So what are millennial consumers looking for in brands they patronize, and how can established organizations modify their messaging and operations to appeal to the 80+ million millennials living in the US?
Here’s a quick guide to the Top 5 Millennial Marketing Essentials relevant to 21st organizations:
Millennials desire both purpose and profit, and yes, they do believe the two can go hand in hand. More than 85 percent of millennials correlate their purchasing decisions and their willingness to recommend a brand to the social good efforts a company is making. Millennials’ desire to be a part of initiatives that serve a “greater purpose” and are willing to put their money where their mouth is. Just look at social conscious brands that’s products characterize millennials’ shopping lists: TOMS, FEED, Sseko Designs, Proof. Are these products purchased to “fill a need”? Certainly. But why are these brands purchased over their lower-priced alternatives? Because they not only fill a need, but they also provide a purpose.
Deloitte reported 86 percent of millennials believe “business will have at least as much potential as government to meet society’s challenges." Past generations past relied on non-profit sector to facilitate majority of philanthropic efforts, with many public traded companies developing charitable sectors within their organization. Millennial consumers want every purchase they make to have a direct impact on making our world a better place—not just an annual donation, or weekend relief fundraiser. Millennials want to make the world better—with every purchase made – and they expect the brands they patronize to share their double bottom-line commitment.
Don’t Like Big Corporations
Lack of trust has become quite the theme for Generation Y. As products of the biggest economic fallout since the Great Depression, witnessing their parents losing “cush” corporate jobs, houses, and careers in the post 9/11 economy, can you blame them? Recent reports indicate that 86 percent of millennials do not trust Wall Street, with an even higher percentage not trusting the media. With accounting scandals, corporate bailouts, mortgage collapse, and Ponzi schemes fresh on millennials’ minds, “Big Business” has come to be synonymous with “Bad Business”.
Agricultural industry provides us with an excellent example of how millennial consumers have lost faith in big name corporations, and are shifting their patronage to local, smaller scale companies they trust. With the genetically modified organism (GMO) and questionable animal husbandry practices dominating today’s food discussions, millennial consumers have demonstrated their commitment to principle through the welcomed emergence of small-scale farming operations. These local producers (fastest growing segment of US agriculture) provide Gen Y with products they can stand behind, and transparency yielding the accountability millennials crave.
Appeal to the “Super Educated”
With 34 percent of 25 to 29 year-olds holding a bachelor’s degree, master’s degree, professional degree or doctoral degree, millennials represent the most educated generation in U.S. history. This super-educated segment of consumers do their research when it comes to spending money. Chances are, your target market will be well versed in the implications of your product/service industry—maybe even more than your marketing team! How does this affect your brand’s messaging? It’s gotta be accurate and genuine. So long MadMen era marketing techniques – few things repulse millennial consumers like misleading messaging or snake oil salesman pitches.
You say your product is “best value”? Millennials consumers aren’t going to take your word for it; they are going to dig deeper.
Think emotionally charged sales pitches of far and away are going to prompt an impulse buy? Forget it. Millennials make deliberate, informed purchasing decisions, or they go without.
Make sure your brand’s messaging is accurate, and doesn’t even hint of anything consisting of little more than smoke and lights sensation. Respect potential millennial customers as the educated, well-researched consumers they are, and message your marketing campaigns accordingly.
It’s more than a purchase; millennials want to relate to the brands they patronize. Millennials want to know the “who” behind the “what”, the “why” behind the brand, the “how” behind the production. The Connected Age is all about relationships—with one another, and with the organizations we patronize.
So how can build relationships with your hundreds to thousands of customers?
Be connected. Be conversational. Be real.
Two things I recommend for all my millennial marketing clients—(an active) blog + social media.
The purpose of these mediums isn’t to simply post specials, or gab about all the benefits of purchasing your product vs. competitors. Instead, these channels should be utilized to build a community of consumers based on authenticity, transparency, and trust.
Use your channels to put a face on your company—spotlight your team members and their story. Converse with followers regarding “hot topics” smoking up the industry via comments. Showcase your brand personality by providing “behind the scenes” snaps of a day in the life of X. Use your platforms to encourage civic duty and rally around philanthropic opportunities. All these dynamic interactions communicate more to millennial consumer than 10,000 obnoxious salesmen of yesteryear ever could. Recognize that millennials long to know the people behind the brand, and give it to them!
Emphasis on the Experience
This study conducted by Harris and sponsored by Eventbrite said: “…this generation not only highly values experiences, but they are increasingly spending time and money on them: from concerts and social events to athletic pursuits, to cultural experiences and events of all kinds. For this group, happiness isn’t as focused on possessions or career status. Living a meaningful, happy life is about creating, sharing and capturing memories earned through experiences that span the spectrum of life’s opportunities.”
Consumer’s evolving emphasis on experiences is a new phenomenon; the share of consumer spending on live experiences and events relative to total U.S. consumer spending increased 70% since 1987. Startups like the Dinner Lab are disrupting established food markets with their unique dining experience by providing foodies with enhanced atmosphere, family style interactions, and introductions to local chefs. Today’s consumers want more than a reliable product or service – they want an experience.
Brainstorm ways your brand can create experiences for your customers. Can your office space double as a meeting place for entrepreneurial think tanks like 1 Million Cups? Is it possible to involve customers in philanthropic opportunities, like TOMs international “shoe drops”? Capitalize on the millennial market’s need for high quality experiences to optimize your organization’s 21st century presence.
Like it or not, millennials are the future. Millennial consumers’ commitment to social responsibility, need for brand relationships, and craving for quality experiences will dominate the market as we know it. Brands and organizations desiring presence in the coming years must convert archaic business strategy to incorporate principal dictated by the millennials generation’s ever growing influence. Give up on 1990’s sale gimmicks, prioritize consumer connections, and integrate double bottom-line strategy into your business model.
About the Author:
Hannah Becker is a millennial author, entrepreneur, and marketing consultant. She currently helps brands increase millennial market share through digital strategy and public relations. Follow Hannah on Twitter@MotivatedGenY