At more than 75 million people, millennials make up 30% of the U.S. population. Today, they’re considered the largest living generation. It’s no surprise that marketers are vying for their attention, and have been for some time. That much buying power is a tantalizing thing for any business, and that large of an audience is bound to have a niche that your product or service can help.
But millennials are different from previous generations when it comes to advertising. They don’t respond in the same way as Gen X or the Boomer generation. They’ve grown up in a media hailstorm of radio and television ads, billboards, and pre-rolls on YouTube. They’re used to being sold to, and they don’t like it. So how do you reach them?
We’ll go over why and how millennials are different from previous generations in more detail and share some strategies you can use in your next campaign to market to them more effectively.
Who Are Millennials?
The millennial generation, also known as Gen Y, is the group of people born roughly between 1982 and 1996 (currently 24-39 years old). They came of age around the turn of the millennium, hence the term “millennial.”
A 2017 report researched by Achieve and supported by the Case Foundation identified ten key takeaways on the millennial generation and their economic impact. After looking at a decade of data and surveying more than 150,000 people in the millennial age range, researchers found:
1. Millennials believe in “everyday change,” performing small acts of social good in their daily lives. That can be anything from a spontaneous point-of-sale donation to a cause, to buying products that support indigenous farmers or charities they believe in.
2. Millennials believe in activism. They’re more likely to vote, and consider voting an act of activism.
3. Millennials are influenced by their peers and are far more likely to get involved if people from their peer group are already participating.
Authentic content, whether it’s writing, video, photography, or music, is what millennials are looking for. They engage with people and institutions that resonate with them and their values, who see them as people and not sales figures. They’re also likely to engage with brands that support causes they value, especially if they see their friends doing so too.
This is especially evident in the content they choose to engage with online. According to Forbes, almost half of all millennials said they valued authenticity higher than content when consuming news. They’re also likely to trust content if it comes from a person they trust, whether that’s a personal friend or an influencer they follow online.
Strategies for Marketing to the Millennial Age Group
With the above findings in mind, start your campaign by creating personas for several different millennial buyers. The generation encompasses a pretty wide age range, so what appeals to someone at the younger end of the spectrum might not resonate the same way with someone on the older end. The two extremes are likely dealing with very different life issues and milestones e.g. grad school versus buying a house, so you can’t market to millennials in a one-size-fits-all way.
Pick the Right Networks
Technology is integrated into the lives of most people in the millennial generation. The younger ones spent the majority of their lives with the internet, and even older millennials learned to adopt it at a young age. Millennials and younger generations are much more online than their older counterparts: a study by Statista showed they unlocked their phone screens an average of 69 times per day, topped only by Gen Z, to browse the web.
To reach a millennial audience, you need to find out where they’re spending that screen time. Are they the type of person to listen to podcasts? If so, on what subjects? Are they heavy Instagram or Twitter users, or do they favor platforms like Snapchat and TikTok? What about YouTube? Wherever they’re spending their time is where you should focus your effort.
You’ll need to do a bit of market research to figure out where your ideal customer is posting on social media. Try sending out surveys via your email list, posting super simple questionnaires on Twitter, or do some digging on your own. For example, a quick Google search yields that most Instagram users are between 18-34 as of January 2020.
Tap into influencers on these platforms. See if your message and product aligns with their values and if they’d be open to telling their following about your company. According to a 2019 study by Morning Consult, influencers weigh heavily on millennial buying decisions. 1 in 4 females surveyed said influencers were where they learned about new products.
Create Socially Driven Content That Invites Feedback
Influencers are so good at reaching their audiences because their audience chose to follow them. Their authenticity, personality, and lifestyle drew people to them, not a product. Millennials can tell they’re being sold to, so they’re looking for honest input on a product, and for companies to be straightforward.
They tend to go to people they trust and their peer group for information on a new product. According to a report by Bazaar Voice, 84% of millennials say user-generated content like reviews or videos has some impact on what they buy. Tap into this with the content you create. Fast-food chains like Wendy’s, for example, have mastered the art of creating funny, shareable posts on Twitter, and every share on social media is free advertising.
When creating your content, whatever you choose to share, it’s vital that you optimize it across multiple platforms. Make sure your videos or photos or blog posts show up just as well on mobile as they do on a desktop; consumers 18-34 spend almost four hours a day on their smartphones.
Connect With People on a Personal Level
A lot of millennial buyers are cause-driven. If you can show them a way your product helps a cause they believe in, they may be more likely to buy from you. Reel toilet paper, for example, uses bamboo trees to make their biodegradable product. Not only does that help the environment; it shows customers they care.
Donating money, hosting charity events, and raising awareness are all great ways to leverage this strategy by broadcasting the fact that you’re a business with integrity. Consider donating a percentage of revenues, planting a tree for every product sold, or using social media to spread a helpful message. As with funny content on social media, a company doing good work and creating content to let the world know it has the potential to be widely shared.
One caveat on this tactic: authenticity is key. If you don’t mean what you say, it will show, and it will put buyers off. Commit to a cause or course of action, and deliver. It boosts your standing in the eyes of your customers and does a bit of good for the world at large. A win-win.
Show Them That Others Love the Product
Put honest customer testimonials front and center on your site, and make it easier for users to find reviews. Ask users to leave reviews–positive or negative–on big review sites like Trustpilot. The larger an aggregate of opinions on your company you can form, the better. Millennial buyers are influenced by their peers, and will likely check in with them, or at least leave reviews, before buying almost any product.
That extends to influencers as well, which is why the authenticity of reviews is so important. Millennials are looking away from your typical advertising spot to find honest feedback from people who have actually used the product, hence the popularity of review channels on YouTube like tech reviewer MKBHD.
One way a lot of companies are choosing to advertise to millennials is by encouraging them to share their opinions on the product on social media. Featuring photos and reviews from customers and creating conversations around your product with hashtags will get people talking about your company and sharing content related to your product.
Here to Stay
These strategies don’t just affect the millennial generation; subsequent generations coming of age after them will have similar habits. That’s one reason it’s so important to realize that the practice of marketing is changing, and to get on board before you get left behind.
If you are looking to better reach millennials, contact us to get a media plan recommendation.