age groups.
Regardless of all of that, people my age have serious purchasing power. We’re emerging from further education or first graduate jobs, blinking into the bright light of adult responsibilities. Alternatively, we didn’t cave into the university hype and are feeling pretty smug about the lack of circa 50k in debt. (Note: I’m in the first group, decidedly not smug.)
Local businesses, in particular, should be keeping an eye on young adults. Exeter is just one of six UK cities which, last year, experienced a drop in the average population age. It’s also forecast to be one of the fastest growing cities over the next few years. The economy is attracting new businesses, so expect the competition to heat up.
Like any other buzzword, beware of over-using the term millennial, given that it doesn’t mean too much. But today, I’m owning it: I am a millennial, I am a special snowflake, and here is how to grab my attention in a crowded market.
I AM A DIGITAL NATIVE
Changing a lightbulb is always a challenge, but give me any social media platform, app, or modern piece of hardware, and I feel at home. Business Insider says that over a third of millennials never visit a bank branch in person. So, consider investing in online support platforms and reducing the pressure to make us do things in real life or over the phone. It’s not that I don’t like other people (most of the time), it’s just that I like doing things efficiently, in the manner which makes most sense to me. I can transfer money within seconds using my smartphone, voice commands and facial recognition. How does your service compare?
Go a step further: don’t just keep up with what’s already out there but put marketing budget and time into doing something different using digital. This doesn’t have to mean making an awesome new app (though South West based app Babble officially launched in Exeter just days ago and is already looking promising). It could include putting out regular IGTV episodes or integrating augmented reality into a physical location (remember the Gruffalo Trail at Haldon Forest Park?).
TRADITIONAL INFLUENCERS AREN’T THAT, WELL, INFLUENTIAL
While we’re on the topic of marketing budget, you’ll probably be pleased to know that the first influencer bubble has pretty much popped. Seeing a celebrity raving about the wonders of some product (which is usually regarding weight loss, teeth whitening, or diet supplements), using text not in the usual tone of voice, along with the label “paid partnership with [brand]” just raises suspicion, and quite often derision, if you read the comments. Markerly’s research confirmed this: above 1000 or so, as an influencer’s following rises, rate of engagement decreases.
Micro-influencers, on the other hand, are a whole other ball game. You might know them better by the terms advocate or ambassador. Though their following may be small – maybe just a few hundred – engagement ratios tend to be higher. Seeing someone I know or trust speaking positively on social has a big impact on how I regard a brand. Give your followers a reason to talk about you by providing value: forget the old “tweet about this for a chance to win this” in favour of giving them an unexpected freebie, discount, or holding an event.
I VALUE SLOWING DOWN AND SWITCHING OFF
Just because I’m a fan of digital doesn’t mean I always want a screen. I’ll choose to do things slowly and in person if I enjoy them. So that excludes chores like food shopping and banking, but includes activities like reading, making something or exploring new places. I know that being attached to various screens isn’t good for me, and I feel the benefits which come with switching off and turning my focus to more tangible experiences.
I reckon this is why most people at activities like escape rooms, live music gigs, city centre pub quizzes, and the Fore Street Flea Market could be included in a millennial bracket. The lesson here: don’t digitise things just for the sake of it.
NO, I REALLY AM A SPECIAL SNOWFLAKE
Earlier this year an indie café put something stupidly sexist out on social media. I think it was meant to be edgy but ended up a complete flop. Myself and others called them out on it, but there was no apology, just a limp backtracking. I don’t go there anymore.
Yup, it’s honestly that easy to lose my loyalty. Alternatively, don’t be an idiot, and I’ll probably still consider coming to you for my double espresso. This highlights my next point:
COMMUNICATION IS IMPORTANT TO ME
I ain’t mssging u lyk dis, LMAO. & if i AM, it’s bc I’m bein ir0nic. So don’t send me marketing messages trying to be ~woke~!~. The outcome is usually just painful and alienates pretty much everyone. Sure, I still use omg, idk, atm, yasss and so on when messaging friends, but on your email newsletter about help to buy mortgages? Nah, mate. Check out ASOS’ website fashion feed for a good example of how to tread the thin down-with-the-kids line, sarcasm and all.
I AM SOCIALLY CONSCIENTIOUS
I’d rather save up to buy a pair of Bird Sunglasses (made from sustainable materials, with each purchase bringing light to a family through a SolarAid partnership) from Sancho’s (ethical shop) than nip into Primark. When I can afford it, I’ll choose locally grown vegetables without the plastic packaging.
Toms was the first big brand to make a good job of social action with their One For One program. The rise of the ethical consumer will only continue as millennials teach their children about the importance of buying mindfully.
It’s worth investigating social partnerships that are relevant to your company or your customers. This could be as passive as sponsoring a charity, or as involved as organising your own fundraising event.
I HAVEN’T QUITE DITCHED FACEBOOK
It’s deemed cool to pronounce Facebook / Twitter / other established social media platform ‘dead’ and think that only those older than the millennial brackets use it, but that isn’t the case. We just use it differently. I no longer scroll down pages and pages of updates, but use it for work, support groups, to organise parties and share political updates. Be savvy about your digital social media usage – don’t ditch it all together.
I DON’T LIKE AVOCADO
Please stop assuming we all love the same things. Ultimately, what will make your brand stand out is individuality and creativity, not tired memes from 2016.
Yours millennially, Rebecca.