I read so many articles on the coveted “millennial” generation and how to advertise/market/appeal to them when I was brainstorming for this blog that I started to feel like I was reading about a species of animal or tribe in a foreign country. And that’s the problem with a lot of what is written about “us”; the authors aren’t “us”.
I often see articles written by people who are a few decades older than us that claim they’ve “cracked the code” on this millennial generation…I can tell just by reading the first few lines of the article if they really know their target audience. For example, the first suggestion one article made was to “Go Mobile”.
My first thought…well, duh. Sorry, but this article was written just a few weeks ago (in 2015), and if you haven’t been mobile for at least the last few years, you’re behind the times. A lot of people were using their phones to go online in 2009 – I definitely was, and I’m not even close to being the most tech-savvy millennial or individual in general. If I try and find your business on my phone (which I do…like daily) and you’re not there, I’m already on to the next business that is.
I finally read another article where marketing directors actually – gasp – asked a young (millennial) employee how they should market to his generation. His response?
“Stop trying so hard”. And I have to agree.
The thing is, “millennials” are such a diverse group of people that you can’t just market to a broad generation like you might have with Baby Boomers or GenX. Even with those generations, it’s dangerous to lump 70 million plus people together and say one-size-fits-all. You’ve got different genders, ages (18 year olds are vastly different than 34 year olds, so that right there can mess up your marketing plan), races, political affiliations, goals, careers, likes, dislikes, you name it that you have to take into account for who you’re trying to sell to.
My first piece of advice I can give, as a millennial, is (if you’re trying to market to us) to hire millennials who actually are interested in your product/brand and then ask for their input and thoughts on how it would be best marketed. Who knows better how to reach a target audience than someone actually in your target audience? Don’t just discount them because they’ve only been in the workforce for three hours. I can’t tell you how many times I wish I could tell people “that’s not going to work” or “you have it so wrong” when I read about people debating on how to market to “the young people”. Do what you want with what they have to say, but I would highly recommend at least asking.
Another piece of advice I read in articles constantly is “make an online presence”, either through Facebook or Twitter or Instagram. Which is great, but considering a lot of millennials are on these social media sites all the time, it has to be more. You can’t just create a Twitter account, get a couple hundred followers, and tweet once every week or two and call it a day. I’m not going to follow you or be a Facebook friend if there’s nothing there. Doing something different to engage with your consumers will get the millennials to talk about you on their Facebooks or Twitters or Instagrams and that’s the best way to market to young people. The Chive just did a great feature on a Facebook page created by two comedians called “Customer Service” that replies to ridiculous complaints people post on a company’s Facebook page. They’re hilarious, fun to read, and “with the times” – which even if you disagree with or don’t like, at least understand that a huge number of millennials are with the times and love companies that aren’t typical and go outside the box.
Lastly…although I’m sure the Baby Boomer generation would like to distance themselves from us entitled, narcissistic, and disconnected millennials, we’re not really that different in terms of what’s important to us. We’re facing the largest amount of student debt in history, and doing what we were told to do (by many Baby Boomers) – going to college – got us degrees but not necessarily jobs, and if we did get jobs many of them don’t exactly pay enough to justify this massive amount of debt that only grows the longer we can’t pay it off. So before you think that you’re marketing to a generation that will pay any dollar amount to have a product or service they like, think again. Price might not be everything that we look for, but it’s up there.