Marketing to Millennials: Pls… Don’t tell us it’s lit

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Millennials! They’re just like you. 

Or are they?

Make a quick search online for ‘marketing to millennials’ and you’ll be inundated with conceited think-pieces and scaremongering statistics about millennials’ media consumption and what this means for marketers. 

These patronising guides on ‘how to speak to millennials’ do little to practically help brands connect with a millennial audience. In fact, I’d argue that these articles achieve the opposite of their intended purpose – alienating millennial customers rather than endearing them to the brand. 

I should know. As a 90’s baby; I am one.

But, what if you’re a brand looking to connect with customers in this demographic? Or a marketer whose boss has told them to start appealing to a younger audience by marketing to millennials? How do you achieve this?

Start by defining who you mean by millennial

First things first, do you know what you actually mean by millennial? We’re not just any young person you don’t fully understand. 

In fact, the millennial generation (or Gen-Y) spans around a 15-year age bracket. The widely accepted definition of a millennial is anyone born between 1981 and 1996. So, in 2020 us millennials will be aged between 24 and 39.

Within that wide age bracket, you have people at wildly different life stages. 

Some of us will be homeowners, married with kids, established in their jobs. Others may still be living with their parents, waiting to get on the property ladder, looking to make the first step in their career.

One marketing message isn’t going to speak to all those people at once. 

You can’t define your audience solely based on which generation they belong to. You need to consider their background, their education, their socio-economic status, their relationship status and more. 

Knowing your target audience inside and out is key; their likes, their dislikes, where they consume media, how they shop… 

I could go on and on but, really, I’m hoping this isn’t news to you. 

So, as in any marketing strategy, you need to start by really drilling down into who it actually is you want to communicate with. 

Marketing to millennials - young family having dinner

Treat us like real people

Making sweeping generalisations about your audience does them, and you, a disservice. 

‘All millennials are lazy’ ‘all millennials only care about their phones’ ‘all millennials x, y, z…’

Put aside the concept of generations and the stereotypes associated with certain age ranges for a minute and consider the fact that your audience, whoever they are, are real people. 

They’ve got real needs, wants, desires and problems. 

Just like any generation before us or after us, millennials are real people. We think independently from our peers. We respond in different ways to different issues. 

Whenever someone makes a search online, millennial or not, they exhibit a search intent. That intent could be informational, transactional, commercial investigational, location-based or navigational. 

Understanding the intent behind the search engine queries your target audience is making is essential for anyone trying to market via digital platforms. And at this point, who isn’t making the most of digital?

The intent behind your target customer’s search query tells you what their needs are. 

Your job is to be the brand that satisfies your audience’s needs, that solves their problems, that gives them what they want. 

And that should be the case whether you’re marketing to millennials or any other audience. 

Marketing to millennials - people around a table with phones out

Don’t sell to us – connect with us

One place where many millennials often do differ from older generations is our response to traditional marketing and advertising. 

Millennials have grown up surrounded by advertising; on our televisions, on our computers, on our phones, everywhere we turn when we leave the house. 

And, frankly, we’re not falling for it anymore. 

This constant exposure to marketing messaging has left us alert to, and wary of traditional, sales-y techniques. 

So much so that 84% of the millennial generation don’t trust traditional advertising. 

So, if your target audience is in this demographic – and remember, you can’t speak to all us millennials at once – you need to ditch the sales pitch and try something a little more authentic. 

We’re in an age where near enough all the information in the entirety of human history is available to us at the touch of a screen. 

We can find out anything we want in a matter of seconds. Hunting the truth down with nothing more than the phones in our back pockets. 

So, when you try and bombard a millennial with pumped up promises about your product and over-inflated claims about your services, we’re gonna see straight through you. 

marketing to millennials - young women laughing

This is the dawning of the age of authenticity. 

Actually, it’s not dawning, it’s damn well here. 

Those millennials you’re trying to talk to? We just want the truth; honest opinions and real stories that help us to make an informed decision.

But, statistically, we don’t want it from you, we want it from friends, from contemporaries, from experts. 

Don’t believe me? Check the stats: 

  • People in the millennial age bracket are 44% more likely to trust the opinions of experts, who may be strangers, than the claims of advertisements. 
  • And, 84% of millennials say that user-generated content on a company’s website has the power to influence what they buy. 

So, really, it’s time to embrace the power of authentic word of mouth. 

Marketing to millennials - young man in coffee shop on phone

Meet millennials where they are

Part of building an authentic relationship with your customer base is communicating with them in the spaces they already inhabit. 

This is where things like having a killer presence on social media and producing relevant, engaging and informative blog content is essential. 

Part of your in-depth discovery into your target audience – you know, beyond just that you want to talk to ‘the millennials’ – is finding out where they consume content. And, how their use of these platforms influences their purchasing habits. 

There’s power in meeting your customers where they are. For example, when you use social media to engage in conversations with your target customers, rather than to overtly sell to them, you can capitalise on the 38% of millennials who say that brands using social media are more accessible and trustworthy.

Relevant and informative blog content builds your brand authority with customers. Using it as a place to go into more depth around your products and services, providing information around related topics and pulling in other voices to testify to your brand’s superiority helps to boost you in the eyes of your customers. 

And, as us millennials are 247% more likely to be influenced by blogs or social networking sites, there’s no excuse not to be using these platforms to the best of your abilities.

The marketing to millennials master plan

So, what does all this mean for you as you try to construct your magical millennial marketing master plan?

The bottom line here is just, please, try not to patronise us. 

Yes, your target customer may fit into the millennial age bracket. But, that doesn’t make them an alien species. We didn’t come out of the womb holding an iPhone. We don’t speak only in hashtags. 

And shockingly, many of us do in fact remember a time before the internet. 

We’re people just like any other target demographic or target audience. 

And to get us to engage with your brand, you’re going to have to get to know us, understand us and not talk down to us.

So, whatever you do, none of this, please.

About the author...

Alice Cass

Alice Cass

A detail-oriented, aesthetically driven creative copywriter, Alice works to produce content across web, blog and social platforms. She joined Hedgehog in September 2019 after graduating from Falmouth University with a First Class degree in Journalism. Whatever the topic, Alice produces creative, meticulously researched content filled with wit, passion and an ingrained understanding of what makes a good story. When she’s not hard at work producing content, you’ll find Alice dishing out cake to everyone in the Hedgehog office.

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