Millennials, defined as those born between 1980 and 2000, have now surpassed Baby Boomers as the largest segment of U.S. consumers. As of 2016, they number approximately 80 million according to the Pew Research Center — although other estimates reach as high as 92 million.
Sometimes referred to as the “Cynical Generation,” they have lived through the longest war in U.S. history, as well as one of the most enduring economic recessions — both direct results of establishment decisions gone awry. As the first generation of digital natives, they have had access to more information than any previous group, and often delay life-altering decisions — such as getting a first apartment or marriage.
All of these dynamics create unique challenges for marketers, who want to win over this elusive group of consumers — and for good reason: according to one study conducted by Standard & Poor’s, millennials could be responsible for $1.4 trillion in annual spending by 2020, representing 30 percent of total domestic retail sales. How can marketers effectively win over this group as they mature, establish career paths, and set up households? Here are five suggestions:
- A YouTube presence is critical. According to UBS Evidence Lab and as reported in eMarketer, 54 percent of Millennials check YouTube at least once per day. YouTube is now the second largest search engine and reaches more adults 18-34 than any cable television network. Perhaps more remarkable is the fact that 29 percent are reported to sit through ads until they are able to skip them. What does this portend for marketers wishing to reach this coveted group? That any YouTube strategy must include both great content and paid advertising. However, a word about that content …
- Teach, don’t preach. Millennials are looking for information, not necessarily pitches. Good content that gives sound information and is not only self-serving is one way to build goodwill and nurture trust. So, for example, a company selling paint could give tutorials on how to properly paint an interior room, including how to select a color, what tools are needed, how to prep for success, etc., without beating the superiority of their brand to death.
- Use content to create authority and permanence. One of the benefits of creating a body of good, educational content is that it creates category authority. A marketer essentially becomes the go-to source for all things within a given topic. While this may require a longer view and sales cycle, ultimately it can foster deeper brand loyalty. Furthermore, once the investment in such content is made, it can work for many years to come with little to no additional expense.
- Recognize one size does not fit all. A recent article in The Wall Street Journal described how many millennials did not grow up amid a do-it-yourself culture and needed basic tutorials to advance their goals as they bought their first furniture, set up a house, etc. On the other hand, another group was keen on hiring experts to perform services for them. The point is that marketers should conduct research to identify the different segments that exist among this group that might be interested in their offerings, and then create different bodies of content and messaging to appeal to them.
- Use DRTV as a catalyst. Direct response television gives marketers more time to tell a story, with commercial lengths typically ranging from 60 seconds to an entire half-hour. That’s why it is an ideal tool for building awareness and driving millennials online to discover more about a brand. Our agency conducted a study recently in which we saw an increase ranging from 100 percent to more than 400 percent in website activity within the first few minutes of a DRTV ad running. Clearly, consumers are seeing something that catches their eye then using their smartphones to learn more. According to Nielsen, millennials spend 66 percent of their weekly video time on traditional TV.
Arguably, no generation in recent memory has been subjected to more stereotypes than millennials, who have become weary of being condescended to. Reaching this group is really about understanding its needs, creating relevancy that will overcome skepticism, and always treating them with respect.
There is a reason the Golden Rule has endured and why marketers should heed it — within the wisdom of its words therein lies gold.