People who aren’t in the Millennial generation view us in one of two ways, according to New York Times contributor and Wall Street Executive Steve Rattner: some think we’re lazy, entitled, and narcissistic. Others maintain that we’re open-minded, engaged, and optimistic. Rattner is in the second camp, and he lays out some indisputable truths: we’re more highly educated and less prosperous than our parents. And we’re huge, making up a 1/3 of the workforce. Oh, and we’re worth over a $1 trillion in buying power.
Given these last numbers, it’s no surprise that marketers are continually trying to appeal to the Millennial base. No matter how you feel about us, it’s hard to deny that we’re a key demographic for success – just ask Hillary Clinton, who’s had a harder road to the nomination than anticipated because she’s not resonating with younger voters.
Interacting with Millennials and engaging them with your brand hardly requires a crystal ball. It does, however, require that you look at us through a lens free from stereotyping. Want to garner our business? Here’s what you need to know.
We see the world through rose-colored glasses. We’re also referred to the Optimistic Generation: according to a Gallup poll, 80% of us view our lives in a positive light and think our standard of life is improving. This unbridled idealism is mystifying to other generations, especially given the fact that we shoulder huge student debt loads and have to rely on family more for financial support. I have a couple possible explanations:
We live in a world where fortunes can be made overnight.
In the blink of an eye, Mark Zuckerberg became a billionaire. With an entrepreneurial spirit and a good idea, we believe we can change our futures (and those of others) for the better.
Like Any Other Generation, We Fight The Status Quo.
Born between 1980 and 1993, we spent the most formative years of our lives in a post 9/11 world, complete with a financial crisis. We were in our teenage years and young adulthood when America was attacked on its own soil and went to war. We were looking for our place in the world when the housing market crashed, leading to “The Great Recession.” We were (and arguably still are) confronted by daily images of hate, and choose to try to make the world a better place rather than succumb to it.
We Own Social Media.
Being able to express ourselves and engage with one another through social media has lead us to believe that we can change the lives and minds of others through online discourse.
Marketers need to engage with our endless idealism if they hope for us to interact with their brands. We’re drawn to authenticity and transparency, particularly when it comes to company practices. As victims of the “Too Big To Fail” obfuscation, we like to know that ethics plays a role in your business plan.
Apply It: Let us know where your products come from, or donate a portion of your proceeds to a charity that means something to you. We’re more likely to open our purse strings if we think that our consumerism makes a positive impact on the world around us.
We Know What We Like (And We Like Cat Videos)
Recently, Datascience teamed up with StumbleUpon to figure out what makes Millennials tick. Predictably, they found out that we like causes, but also we enjoy humor and pets, and we never miss an opportunity to self-promote. Social media has made us experts in the humble-brag, and 88% of Millennial males see humor as their best trait. Over half of us own a dog or a cat, which we boast about while sappily referring to them as our “furbabies” (and we’re so #sorrynotsorry).
More importantly, we’re only willing to engage in the things we’re interested in. We prefer our content “a la carte,” and we don’t like things pre-packaged.
Apply It: Focus less on just selling us something, and tell us a story. If your demographic is Millennial males, look no further than Old Spice commercials, which package humor with a continuing story line to engage their target audience: young men who don’t want to spend a lot of money, but want to look (and smell!) good.
Create content that speaks to us. I, for example, have never been a fan of Subaru cars. Maybe it’s because I’m the product of the Motor City, where everyone drives a Chevy or a Ford. Or maybe it’s because I spent my college years in Ann Arbor, where everyone drove (and talked incessantly about) their Subaru. Either way, they’re not my favorite cars. But their commercials always speak to me. Rather than spewing statistics and flashy pictures of stunt driving, Subaru commercials tell a story. I’m particularly drawn to this one, in which a man gives his senior dog a final road trip to complete his bucket list.
In short, appeal to our sensibilities. I don’t like Subarus, but their advertising makes me (almost) want one.
Lastly, we Millennials are always on the go. We use our mobile devices far more than computers for casual use. If your website isn’t responsive to mobile, you’re already behind the curve. Make content easy for us to absorb when we’re out, and you have a shot at earning our business. Take the extra care to engage us with your brand – we’re worth the effort.