The Millennial Myth: How to Best Market to the Most Influential Generation
Google the word “millennials” when you have a moment. Watch the seemingly endless results scroll across your screen. From marketing strategies for this generation to dire pronouncements of the death of American culture at their hands, the millennials fill the news media these days. The millennial generation, their preferences, their traits, their flaws and their desires all sit at the forefront of the national consciousness.
“Millennial” is the term used to describe those born in the 1980s and 1990s that currently fit roughly into the age bracket of 18-34. They’re rapidly coming into their own and will make up 36 percent of the workforce by next year and 46 percent by 2020.
The impact that millennials have had on the marketing and advertising industries can’t be denied. As the first generation to grow up with the Internet, millennials find themselves in the unique position of being the group whose skill set is best tailored to continuing the advancement of the United States from a manufacturing economy to an information-based economy.
As such, most brands have begun to desperately search for marketing strategies that will enable them to target this elusive group specifically. Focus on this goal has reached a fever pitch, particularly over the past year, continually generating headlines such as those from last week, which proclaimed that Men’s Wearhouse founder and CEO George Zimmer had been ousted from his position, possibly for failing to connect well with millennials.
Although traditional marketing tools have been used to some effect with this group, advertisers have shifted their main focus to digital marketing and specifically digital relationships.
Millennials respond like no prior generation to the cultivation of a brand-consumer relationship. There are a myriad of explanations for this. Some theories postulate that the demographic is so ridden by stress that they crave the assurance of a solid connection to a brand; others point to ideas of group-based interaction cultivated by today’s highly interconnected world. No matter what the explanation, studies have repeatedly shown that millennials respond favorably to brands that go out of the way to provide high levels of immediate consumer communication and respond to the desires of their target demographic.
More often than not, this is achieved via social media. Sixty-five million of the roughly 82 million millennials actively use Facebook (79 percent), while 16.6 million are frequent users of Twitter (20 percent). Close to 60 percent of millennials have smartphones and 84 percent consider themselves frequent users of social media. The group-oriented networking culture has contributed to an increased demand for real-time exchanges of information, something that brands would be wise to pick up on.
All of this notwithstanding, the best way to market to the millennial generation is simply to project the most honest picture possible while highlighting specific attributes. Truth be told, this has always been the dirty secret at the core of marketing. The most successful campaigns in history have never desperately tried to mold their brand through the language and culture of a specific group, but rather have tried to connect on a much more basic, human level by projecting, in simple terms, the best features of the brand in question. It’s universally acknowledged that millennials are highly connected to the world of consumer opinion. The ability to exchange product impressions via a tweet, Instagram post or text message has allowed this generation to make or break a brand with relative ease.
With this in mind, the best way to market to millennials is simply the best way to market to the rest of the world: by providing an honest, dynamic and compelling portrait of a brand that consumers can appreciate. While the vehicles of branding may have changed to focus on smartphones, mobile video and social networks, the strategy shouldn’t.
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