There’s a major demographic shift happening in the United States—one that marketers can’t afford to ignore: The millennial generation is an estimated 86 million strong in the U.S., and these 18- to 33-year-olds are already making an impact on the social, political, and financial scenes. Accounting for nearly $1.3 trillion dollars annually in consumer spending, according to the Boston Consulting Group, millennials are demanding the attention of marketers across multiple industries.
Norty Cohen, founder and CEO of digital ad firm Moosylvania, says the challenge for marketers is to bust past the myths about millennials and make true—potentially lucrative—connections. “Every part of a brand’s personality needs to come across as being genuine, real, and connected to the same things that millennials are interested in,” Cohen explains. He urges marketers not to make assumptions and to stay away from traditional messaging—which he describes as campaigns that only disseminate messages and don’t tap into the zeitgeist of young consumers. “This is a generation that grew up digitally savvy with a constant slew of messages thrown at them. So there’s no singular message that’s going to connect with them as they multitask on multiple screens.”
Cohen says although there’s no cookie-cutter method for marketing to millennials, dispelling some common myths will produce campaigns that resonate with this generation. Here, the digital strategist dispels four millennial marketing myths.
Myth: Millennials purchase on a whim.
The facts: There’s no doubt this generation of young adults is dealing with some hard financial realities. Millennials are more burdened by financial hardships than the two previous generations—with higher levels of student loan debt, perpetually inflated unemployment rates, and lower levels of personal wealth. With so much financial pressure, millennials tend to research before they purchase. “Marketers can tap into this group with the ability to give them simple pleasures that don’t cost much,” Cohen says. “Look at brands like Starbucks, Gap, Walmart, and even Kroger—all named top brands by this generation. Marketers at those retailers are finding ways to connect and tap into what money millennials do have.”
Myth: Millennials are easy to win over.
The facts: A recent study on millennials by the Pew Research Center reports this generation is less trusting than older Americans—with just 19% saying that most people can be trusted, compared to 31% of Gen Xers and 40% of Baby Boomers. That more cautious attitude can also extend to brands. Cohen says marketers can break down the barriers through real connections. “They know when they’re being marketed to and when they’re being friended,” Cohen says. “Millennials will often stay loyal to brands that aren’t necessarily the most famous but brands that connect to them. If you’re able to cross the friendship line, the brand affinity is tremendous.”
Myth: Millennials are independent buyers.
The facts: Cohen says 85% of millennials in a Moosylvania nationwide survey of 1,000 people reported that they live with someone else—including parents, roommates, and partners. “There’s always a social community around them, and there’s always a digital community around them. So as they follow brands and choose to purchase, the thing for marketers to understand is that millennials are constantly seeking reassurance.” He says that with 57% reporting that they tell friends about their purchases, and 44% admitting they like to show off what they’ve bought, marketers should know that millennials remain digitally connected for support as they shop. “[This gives marketers] some overriding connectivity opportunities,” Cohen says. “Connect with millennials across multiple touch points. Friend them.” He says marketers can build relationships through social media, blogs, how-to guides, and provide fun insights into a brand.
Myth: All millennials are counterculture, irreverent hipsters.
The facts: In Moosylvania’s nationwide survey in January, millennials were asked to cite their top three favorite brands—without being given any choices. The group mentioned 620 brands, with Nike, Sony, Apple, and Samsung surfacing as the top four. Cohen says 620 brand mentions from 1,000 participants shows just how diversified this generations is. “Millennials really don’t have any one label,” Cohen explains. He says that marketers need to stay authentic, research the competition, spread content on multiple channels, and invest in content-driven advertising. “They’re incredibly renaissance people who like a lot of different things.”