What I love about marketing and advertising is the fluidity; the ebb; the flow. Trends constantly change. But some things don’t change. In 1776 economist Adam Smith introduced three axiomatic principles of marketing that still stand: needs, wants and demands.
Whether you design a billboard in a virtual game, oversee a multi-channel advertising campaign, or count on one-off Instagram posts to promote your brand, your success still depends on meeting people’s needs, wants and demands. The needs, wants and demands of millennials are not much different than those of any other demographic, but – if millennials are your target – it’s important you understand where to find them and what they are looking for when selecting a brand or service.
Who are millennials? The U.S. Census Bureau defines them as those born between 1982 to 2000. Gen-Z, meanwhile, came on their heels, being born between 2000-2019. These two groups make up the lion’s share of consumers right now, so it’s essential for CEO’s to connect with them.
Step One: Find Millennials in the Wild
Ninety-five percent of millennials use social media daily, so you need to pick the best social media platforms to market to them. Which social media platform is best?
According to HootSuite, 70 percent of all social media users engage with Facebook, but people use it for a variety of reasons: school and work requirements; family requirements. Many use FB for Oauth purposes – authenticating account logins. But if you’re chasing millennials, you’re barking up the wrong digital tree with FB. Twenty-five percent of Facebook users are ages 13-17; 8 percent are ages 18 – 24. Eighty percent of Facebook’s growth comes from people over 55. In other words, if you want to connect with millennials, Facebook is a no go.
If you are running ads on YouTube, don’t bother. Research shows, the overwhelming majority of millennials use ad-blockers or pay for premium, ad-free versions of YouTube just to avoid ads. Millennials hate watching ads
So, how do millennials socialize? The answer is “TIS”, or the “big three” of social media: Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat. Sixty eight percent of 18-29 year olds use Snapchat, while 64 percent use Instagram and another 40 percent use Twitter. That’s where you will connect with millennials.
Step Two: Give Millennials Brands they can Embrace
Millennials, in general, have low affinity for brands that are “low-quality”, “outdated” or just plan “gross”. Millennials are careful about what they wear, what they buy, and which companies they support because they view these things as extensions of themselves. They like brands they can truly embrace.
For example, the Casper Bed is known to cost less than the traditional bed, but it’s also presented as a sleek, stylish method of getting a good night’s sleep that millennials seem to like.
Soylent protein drinks come in attractive, understated matte bottles wrapped in branding so colorful it helps you forget that inside is simply an amalgamation of healthy mush.
Like Gap (and J. Crew and Old Navy), Uniqlo stores offer inexpensive, “fast” fashion created for urban millennials. But where the older brands have witnessed sliding sales in recent years, Uniqlo is on the rise. Uniqlo is taking a different approach: the Japanese company has erected U.S. storefronts in selected cities, such as San Francisco, Boston and NYC. It isn’t wearing out its welcome.
Step Three: Authenticity is a Must for Millennials
To win over the hearts and minds of Millenials, there must be an authentic connection. Smart companies tap into this by engaging with loyal fans—replying to tweets, posting funny images on social sites, sponsoring local events or offering giveaways. The goal is to appear less corporate and more of a peer.
One way to do this is to take a homegrown approach. Promote authenticity. Leverage authentic reviews from actual users (as opposed to reviews your marketing team creates.) Display these reviews alongside actual people using actual products.
Leveraging influencers – someone who 10,000 or more social media followers – is another key play in connecting with millennials. Yes, influencer marketing can backfire. You run the risk of forfeiting the aforementioned “authenticity” by aligning your brand with an overexposed influencer. But, done correctly, it can deliver a collective jolt that benefits both influencer and brand.
Step Four: Customization is Key
The future of marketing is customization. Every time you log into Netflix or Amazon and see a list of movies, TV shows or merch recommended by algorithms, you’re seeing customized marketing in play. And plenty of other brands have taken note.
If you’re a male, take a quiz on Hawthorne’s website. Your answers determine which personal grooming products Hawthorne will suggest. Women, meanwhile, can visit Prose and find similar customized lifestyle-product suggestions.
Both sites deploy authentic reviews and influencer testimonials, which were mentioned earlier. Both appeal to millennials by promising products that are pure, environmentally-friendly, free of animal cruelty and other factors that resonate with sustainability-minded millennials.
And, equally important, their prices are in-line with the mass-produced products you find at the mall, leaving student-loan millennials asking themselves: Why not buy something created just for me?
Which, end of day, is really the secret of connecting with millennials. Your marketing efforts shouldn’t be about the products, services and apps you’re offering. It should be about meeting the needs, wants and demands of millennials by giving them things that complement the lifestyle and interests. Adam Smith would approve.
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