How to Successfully Market to Millennials: 11 Tips

Published: Jun 17, 2020
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Millennials have been the largest age group in the United States since 2015, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

With over 83 million millennials in the U.S., about every one in four of your customers will be a millennial. On top of that, millennials spend a staggering $600 billion every year.

In short, your business will miss out on a lot of revenue if it doesn’t successfully market to millennials.

But that naturally leads to a question — how exactly does a company market to the millennial demographic?

Like any generation, millennials have a unique combination of experiences and preferences.In this article, you’ll learn how to use those shared experiences to capture the millennial market.

Let’s jump in.

1. Content marketing is a must.

Creating valuable content to market your business is still a strong strategy for reaching millennials.

83% of millennials say that online content is “very useful” when making a purchasing decision.

Before buying your products or services, millennials will consume content from your blog, podcast, or video channel. In a survey of 1,300 millennials, Elite Daily found that 33% rely primarily on blog content to inform their purchasing decisions.

This means that the vast majority of millennials find content relevant for making a purchase, and about one-third rely on a company’s content as their primary influence for buying.

If you plan to reach millennials, one of the best decisions you can make is to create a solid content marketing strategy. Content is your opportunity to demonstrate expertise, add value for your audience, create trust, and raise brand awareness.

2. Avoid using disruptive ads.

It’s no secret that millennials use tools like ad blockers and SponsorBlock. 64% of millennials who use these services stated that they did so because the ads were disruptive and made the site look cluttered.

The popularity of these tools shows how much millennials dislike their online experience being interrupted by traditional advertising. Conversely, it also explains why certain companies are doing so well. For example, one reason Netflix has largely replaced traditional television for millennials is that it has no ads.

When millennials consume content, they find disruptive ads to be annoying and those ads can easily create a bad impression of your brand.

Smart companies know that using these types of ads is counterproductive and that they cannot win the fight against ad blockers.

Instead, marketers are turning to more appropriate solutions, such as native ads. A native ad looks and feels like it belongs on the website it appears on, so it doesn’t disrupt the viewer’s experience, but still gets your message across.

Another strategy to consider is simply creating highly valuable content with minimal advertising. An example is REI’s Safe Haven documentary, which barely mentions REI’s products but still successfully markets its brand.

3. Support a cause that millennials love.

Millennials prefer to shop at companies that support their causes.

In 2015, shoe brand Toms launched a very successful marketing campaign called “One for one.” For every pair of shoes that customers purchased, Toms would donate a pair to someone in need.

Not only do millennials get a pair of awesome shoes, but they also get to support a great cause in the process. Amazingly, Nike spent billions on marketing, but shoe-lovers still preferred Toms.

In short, supporting a cause increases your bottom line.

Companies are becoming increasingly aware of the importance of advocating for social causes. If you look around, you’ll find several examples, such as Airbnb supporting immigration and diversity with the campaign We Accept.

4. Invite millennials to create content.

Millennials enjoy interacting with businesses, and an easy way to make that happen is to invite your audience to generate their own content.

An example is Starbucks’ Instagram hashtag called #redcupcontest. Every December, Starbucks uses seasonal red cups for a limited time. To promote them, the coffee giant created a hashtag where Starbucks fans post professional photos of their red cups.

84% of millennials said that user-generated content has some influence on whether or not they make a purchase.

The truth is that millennials rarely hit the buy button until they get input from others. Test this for yourself by launching a campaign on social media that invites your audience to create their own brand-themed content.

5. Pursue authenticity.

Millennials have a sixth sense that detects disingenuous marketing. They can tell when a company only wants to land a sale and doesn’t actually care for its audience.

43% of millennials reported that authenticity is more important than content. In other words, millennials need to trust your brand, not just receive valuable content from you.

Thousands of businesses are trying to close sales and are fighting for the attention of millennials. Every day, millennials see and ignore hundreds of ads that clearly do not add value to their lives.

To convince millennials to buy your products and services, you must convince them that you’re genuinely interested in listening to them, solving their pain points, and adding value to their lives.

In a word, you need to be authentic.

When marketing efforts attempt to genuinely care about the audience, millennials can sense this and are attracted to your brand.

6. Use social proof.

When marketers are looking for a quick boost in revenue, they commonly turn to social media ads or AdWords. While there’s a time and place for ads, you may want to reconsider if your primary target is millennials.

When asked if they liked advertising, 84% of millennials flatly said, “no.” Conversely, millennials also said that the most credible source for product information is friends.

With a world of information at their fingertips, millennials are one click away from reading reviews about your business on Yelp, Amazon, or Facebook. It takes little to no effort to check out your social media profiles, post a question on a subreddit, or simply text a friend.

To put it simply, millennials want to hear that you’re a good business from anyone but you.

This is why social proof is so important when marketing to millennials. With social proof, customers evangelize your brand for you, creating a powerful influence in purchasing decisions for millennials.

