Don’t be fooled by stereotypes when marketing to millennials

Lazy. Apathetic. Entitled. 

If you believe a simple Google search, these are just a few of the not-so-complimentary words which describe this generation.   Most, if not all, of these stereotypes have been debunked, especially as it relates to their role in today’s workplace.

I can’t say that I ever gave much credence to these stereotypes.  That’s probable because I am fortunate enough to work with some bright, energetic and extremely hard-working members of the millennial generation.

However, thanks to some exciting new client relationships—clients who count millennials as their most important audience—I have spent considerable recent time considering how to market to this generation.  So what have I learned?

There are more than 80 million millennials in America, so they represent about a fourth of our nation’s population.  With over $200 billion in annual buying power, they are clearly a force to be reckoned with.

Despite all the stereotypes we have all come to know so well, every bit of valid research I have come across reveals that millennials possess an inherent desire to do good, are socially conscious and extremely savvy when it comes to filtering information.  I recommend that every marketer pay close attention to The Millennial Impact, a five-year (and counting) study of 75,000 millennials.  While it focuses more on how this generation gets behind social, civic and charitable causes, it provides a wealth of information for marketers as it relates to how millennials think and, ultimately behave.

I’d argue that there has never been a generation that has called for such a dramatic shift in the way in which we market.  Certainly, some of the world’s most progressive brands have realized this and are capitalizing on it.  But many, many more have not, and they are losing the opportunity to truly engage with what is about to become our nation’s largest and most economically powerful generation.

If you find yourself relying on traditional marketing tactics and are experiencing diminishing return, don’t discount how you are connecting with millennials.  Consider:

  • The “Old” Way Simply Doesn’t Work: A national study of 1,300 millennials revealed that only 1 percent (yes, only 1 percent!) said that a compelling advertisement would make them trust a brand more.
  • They Trust Their Peers More They Trust Us: Harris Interactive reports that nearly 70 percent of millennials are at least somewhat likely to make a purchase after seeing a friend’s post.
  • They Want to Feel Good About Their Purchase: According to Elite Daily, 75 percent say that it’s either fairly or very important that a company gives back to society instead of just making a profit.
  • Authenticity is Key: 74 percent say they would lose trust in a brand if their messaging feels fake.

These preferences in no way describe a lazy, apathetic or entitled generation.  In fact, I believe it suggests quite the contrary. It suggests a group that refuses to adhere to the status quo. A group who actively seeks out information—from people they trust—rather than simply accepting what a brand tells them. A group that is concerned about a lot more than just the product you are selling them.

Keeping these things in mind is a great way to start when thinking about marketing to millennials.  In an upcoming blog post, I’ll share some of my favorite real-life examples of marketing to this generation.

Author: Mike Trainor
Mike Trainor is our Vice President.

Leave a Reply