Posted by: Providence Chamber of Commerce | April 3, 2012

Marketing to Millenials

By Mark Daoust

Today’s marketers must be keenly aware of a new breed of consumer born between 1980 and 2000. These “deciders” make up 20 percent of the global population. Variously known as Echo Boomers or Millennials, they’ve grown up in the digital world where cell phones, text messaging and envelope-thin laptops are de rigueur for survival. If you’re marketing anything to them, you better know as much as you can about them, for their buying habits can make the difference between the success and demise of your business.

Millennials are diverse, highly educated and solidly influential shoppers. They are more ethnically, economically, and socially diverse than any previous consuming generation And they spend freely, buying more consumer package goods than baby-boomers.

The ubiquity and power of digital devices make Millennials the spearhead of a new, social sharing marketing cohort. They connect with each other like no other demo ever has, comparing, advising, praising and yes, bad mouthing products and services in increasingly public forums. Loyalties are begun “on the street” with these young consumers. Forget sterile focus groups and other traditional advertising approaches and benchmarks; the new “media metric” is social networks. Fail here and your product’s history.

A Millennial’s brand loyalty is forged in the crucible of real product trials and word of mouth reviews. Opinions are exponentially leveraged by the force multiplier of Facebook, Yelp,  YouTube, Stumbleupon, Pinterest and dozens of similar sites. Online user-generated feedback in the form of product reviews, personal Q&As and shared experiences trump the brand messaging that goes back to Mad Men days.

With Millennials, you either go authentic or go home, for it’s all about trust and backing up what you say. That means every slogan, every promise, every “stat you cite” better be real and measurable.  To these buyers, you don’t have to be the cheapest, or even the most popular, but you best deliver on the spirit of your promise—or face the Fury of Facebook,  the Punishment of Pinterest or a crushing cascade of negative tweets. And that can happen faster than a 13-year-old can text, “This sucks!”

While product quality and delivering on a promise are important, if you market a product to Millennials, you best have a conscience. A Pew Research survey revealed that 34 percent of Millennials bought a certain product or service because of a company’s social or political values.

When the line between different or competing products begins to blurr, Millennials rely on the opinions of their peers—on company sites as well as social media.  Markets most influenced by the impact of user-generated content include electronics, cars/trucks, hotel stays, travel and insurance. Unlike their parents, Millennials are no longer influenced by brand messages. Understandable, when you consider that this breed of consumer has been awash in more advertising than any generation in the history of consumption.

So how do make human contact with Millennials? First, you must find ways to include yourself in their conversations. To do that, you’ll need to locate today’s ever-fluid media to deliver their message—be it online, in store, or increasingly, via mobile device.  You must also learn the lingo of Millennials, or be shut out as mere “pitchmen.” And you must really listen to what’s being said about you and your products, and be willing to adapt to changing consumer needs. Finally, you must have a social conscience—be  it “green,” animal rights or human rights.

The Millennials are out there and growing. They have money. The media they communicate with and messages they respond to are different (and often smarter) than you might expect.

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