Much is said about millennials, both positive and negative. They’re simultaneously valorized as innovative social justice warriors and disparaged as being self-absorbed, entitled Peter Pan prototypes. Whichever camp you fall into, it is helpful to know how to communicate with them, how to market to them, and how to relate to them through the prism of their own values.
1) “Millennial” represents a diverse body of individuals.
As obvious as it may seem, it’s worth underlining that the trends of a demographic do not equal hard and fast rules. And millennials are exceptionally diverse, even in comparison to other generations. For example, 45% of millennial adults identify as Hispanic or non-white, compared to 39% of Generation X, 27% of Baby Boomers, and only 17% of the Silent Generation.
To complicate matters further, many of the millennials who identify as non-white are second-generation immigrants with complex histories who are striving to balance two or more different cultural heritages. (23% are bilingual)
In addition to their cultural variability, millennials range from 16 to 35. That range is indicative of different tastes in everything from music to politics. And though that doesn’t mean there’s no common ground, it’s important for advertisers and companies to identify sub-groups and target them.
2) Identity is important.
Millennials grew up with both the internet and identity politics. In other words, they’re hyper-aware of both the collaborative and constructed nature of identity. If your product can speak to their values and their lifestyle, it’s that much more attractive.
As MZ founder Shama Hyder loves to emphasize, consumers choose brands according to what those brands empower them to say about themselves. If companies can anticipate that in their outreach and engagement efforts, they will encounter less resistance.
3) Create consistency and overlap through multiple channels.
Though millennials make up the smallest population of newspaper and magazine readers, they expect information to flow through multiple channels. Variation in both medium and format is the baseline.
Get creative and use infographics, guest posts, video tutorials, and webinars to share your message. Whichever channel you opt for, make sure the information is easy to digest and relatable. Also, take into consideration technical compatibility. Is your website mobile-friendly? How does it look from an SEO perspective? Is it competitive?
4) Leverage the social.
Millennials love community like a kid loves cake. Memes, current events, shared passions are all a means of developing “tribes,” showcasing identity, and integrating commerce and self-expression.
This is one of the reasons that user-generated content is as popular and effective as it is. Millennials trust word-of-mouth buzz over old-school marketing, and 85% seek out the opinions of those in their network when making purchasing decisions. Additionally, thirty-three percent cite blogs as being trusted authorities for research.
5) Go Mobile.
With 85% of millennials owning smartphones, marketers and companies need to be tailoring their ads to mobile platforms and the habits of mobile users. For most millennials, their phones are extensions of themselves. They use them to connect with loved ones, hook up with cute ones, browse on Amazon, or banter with Siri.
And, many are willing to trade data for convenience. If a brand can be equal parts transparent and respectful, this is a golden opportunity.
6) Don’t put them in a box.
Traditional ways of categorizing and labeling demographics don’t always resonate with millennials. Though some may follow a more linear trajectory, far more pave their own path and march to the beat of their own drummer. Marketing to millennials according to life stages or preset types could backfire, but marketing to millennials according to their interests and their curiosities is an astute strategy that honors their maverick streak.
Millennials, whether they take a more or less conventional route, seem to be in agreement that there’s no one-size-fits-all. Dads can stay home with the kids. Women can have children later. And two people who have never been in love may be the best co-parents ever.
7) Bridge the global and the local.
Many millennials feel like global citizens with local concerns. They realize they live in a vast, yet interconnected, world, but they also feel the pull of their most proximate networks. Balancing the two in intelligent, creative ways is a great way to a millennial’s heart. From boutique brands that bring artisan goods from remote corners of the world to buyers in the first world, to artistic movements that weave together disparate sounds into groovy rhythms, the common, if divergent, pulse of the planet is an attractive and compelling idea.
Not all millennials will be sworn to free trade or sensitive to the perils of the Ivory Coast, but most will appreciate a brand that champions a sense of discovery and wonder while offering solutions to the problems of daily life.
8) Personalize the shopping experience.
Millennials love customization almost as much as they fantasize about which Hogwarts house the sorting hat would place them in. How can you make your brand more personal and interactive? How can it be a canvas upon which your customers paint their stories? We’re not just talking monogrammed towels; we’re talking about a shopping experience that’s founded on listening, dialogue, and meeting exact and particular needs.
For example, clothing brands, like MM. La Fleur or StitchFix, that bridge the experience of a personal shopper or stylist with the time-saving economy of ordering items online are becoming more and more the new normal.
Even if this feels like a more high-end offering at the moment, it’s undeniably the wave of the future.
9) Use influencers.
Millennials respond well to influencer marketing. However, it’s o.k. if your marketing budget can’t afford Tom Cruise or Halle Berry. “Influencer” doesn’t equal celebrity, as it may have in the past. With the rise of YouTube and Instagram stars, an influencer with a great following can be a great way to target a niche market or develop your brand’s presence on a particular social platform.
A Collective Bias report found that 70% of millennials value endorsements from influencers that feel more like peers than “famous people.” The takeaway from that statistic confirms that a heightened sense of recognition and relatability are the driving force behind the popularity of influencers. This also explains the rise of “micro influencers” — social personalities with a critical mass of followers that have high engagement and a sense of authenticity. More and more brands are finding that micro influencers are the sweet spot for really reaching customers.
10) Be socially responsible.
There’s a reason millennials love Tom’s. The reason is that the brand tries to solve a big real-world problem while simultaneously offering a product that people enjoy. Such idealism and innovation inspire millennials, and statistics show that 77% of millennials engage brands with a corporate social responsibility department. Though old ways of thinking might see doing good and making money as at odds, millennials challenge this narrow outlook.
What’s sexy to a millennial? A triple bottom line — people, planet, and profits. Companies don’t have to save the world. They just have to show they care. That may mean fair wages, community outreach, or sustainability initiatives. It could be as simple as offering an easy way to recycle old products or to hire veterans.
Whether you work for millennials, employ them, or are one yourself, these ten ways to reach them should shed some light on their mystery and their power in the marketplace.