Make Way for the Millennials
Step aside, Baby Boomers. There’s a new influential generation in town; the millennials. Generation Y or the ‘Me Generation’- those born between 1980 and 1994, are the subject of much research recently. This age group is the largest generation alive (currently 101 million) and have been accused of having an unwarranted sense of entitlement, giving them the nickname the ‘babied boom’.
Joel Stein’s cover story in Time Magazine, “Millennials: The Me Me Me Generation” attacks millennials with statistics like the millennial rate of narcissistic personality disorder reaching nearly three times higher than the generation 65 or older. Similarly, career advice expert Penelope Trunk chastises Gen Y in her column ‘5 Things You Don’t Know About Gen-Y’ for being ‘consumed with their image.’
I feel like I’m reading a lot of ‘kids these days…’ articles lately. Being part of the ‘ME ME ME’ generation myself, I’ve been shocked by this gross generalisation. I mean, yes, I am concerned with my image but I’m not snapping ‘selfies’ on Instagram everyday, as Stein claims, and neither are my friends. My twenties have been all about ‘ME ME ME’ like every other human being because it’s that part of the journey where you’re figuring out who you are, where your passions lie and what you need to do to compete and ultimately succeed.
This generation is unique for its diversity, education, tech choices, digital behaviour, global mindedness and altruism. Yet the focus lately is on none of these things. As marketers, our perspective should be slightly different, rather than selfish status seekers, I see coveted consumers.
Brands want and seek the millennial approval because we have the power to influence and make or break a new product. Gen Y spends significant time online resulting early adoption of emerging technologies and trend-setting. They are the target audience for many products, providing invaluable insight into your consumers. More importantly, they are starting to enter their peak spending years and represent rising spenders in the market. This generation engages with brands, channels and service models in new ways limited only by the rate of technological advancement and innovation.
…So, how do you market to millennials?
Here’s the deal. Millennials are a new breed. They are confident, connected, entrepreneurial and really, really, positive. They’re restless, ready to change the world, ready to be the next David Karp, founder of Tumblr, or Pete Cashmore. Clearly, companies need to understand and embrace the characteristics and values this of this generation if they are to create relevant strategies.
Rule number one is to ‘keep it real.’ Millennials don’t respond to a brand message that doesn’t act like a real, human conversation. Whether it’s online or TV, creating a real dialogue will enforce an emotional connection that leads to loyalty. Millennials have a love/hate relationship with marketing. Blanket messages are not acceptable here but ads tailored to them can increase brand affinity. They are a generation accustomed to choices and options. Millennials are very aware of their marketing power and influence. They demand customisation and instantaneous feedback.
Rule number two, ‘make it enjoyable!’ The millennial currency of experience has been played upon by numerous brands. It’s the future of marketing. For this generation, who lives and breathes a digital and sharing culture, kudos is won on how you’re seen to be spending your time rather than the things you own – as it may have been for the generation before. For many of today’s privileged western youth, #yolo is a life mantra, and having fun is the goal. For brands, creating fun interactions with the physical world is key to communicate.
Perhaps surprisingly, being fun isn’t the only thing on our millennials’ mind. Rule number 3 is, ‘be meaningful.’ When I ask a millennial fresh out of school what they want to do I normally here something like, “I want to do something matters and makes a difference.” Corporate social responsibility isn’t just talk for them. They volunteer extensively, care deeply and seek brands that feel the same. A shared passion for a cause can foster a strong personal relationship between a brand and its target consumer in an authentic and relevant way. Therefore demonstrating altruism should be considered as a loyalty strategy for engaging millennials.
Rule number four, ‘Honesty is key.’ Millennials demand fairness and transparency. As consumers they feel comfortable asserting their power with most claiming that if a company is ‘unfair’ with them, they’ll figure out a way to make things ‘fair.’ Their technological capabilities means Gen Y is more than able to research their options and circulate bad reviews. While some characterise millennials as suspicious or cynical of old school linear marketing, Nick Shore, head of research for MTV who’s currently conducting a study on the behaviour patterns of Gen Y, suggests they’re just better at seeing through them. “We shoot a beam of content to the audience, and they take it apart like light though a prism…millennials are super-deconstructive of any kind of media messaging.”
So, while studies and experts can call millennials self centered and arrogant, marketers should not over look them. Millennial consumers can often lead the way for brands who want to gain popularity and failing to recognise their unique mindset would be a precarious position for many brands to put themselves in.
By Anastasia Shephard, Consultant