Marketing To Millennials: How Brands Can Connect With The Most Powerful Consumer Group

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Marketing is a constantly changing beast.

One minute we’re told we should be using one marketing technique, and the next day we’re told that’s old news and we need to be doing something else.

Look at the past century alone: we’ve seen TV commercials, radio, the internet email marketing, and online ads pop up amongst thousands of other techniques that have either stood the test of time or faded into the background.

And, as marketing has moved through these trends and evolutions, there have been certain audiences along the way that have helped push it forward.

The latest? Millennials.

Marketing for millennials

We hear a lot about how millennials are impacting the world, and this is particularly true when it comes to marketing.

When you consider that millennials make up 25% of the US population, and make up 21% of consumer discretionary purchases, they’re a difficult demographic to ignore.

These stats mean they have more than a trillion dollars in direct buying power. They’re also thought to heavily influence older generations, which means you desperately need to know how to market to the selfie generation, or you risk having your marketing efforts fall flat.

Why Do Millennials Hold So Much Marketing Power?

In order to market to millennial users, you first need to understand them.

US Millennials are more engaged with digital technology than any other generation has been before; they are frequent users of social media, and spend increasing amounts of time on mobile devices.

Let’s take a look at some key facts about millennials (take note!):

  • Millennials are currently spending over 25 hours a week online
  • Only 1% of Millennials said a compelling advertisement would make them trust a brand more
  • 43% of Millennials value authenticity over content when consuming news, meaning they need to trust a source before they’ll trust the information being shared
  • Experts believe that the human attention span is shrinking; with so much content just a click away, it’s easy to find something different, fast
  • While scouring the internet for valuable content, Millennials are also likely to share the content they find across social media, increasing its visibility further

With tons more options available to them, and because they place huge value on authenticity, millennials’ enormous impact is changing the face of marketing as we know it.

RIP Traditional Advertising, Hello Marketing For Millennials

It’s no secret that millennials are opposed to traditional forms of advertising and openly reject it. In fact, they typically only respond to content that resonates with them, which means traditional marketing methods are nowhere near as effective as they used to be.

Remember the days when TV commercials were the primary method we used to discover new products?

We don’t even have to go back that far – maybe six or so years to see that. Then Facebook took off, then Twitter, then YouTube, and things just spiralled from there.

Now, millennials are finding their recipes on Pinterest and researching their holidays on blogs. The platforms they’re least likely to be influenced by? Traditional advertising, of course.

Marketing for millennials

Recognizing that their traditional marketing techniques weren’t cutting it anymore, Coca-Cola updated their marketing strategies to adapt to Millennial users. See more examples of how to do this at TINT.

We only have to look at the sheer rise of ad-blocking apps to know that millennials are doing everything they can to not watch ads. Paid streaming sites like Netflix are all the rage, and just go to show that people are actively willing to pay to get rid of ads.

Millennials can smell out highly-polished advertising a mile off, even if it’s tucked away in the depths of their favorite social media platform.

If you’re overtly trying to sell them something, they’ll go running far, far away, and they might even take their 5,000 closest Facebook friends with them.

Why Digital Marketing Works for Millennials

It’s not all bad news, though.

While traditional marketing strategies and media are pretty much out, digital marketing can still work. You just have to adapt your strategies to meet the marketing trends that millennials will be responsive to.

Marketing for millennials

Millennials share their experiences on social media far more than any other generation. 

So, we’ve discussed above that millennials value authenticity more than anything else; they need to trust a brand before they’ll engage with or purchase from it, but it can be difficult to earn their trust.

The best way to do that? Show them that other users trust you already.

Cue user-generated content (UGC).

This personable form of digital marketing isn’t new by any stretch of the imagination, but it taps into the need that millennials have for authentic content.

Marketing for millennials

Loews Hotels used User Generated Content on their website.

Instead of marketing departments conjuring up imaginative campaigns that aim to sell, sell, sell, millennials are looking for real-life stories that they can relate to, and user generated content slides neatly into this category.

How Millennials Use User Generated Content

We’ve spoken again and again about how UGC content is one of the best ways you can gain the trust of new users. In fact, 84% of Millennials say UGC matters when they’re researching a brand or product before purchasing.

