Marketing to the Millennial Generation

There are about 80 million millennials – those born from 1980 to 2000 – and these consumers are being groomed to replace the aging baby boomers as a significant portion of the consuming public. However, millennials (also called generation Y), do not react the same way as other generations and do not respond to marketing in the same fashion.

If you’re thinking about “how can I create a plan to market to the millennial generation,” then you’re missing the boat. Instead, you need to think about “how can I create a conversation with members of the millennial generation?”

Creating a Conversation with Millennials

This generation is bombarded with messages and advertising and have grown accustom to filtering out the advertising noise. Instead, you must think of ways to engage the individual to help bypass the noise filter.

One of the major filters millennials use to harness the power of a group when making a purchasing decision. Reading reviews (where high volumes of people giving the product 5 stars certainly helps), asking friends for help, and relying on social networks for suggestions are ways millennials make purchase decisions.

Your goal as a marketer with the millennial generation is to create a conversation with the consumer and involve them in the brand. A member of this generation likes to feel ownership and connection with a product or brand and stays loyal to firms they feel a connection with.

How do you start the conversation? First, you need to be involved in the space and areas your consumers are. Your customers frequent Facebook, Twitter, and social news sites. It is crucial to have a presence in those spaces and to engage with people – not a communication out, shouting at a mass audience, but a two way communication providing a mechanism for customers to interact with your staff and by extension, your brand. It is crucial to have people in these roles who have the maturity and personality to become an extension of your brand.

This generation likes collaboration and feeds off of group efforts. Provide a social lab for your company where customers can provide feedback on new products or ideas to improve your firm’s product offering.

The Amplification Effect – Social Interactions

In the past, companies have relied on a 2/7 rules. Basically, the belief is that if you’re happy with a product or service you will tell 2 people about it. If you’re unhappy, you’ll tell 7. With social networks and people being constantly connected, the 2/7 rule is off by multiples – how many times have you complained about something on Facebook? It could potentially be seen by hundreds of people – and if shared by those friends, the experience could receive exposure into the thousands or tens of thousands. In marketing, this is known as the amplification effect and it can affect your brand in positive and negative ways – if you’re not paying attention, the negatives could kill your company.

Customize Your Product Offering

Provide a product that is custom tailored to this generation. Millennials appreciate companies which offered products with options to customize to their needs. For example, some movie studios have begun offering DVDs with digital copies of the movie on them so the customer can download it to their iPhone, laptop, or other device to watch the movie on the go. Restaurants such as In-and-Out Burger and Starbucks have long offered very customizable menus and “secret” combinations for frequent customers.

Make exclusive offers or coupons available to millenials. Members of this generation appreciate a deal and want to feel special as a part of the purchase process. They also want the means to share these benefits with their closest 115 friends.

Communicate Through Different Channels

Text messages are a preferred method of communication versus phone calls or emails – but only if the customer has opted in to hear from you. Marketers must be sure to have opt in and opt out with their communications, a recepient who feels you violated their trust will inform their circle of your errors.

Millennials prefer instant methods of communication and feedback over slower methods such as direct mail or telephone calls. A millennial would prefer to receive an email and click through to a website over receiving a direct mail piece.

The Design Matters

Millennials look at and appreciate designs that have depth – they can think (and enjoy thinking) in multiple dimensions. A flat and simple design works very well for baby boomers and generation X, but gen y customers like depth, colors, and think about design more than previous generations. If your target audience is the millennials, you need to pay attention to your website design and your marketing materials to make sure they have a high quality look and feel.

Loyalty is Different

This generation is loyal to firms for what they can do for them, not for what they have done for them. Loyalty is based on who has the best solution to meet there current needs. As your customers mature, your product offerings should evolve and mature with them. Ikea is an excellent example of a company where the products change and mature to meet the needs of their customers. Where else can you find 50 different designs of basically the same chair? Ikea understands that their customer wants a feeling of individual attention and they frequently change their product line to retain customers.

Marketing to the millennial generation is an exciting challenge. This generation appreciates and uses technology and interacts with a lot of people in their social circle. There is high potential for companies with a high quality product and the ability to connect with this group of consumers.