Here are some examples of social proof you can start gathering and using in your marketing efforts:

  • Testimonials from past customers
  • Case studies
  • Certificates & credentials from governing bodies
  • Endorsements from celebrities and influencers
  • Social media shares

7. Ask millennials to collaborate.

Millennials enjoy co-creating products alongside companies. In a Millennial Consumer Report, 42% of millennials reported that they wanted to help businesses develop future products.

An example is Lay’s campaign called “Do Us a Flavor,” where fans were able to submit chip flavor ideas for a shot at a cash prize.

The campaign targeted millennials and hoped to engage the audience through social media. Lay’s was so successful they repeated the campaign for several consecutive years, demonstrating the potential of collaborative marketing strategies.

By giving consumers the power to influence company decisions, millennials engaged with the Lay's brand with enthusiasm. Not only was the marketing campaign entertaining, but it also generated a lot of shares on social media and got people talking.

8. Millennials prefer usage over ownership.

Various studies show that millennials tend to rent products and services instead of owning them. This is partially due to economic reasons beyond their control, but it’s also due to personal preference.

For example, over 12% of millennial renters plan to rent for the rest of their lives. And a study by Edmund shows that millennials are more likely to rent cars instead of buying them when compared to older generations.

Companies are capitalizing on this trend by offering products and services in a rent-to-own package. Rent the Runway is a subscription-based fashion service that lets consumers rent stylish outfits.

Big-name brands like Airbnb and Uber make full use of this rent economy by offering temporary services that would otherwise be very expensive for millennials.

One way your company can successfully reach millennials is by offering your products and services in this fashion. Then highlight their low price in marketing campaigns.

9. Make your buyer’s journey a delightful experience.

The buyer’s journey is more than a means to an end for millennials. In fact, millennials can enjoy the experience of shopping and browsing as much as making a purchase.

About 40% of millennials make wish lists of items they want to purchase on platforms like Pinterest, Steam, and Amazon. However, they don’t necessarily buy all of these items. Simply exploring products and curating them on a list is a pleasant activity.

This is likely a hobby you can relate to. Half the fun of buying a dream home is exploring various houses. Or have you gone to a thrift shop to enjoy finding a good purchase? Millennials are creating a similar experience for themselves when shopping at your store.

You can attract more millennials by crafting an enjoyable shopping experience for them. There are plenty of ways to make your buyer’s journey fun. Here are a few ideas to start with:

  • Offer samples at brick-and-mortar stores
  • Use gamification to make your website fun to click through
  • Post high-quality photos of your products

10. Develop a social media presence.

Social media is where millennials live in the digital world. 90.4% of millennials use social media, with the next highest generation being Gen X at 77.5%.

On top of that, the same study found that 73% of marketers believe social media marketing is somewhat or very effective for their businesses.

Brands are making full use of social media to connect with their millennial audiences, such as Taco Bell on Twitter and Nike on Instagram, both of which have millions of followers.

On social media, millennials catch up with friends and family, read the news, and consume content in their downtime. It’s the perfect place to add value to their lives and regularly remind them of your brand.

With a little strategizing, you can launch social media campaigns that raise brand awareness, generate buzz, and get more eyes on your company. Some businesses also use social media as a help desk to answer questions, interact with customers, and post content from their websites.

Social media is a great way to stay on your audience’s radar, make announcements, and funnel traffic to your website. In the past, creating great posts necessitated great design prowess and experience. However, it's easier than ever to create eye-catching visuals for social media thanks to apps like Instasize, which offers both a free and paid version with additional features.

11. Practice transparency.

Publicly sharing sensitive information about your company may seem counterproductive, but it means a lot to millennials.

Transparency used to be optional, but it’s becoming increasingly necessary when marketing to millennials. Practicing transparency builds trust with millennials, and helps them view your brand as ethically sound.

For example, it’s now becoming common practice for companies to announce their environment records and green policies. Big names like Volkswagen have even branded themselves as leading the charge in environmentalism.

Of course, there are many other topics that businesses can be transparent about, such as:

  • Data on diversity and inclusion
  • How they source materials for products
  • Revenue
  • Company direction

There are risks to practicing transparency and you shouldn’t carelessly share information. However, even with its risks, practicing transparency is admirable to millennials.

It tells consumers that your company cares more about people than its reputation. Not only does it attract millennial customers, but it’s also good for attracting millennial talent to join your team.

Practicing transparency should be primarily about adding value to others. But, in a roundabout way, it ends up being better for your business in the long run because it builds trust.

The Value of a Strong Millennial Customer Base

Marketing to millennials can be tricky, but it’s worth figuring out. Millennials are the largest generation in the workforce, having surpassed baby boomers.

You can’t afford to neglect this portion of the market. Not only do they control significant spending power, but millennials are very valuable customers. It may be difficult to win them over, but if you can show that your company is authentic, millennials rave about you.

The key is to have consumer-centered marketing strategies. Focus on adding value, being genuine, and supporting a good cause. This gains trust, respect, and tons of social proof, which ultimately turns millennials into buyers and even advocates for your brand.

This article was written by writer Salvatore Lamborn.


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