Marketing is a science that attempts to understand what the customer needs, but that’s not to say marketers can cubbyhole each generation with a universal approach. Let’s consider Generation X’s historical context, for example. Gen X refers to people born in the 60s and 70s, a generation characterized by the Cold War, the fall of the Berlin Wall, economic hardship and the AIDS epidemic. Their archetype is considered to be nihilistic and cynical, but as they have transitioned from childhood to adulthood, they have developed a growing sense of responsibility.
Contrary to Gen X, Generation Y or “Millennials,” refers to individuals born in the 80s and 90s. This demographic generally experienced a nurtured and privileged childhood, and as a result, they have a tendency to delay the transition from childhood to early adulthood. To divulge the millennial population further, it’s important to note that nearly 43 percent are non-white and an estimated 25 percent speak another language at home. In addition to being the most racially and ethnically diverse generation, they have adopted liberal, confident, optimistic and self-expressive dispositions. Initiated by a modern economy that emphasizes knowledge and technology, Millennials are on track to become the most educated generation in American history. So, the takeaway from this brief history lesson is that millennials are immune to traditional advertising strategy because of external factors such as upbringing, socialization and development.
In the April 2016 population estimate, the U.S. Census Bureau announced that the millennial generation surpassed the Baby Boomer population, with an estimated 75.4 million people. From a marketing perspective, Gen Y is a lucrative population to monetize from, ushering in nearly $200 billion in annual buying power (by 2017).
Using the historical framework described above, we have compiled a menu of best millennial marketing practices.
1. Optimize for mobile
The millennial archetype reveals that the 18-34 demographic craves instant gratification, validated by the 85 percent of millennials who own smartphones. With information and content accessible to their fingertips, mobile marketing forges a profitable opportunity for targeting millennials. Ensure that all landing pages are mobile friendly, graphics aren’t overly animated and webpages load promptly.
2. Millennials value authentic content
Let’s consider Google’s Zero Moment of Truth (ZMOT) sales funnel to understand consumer purchasing behavior. Although an oversimplification, the ZMOT funnel begins with a stimulus, followed by a zero, first and second moment of truth. Marketers should focus on the zero and second moments of truth – research on the product and experience after a purchase, respectively. What does this mean exactly? Well, 84 percent of millennials acknowledged that user-generated content is influential in deciding what they buy, and 73 percent accredited reading others’ opinions to eventual purchases.
Authentic content warrants transparency between the consumer and brand, so it’s important to offer content that millennials would be proud to share because after all, word-of-mouth remains the most effective organic advertising.
Last year Taco Bell engaged in a notable effort to connect with the millennial generation. The fast-food brand introduced “Millennial Word of the Week” to their office headquarters, a weekly email blast that analyzed Gen Y’s linguistic pattern, including words such as “fleek” and “lit.” Taco Bell has translated their marketing practices of the millennial generation to the brand’s Twitter page, successfully engaging with their niche customer demographic in just 140 characters. As a result, Taco Bell has fostered a durable consumer-brand relationship.
3. Focus on rich advertising
At Katana, we recognize the impact of quality content, so we make rich media an integral part of our strategy. In tune with their desire to learn, millennials value thought leadership and information that can enhance daily life. This could be anything from how-to YouTube videos to whitepapers, native advertisements, blogs or social media handles.
Engage with millennials on their own channels, such as Instagram or Facebook. Effective marketing practices to millennials feature consistent content and offers users a branded hashtag to create a sense of community. Since Gen Y led a relatively fortunate upbringing, reward your brand’s followers with promotional codes or links to whitepapers/e-books.
Nearly 60 percent of millennials participate in uploading video or image content to the web. Kat Von D, an upscale cosmetic company, is an exceptional example of a brand that effectively engages with this demographic of consumers on YouTube. Kat Von D’s YouTube page features celebrity cameos, vlogs, tutorials and makeup challenges, racking in anywhere from 90 thousand to two million views per video.
4. Target social groups, not life stages
Long are the antiquated days of a linear path to adulthood, so marketers need to sincerely recognize what the millennial consumer wants. Brands can learn a lot about a consumer by simply analyzing which brands an individual follows on social media, unearthing interests, lifestyle choices and education level. This information can then be manipulated to engage the consumer in a catered purchasing experience.
A marketer’s hardest obstacle to overcome is converting the millennial consumer from just a ‘window shopper’ to an engaged purchaser. This phenomenon, known as fauxsumerism, is attributed to being saddled with student loans and the 2008 economic hiccup. Yet, despite a series of detrimental economic events, Generation Y will spend about $10 trillion in their lifetimes. In summary, your brand’s marketing strategy should granularly segment the millennial generation and push authentic, honest content to relevant social groups.