By Jen Bulotti – President, Stryker-Munley Group Sacramento

1980 was a good year. Most of our team at Stryker-Munley Group was either entering into or in high school (with a couple of exceptions ;-). That aside, 1980 was the beginning of a new generation that would soon force us to change our ways — in ways unlike any previous generation.

As a marketer targeting millennials, an employer who works with millennials, and the parent of two millennials, I felt it was my abject duty to explain what this generation is about, what motivates them, and most importantly, what makes them great!

First, who are we talking about?

Your typical millennial…

  • Grew up in an electronics-filled and increasingly online and socially networked world;
  • Is skeptical when it comes to buying products and services. They are more likely to listen to their friends and the people around them rather than be affected by marketing or public relations material (gasp!!!);
  • Is more inclined to buy products from a company that gives back to a charity/cause (pay attention here);
  • Is more educated but less involved in politics, and more focused on materialistic values;
  • Represents the largest generation in U.S. history (in other words, they are a massive market);
  • Turns to brands that have a high convenience and low cost;
  • Prefers online brands when making a purchase; and
  • Is willing to spend money on compelling brands that are associated with fitness and wellness.

According to the U.S. Chamber Foundation and other organizations diving into the data, there are a few more things that make millennials quite different than prior generations.

  • They do not marry as young as their parents did, and they prefer access to goods and services over ownership of them. Furthermore, millennials have more access to, more information from, and more reliance on technology than any other generation before them.
  • Today’s millennial has an uncanny talent to multitask — unlike any of their preceding generations. Their brains have literally been trained through technology and other elements driven by their environment and parents (think three sports, music classes, ballet and tutors), to shift quickly, and in shorter amounts of time. Related to this is that they have short attention span — especially when it comes to marketing messages.
  • They are extremely self-expressive, again most likely due to ubiquitous social media and online outlets that they consume. They have a multi-channel opportunity (and propensity) to dynamically gather and process info, and share their thoughts, fears, emotions — even the taco they had for lunch.
  • Millennials are hyper-connected to tech, but still consume most of their news from television. But TV for millennials is just as likely to be a laptop as phone.
  • Millennials are also more financially dependent on their parents, but they score higher on placement and IQ tests. Maybe mom WAS right?
  • They are entrepreneurial, but also have a hard time staying engaged in a job or project that is long-term.

Why Do We Care?

According to the U.S. Chamber, reports on millennials’ annual purchasing power ranges widely between $125 billion and $890 billion. A more consistent estimate is $200 billion of direct purchasing power and $500 billion of indirect spending. With millennials’ peak buying power still decades away, marketers would do well to establish relationships with this consumer force.

What Does This Mean for Marketers?
Millennials have created a challenge for marketers. They believe they are smart enough to see through traditional marketing and advertising techniques. Instead, we need to focus intently on the methods and ways millennials share information, influence each other, and make purchasing decisions. If we want to reach millennials, we need to convince them that our brands are worth their time and their money.

Here are a few quick tips:

  1. Go Social or Go Home
    Millennials consume and share information on social media and digital platforms. Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter, and to a lesser extent now, Facebook (too many parents use it J). The real upside? Millennials are more likely to share their brand choices across social media, becoming brand ambassadors, to a certain extent (until they are on to the next thing).
  2. If It’s Not on My Phone, It Doesn’t Exist
    They are the mobile-first generation: millennials engage with brands on mobile rather than on any other device. Mobile marketing needs to be the forefront of a brand’s outreach. Millennials want online experiences that are engaging, and that they can immediately share with friends and to social networks. If your website isn’t mobile-friendly, it’s not likely a millennial will spend more than two seconds on it. (Also, Google will down-rank you.)
  3. Communication (via Text) is Key
    Don’t be surprised if a millennial misses your email (which may be loaded on their phone), but gets your text. Text is by far the preferred, truncated form of communication. Text campaigns seem to work. Which means, fewer words…
  4. It Doesn’t End at 5 p.m.
    Millennials do not restrict their communications and engagements within their workday, so branding and marketing needs to be 24/7, with short snippets such as a :30 video, gif, infographic, emoji, bitmoji, or something explained in a visual.
  5. They Fall in Love Fast, and Fall Out of Love Faster
    Unlike any other generation, millennials quickly open up to and adopt new brands and make them their own—particularly if that brand has meaning or social purpose. They are deep brand loyalists, but are also very quick to drop a trending product, brand, service, etc. when something new comes along. They are easily influenced by trusted peer inputs (most likely due to the barrage of content they are served and consume around the clock). So, once you are trending on social media, it is critical to follow and nurture these communities because they will share, share, share.Listen very carefully to me. Millennials move fast into new technologies and leave old technologies (sorry Facebook and MySpace), in their wake. Do not count on trending long with this market segment—you must continue to innovate and adapt.
  6. Gender Non-Specific
    The true millennial does not feel traditional gender-specific responsibilities apply anymore. You will see a striking equal balance of young millennials-male and female-at the local grocery store, home raising their children, or going to work.
  7. The Brand with the Best Personality Wins
    Millennials don’t care about your logo, they care about brands that are already like them or ones that they want to resemble. Millennials tend to reflect who they are and self-express through these brands. As marketers, we need to focus on creating and maintaining a brand personality that is relevant and intriguing to millennials, and shows how users uniquely interact with the brand. Effective marketing that targets millennials doesn’t focus solely on convincing them to make a purchase, it shows how this potential purchase brings value to their lives.
  8. Loyalty, Loyalty, Loyalty
    Here’s a hint: If you don’t know, that’s a line from a song. And you’re probably not a millennial 😉
    In the world of a millennial, word-of-mouth is everything because they are so influenced by their peers, and because they find real users’ opinions significant when deciding whether or not to trust a brand. This is why it is crucial to cultivate user-generated content. Brand ambassadors and influencers promoting your brand community actually do more than traditional marketing. The user-generated content from these influencers helps build loyalty, shows that the company values users’ opinions — and it demonstrates that the brand has personality.

We are exposed to one of the greatest purchasing generations of our time, and even a shallow dive into their motivations and needs can help us brand marketers move the needle with this powerful group.

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