The following post was written by Maggy Stewart, Graphic Designer and Marketing Coordinator at RMS.
It’s a common question, we hear it all the time from clients: how do we market to (and actually captivate) millennials – the now largest generation in the U.S. workforce? Stumble upon any informative, well known business website today and you’re bound to see an article dissecting the new “It” generation: the millennials. According to Time Magazine, the notorious generation has finally taken over the American labor force, and is expected to surpass the Baby Boomers as the largest living generation in the United States. And with such a large target (75.4 million people, according to Pew Research), marketers figured they couldn’t miss. But as more and more millennials came into the market with impressive (and unnoticed) purchasing power, marketers struggled even more to understand them. But why the disconnect? A lot of brands out there are continuing to sell the traditional “get married, buy a house, start a family” agenda, because that’s what older generations based a lot of their spending upon. Those tactics aren’t hooking millennials, and that’s an issue because millennials are buying, they just buy differently than marketers are familiar with.
Not only are millennials’ spending habits different, but they’re so offbeat from previous generations’ that they’re completely misunderstood. This is mainly because they’re approaching adulthood in a contrasting way when compared to their older counterparts. So why the sudden shift? One reason is the economy and the scars left behind following the recession. Milestones of adulthood—purchasing a home, tying the knot, having children—are simply not as feasible anymore, hence the delay. In addition to the economic issues, millennials grew up in a truly evolving world where options for anything were endless, in turn paving the avenues for many “adulting” alternatives. Brand strategists and marketers need to consider the fact that this powerful generation was raised in a world of choice—some moved out of mom and dad’s years ago, but became adults based on their own terms, not tradition. This is the largest population to date and some of them just graduated high school. “Brands need to stop waiting for millennials to ‘grow up’ and fall in line with what past generations have done. A lot of them already have; it just looks different than it did in the past. Brands and marketers need to shift and adapt to this reality, instead of waiting for one that won’t come true,” warns Patrick Spenner, a Forbes Contributor.
So what’s a brand strategist to do? For starters, acknowledge their lifestyles and figure out how to “amplify their reality,” writes Spenner. Market the values that drive them, not the ones that deter them: focus on social groups, not life stages. You also need to consider the medium to which you’re trying to reach them. Eighty-five percent of millennials own smartphones (according to Entrepreneur), so naturally your most aggressive marketing strategy should come from a mobile platform. Optimize your landing pages, improve your loading times, be blunt with your call to action, and then get creative. And finally, you need to be engaging. Ninety-five percent of millennials cite friends as the most trusted source of product information (according to Entrepreneur). Build a customer base of brand evangelists and you’ll see your notoriety skyrocket more than it ever did with a print ad or Facebook post. “The best way to get your message heard among millennials is to have millennials themselves spreading the word,” writes Sujan Patel, Entrepreneur contributor. As a takeaway, consider these as preemptive tactics; even if millennials aren’t part of your target audience right now, they will be soon. Very soon. Adapt now, or forever hold your peace.
RMS is a full-service market research firm located in Syracuse, NY. If you are interested in learning more about our research capabilities, please contact Sandy Baker, our Senior Director of Business Development & Corporate Strategy at SandyB@RMSresults.com or by calling 1-866-567-5422. Visit our website at www.RMSresults.com.