Members of the millennial generation get a bad rap – but let’s give credit where credit is due. Millennials know their technology. They have a healthy distrust of people who try to tell them what to do. They cherish honesty and authenticity. And they’re savvy enough to know when they’re being advertised to – and how they can avoid it. In my book, these are all virtues, yet they also come with some challenges: frankly, these traits make millennials a tough group to catch through traditional marketing efforts.
The implication, of course, is that traditional marketing efforts just aren’t enough. If you want to reach millennials, you’ve got to shift your paradigm. Let me suggest a few ways of doing exactly that.
1. You Can't Sell
Millennials have grown up in an age of advertising. They’ve come of age against a backdrop of non-stop TV ads and internet banners. They’ve grown immune to traditional ads – but more than that, they’ve grown deeply distrustful of them. They’ve lived through enough economic upheaval to be turned off by even the whiff of corporate greed, which means the tried-and-true Madison Avenue messaging just doesn’t pass muster. If you want to reach millennials, content marketing – with its emphasis on thought leadership and authenticity – is the way to go. Break out of your hard sell mindset!
2. You Must Be Social
It’s almost a cliché to talk about how younger folks love social media, but as with most clichés, it’s rooted in truth. Look at the demographics for any social network you like – Twitter, Snapchat, Facebook, whatever – and you’ll find that millennials represent the largest contingency. Social networks represent the preferred way for millennial consumers to get their news, but also their sense of social connection. Your marketing must reflect this.
3. You Should Get to the Point
When we talk about millennials, we’re talking about a demographic that is used to pulling out their smartphones and finding the answer to their question more or less instantly. Millennials don’t necessarily have the patience to read a 2,000-word blog post just to find the answer to a simple question.
As you write content, make it actionable, make it practical, and make it direct. Don’t beat around the bush. Convey value from the outset.
4. You Should Have Values
More than any previous generation, millennials value social responsibility. They want companies to stand for something beyond their own bottom line. Whether it’s the environment or some other issue of social justice, make sure your company reflects something that millennials will find meaningful—and make sure your marketing reflects it.
5. You Should Target
For all the generalizing I’ve done here today, it’s worth noting that not all millennials are created equal, and in fact this demographic reflects a wide range of interests and passions. Making general appeals to millennial consumers may not work as well as targeting more narrow niches, according to interests, activities and values.
One thing is for certain: you can’t ignore millennials. And since you also can’t reach them through traditional means, that makes a change in thinking non-negotiable.