Sharing content that’s created by users works as social proof, kind of like a vote of approval.

Think about it: no one would snap a photo of themselves using a product if they hated it, right? Not only that, but sharing content created by your people shows new users you value their input, which builds rapport and deepens the connection.

Marketing for millennials

This UGC post on Instagram generated tonnes of “likes” and interactions.

So how can you market to millennials using UGC? Where do you even start?

  • Online Reviews

Reviews on sites like Yelp, Urban Spoon, and Facebook carry huge weight with millennials.

This is because users trust other users more than they trust brands, which isn’t difficult to get your head around. Of course a brand will say their product or service is the best (after all, they want the sale), but users create a more truthful picture of a brand, focusing on the cons as well as the pros.

Marketing for millennials

Online reviews are so important in millennials’ eyes, so it’s vital to keep up a good quality of service.

  1. Social Media Engagement

More and more millennials are using social media sites to research before they buy instead of hopping onto the brand’s website itself.

Why? Because they know they’ll get a rounder outlook on the product or service.

They’re using sites like Facebook and Pinterest as search engines, and they’re scouring Twitter for nuggets of advice. Not only do they get to see actual, real-life comments from previous users, but they can see how the brand interacts with its customers – vital when a key feature of millennial’s decision-making process is the sharing of values.

Marketing for millennials

Krispy Kreme encouraged their users to engage with them on social media and share their favorite flavor. 

Encourage users to engage with you on social media, and make sure you respond and interact with them when you do. Adding social sharing prompts to your site and implementing both UGC and social media engagement CTAs can help increase both.

These days, social media marketing thrives on transparency – or at least the illusion of it. This gives users the chance to really get to know a brand and what it stands for which, in turn, builds trust, engagement, and loyalty.

How to Connect with Millennials

So now we know that social proof is incredibly important to millennials (and in social media in general), let’s dig into the ways new brands and small businesses can tap into this consumer market without a huge audience or online presence.

  • Stay Relevant

Millennials are interested in what’s happening right now.

You can buy into this interest by providing content that’s relevant and timely. Take advantage of trending topics to connect with more of your audience, and offer your own slant on the latest news.

Marketing for millennials

Dig into the latest trends on Twitter.

Do this by promoting posts on Facebook or Twitter to make sure your relevant content connects with users at peak engagement time.

Use hashtags, too, to jump into conversations that are already happening around the web, and encourage discussion by sharing questions and opening a dialogue.

  1. Tell Real Stories

Millennials really don’t care about your product placement or how glossy your latest print ad is. Instead, they want to see real stories from real people. With most millennials willing to spend a little more on a product they believe in, this is particularly important.

Here, you can use stories from past customers, or share inspiring stories from people who are loosely related to your industry. Remember, the main aim isn’t to sell, it’s to create a connection and build trust, so even if your product has to take a backseat, it’s worth it.  

  1. Always Offer Value

Every piece of content you put out there should focus on offering value to your users. Again, this might mean your product has to take a backseat, but, in the long run, value builds trust, and trust builds a loyal following – an invaluable asset to have in the millennial age.

Marketing for millennials

The core values of millennials and what they place importance on. 

For example, instead of writing a post about six features of your new exercise equipment, write a post about six different exercises users can do to build up their strength. If the post features the equipment, that’s fine, but it shouldn’t be the focus.

Think about what your user wants and needs at every step of the journey. They might be looking for exercises to build strength, so if they come across your post and love the value you’ve provided, they’re likely to dig further into your brand to see what you sell.

Final Thoughts

It’s easy to see the marketing landscape is changing by the day, and millennials have a lot to do with that.

They hold so much purchasing power and have a heavy influence on older generations, so it’d be foolish to ignore them. In fact, for the best results, you want to focus your efforts fully on them, which means creating user-focused content, boosting engagement with you customers, and sharing real-life stories that they can relate to.

Originally published November 08, 2016, updated March 09, 2017Posted in Marketing

2 thoughts on “Marketing To Millennials: How Brands Can Connect With The Most Powerful Consumer Group

  1. great insights! I love how you break down into relevant points and delve deeper into each. Also, the examples provided make so much sense and I find it really applicable to my current practice in marketing to the millennials.


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