Even as I write this article, millennials are rapidly securing their place as the most populous age group in the population and the workforce. I’m talking here, of course, about the enormous group of Americans who were born between roughly 1980 and the early 2000s. It’s difficult to read very much in today’s media without some mention of this demographic. If it’s not some comment about the stereotypes of that generation, then it’s going to be a discussion of how irrelevant my generation (I’m a baby boomer) has become to marketing and media trends. But in case we’ve left any gray area here, no less authoritative of a source than the Pew Research Center has made it perfectly clear here: Millennials have now passed Baby Boomers as the largest living generation in the US. Their numbers now exceed 75 million, narrowly surpassing my generation. As a side note, Generation X-ers are catching up as well, and are expected to overtake Boomers, our ranks already beginning to dwindle, by 2028.
A Force To Be Reckoned With
Regardless of what generation you were born in, love ‘em or hate ‘em, the business world can’t discount millennials. Employers are faced with the matter of how to attract millennial workers. The world of marketing is grasping to learn how to sell to millennials. This means it’s time to learn how they think, what motivates them, and how to reach them.
Needless to say, there isn’t as simple of an answer as a profile of the “millennial mindset”, any more than we could say the same of any age group or other demographic. Generational divisions are applied from the outside, “after the fact”, so to speak, in an attempt to classify and understand cultural trends. There’s no clear boundary between the generations, and it would seem silly to talk about who the “first millennial” was, or the last.
Nonetheless, as marketers, it’s important for us to understand the traits that differentiate millennials from other generations. An assessment of the habits, culture, and attitudes that are common to this generation will help us learn how to effectively market to them, and will be essential for business who hope to thrive or even survive in the coming decades. Let’s look at some of the key elements of the modus operandi of this generation.
They’re tech-savvy, in a way that no previous generation has been
Almost all members of Generation X, as well as many Baby Boomers, are what could be called “computer literate”. But with millennials, we need to take that a step further. Most of the members of this generation can’t remember a time when today’s hyper-connectivity wasn’t there. In their world view, the internet was always only a hand’s-reach away, and with it, access to, well, all the information that’s ever been known to mankind. They live in digital space, and interact with their peers there as well. If you don’t focus your efforts on online marketing, you’ll be missing the mark. Any funds and time spent on print marketing towards millennials will almost certainly be wasted.
They don’t make decisions in isolation
This is a sharp contrast from their predecessors in the Boomers and Gen X-ers. A recent study by the IBM Institute for Business Value revealed that more than half of millennials rely on input from their peers when they make decisions, including purchasing decisions. What you might call the inverse of this is also true. In addition to shopping online and reading reviews before purchasing, they also tend to share their impressions after they make a purchase. To marketers, this means that a handful of well-placed “likes” and “+1’s” will do a lot to help you earn credibility with members of this generation. It also means that if you do a good job at winning a satisfied customer, you can expect them to spread the word about your products and services in the social networks.
I’m not talking about their nature, nor their personality type here. Rather, that comment refers to what we see millennials responding to in social media. Generally speaking, they’re “digital natives”, so you can expect to reach them via the socials and through blogging, which we talk about an awful lot here on our own blog. But that doesn’t mean that you can simply put information out on Facebook or Twitter and expect the networks to do all the work of marketing for you. It’s crucial to understand what types of posts will actually produce the effects you’re looking for.
Quite simply, a review of posts that “go viral” shows a common thread: they’re emotionally charged. It doesn’t need to be a particular emotion, and could actually be any of the following: positive, negative, or surprised. But the key here is this: if your blog posts reach their emotions, chances are that they’ll feel obliged to share it.
Keep it concise
Again, we don’t want to fall into the trap of stereotyping, but millennials are known to be an impatient bunch. Most don’t want to get bogged down reading articles that appear too long or take too much time to wade through. Strive to distill your message down to a neat, concise package. Folks from my generation used to call it the “Reader’s Digest” version. My millennial son has asked me on occasion to give him the “TL;DR” version of an explanation on a topic (when he doesn’t have the time for one of my characteristically long-winded answers). Short and sweet is the way to go. Use bullet points and lists to provide “bite-sized” chunks of easily digestible information.
In summary, if you’re already engaged in online marketing efforts, you’re on the right track. If not, it’s time to establish your presence in social media and develop a program to reach the members of the millennial generation, who live there. Take the time and put in the effort to understand what they respond to, so that you can build the level of trust and credibility that it will take to succeed in a millennial-dominated marketplace.