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Just get us the Millennials! #Marketing #Fail

December 30, 2014

I can’t count the number of times I’ve sat in meetings with brands large and small and heard the marching orders. “Just get us the millennials”. This mind set is short-sighted and mindless old-school marketing at best! Millennial’s are just one demographic in your potential market and you need to think carefully before you focus entire marketing campaigns on them.

First let’s look at the demographics over the last couple of years:

  • 77 million Millennials (18-36) make up 24% of the US population
  • 23% of Millennials have a Bachelor’s degree or higher, making them the most educated generation (Nielsen)
  • 38% of Millennials are bilingual
  • According to Bloomberg Millennials carry large amounts of personal debt, averaging $45,000
  • 63% don’t use a credit card (Bankrate), they use debit cards instead
  • They’re not buying homes yet, they’re renting or living with parents
  • Only 21% of Millennials are married, as opposed to  42% of Boomers at their age
  • They prefer to live in urban settings with lots to do and see and they’re less interested in the “car culture” of the suburbs
  • Shop locally and prefer hand-made and authenticity to mass production
  • They text instead of using voicemail or email
  • Prefer to spend more on socially responsible companies and say a company’s commitment to the community influences their decision to work there
  • Mobile is the #1 platform of choice and apps like Amazon, Groupon and Shop Kick are top hits
  • They’re social. They check in at retailers, restaurants and they expect brands to respond with authentic voices, not canned responses

This data is based on surveys, but in my experience working with millennials they are a diverse group and generalizations don’t always fit. Simply basing marketing on demographics alone is simplistic and patronizing.Tweet this

Millenials, Gen X, Gen Y Gen Z are all individuals and each is much more diverse and heterogeneous than previous generations. Of course older generations like Boomers have also adopted technology and social media to research before buying and that age group holds 3/4 of the nation’s wealth. In fact, Forrester Research says Boomers outspend younger adults online 2:1 on a per-capita basis. So let’s quit focusing on labels shall we?

Let’s take a more mindful approach to marketing, especially through social media.

Instead of spray and pray marketing, think about who your market really is regardless of age. If you already create buyer personas great, but understand you need many more individual personas than you used to. Understand the specifics of what motivates initial purchases. Today’s buyer researches online before they make a purchase whether they are Millennials or not. Knowing what motivates each persona to buy allows you to custom target your message to people who want to receive it. This makes relevant content and ease of finding it crucial.

Are you prepared to use social media as a communication tool, not just another advertising medium? Think about educating consumers on both the product and the need that it solves rather than simply telling us it’s better, better, better.

Personalized communication through email and social media is a great way to fine tune the messaging. Answer questions. Do some searches to find out where the holes in the knowledge base on line is and fill those holes, then share the answers to common issues freely through social channels to attract buyers.

Do more searches to find people talking about the problem your product solves. Who are they? What do they like to talk about? Who do they talk to and–more importantly–who do they listen to? Where do they hang out online? Create your personas based on this information and they will be more personalized and accurate.

Are you ready to market online?

This may seem a stupid question in this day and age, but you’d be amazed at how many companies are simply not ready.

Is your website responsive and mobile ready? If not, you’d better solve that. No excuses.

Is your social strategy and content aligned with your buyer personas? Those personas and what you’ve learned about the buyers is a goldmine for content creation. Speak TO buyers with content that appeals to exactly what they need. Expand on that to create a sense of community and knowledge sharing that attracts those doing their homework before, during and after a purchase.

Give people someone real to talk to. We respond so much better to a person than a nameless marketing team. Be personal in your approach and create affinity with your customer.

Do you have the ability to reach out to bloggers and influencers who are active and popular on social networks and engage with them to help get the word out about your products? It’s not a good fit for every brand, but there are people out there who carry a lot of weight when they speak about their area of expertise. Get to know them and engage them in real conversations. Help them become evangelists because they genuinely like you and your product.

There is a whole lot more nuance to mindful social marketing, but it’s a helluva lot more effective. Make 2015 the year you put mindful social marketing into practice.

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  1. Pretty good article. If you are right though. If your not mobile nobody can find you now a days. Everything is on the internet. You have to be able to be able to mobile in order for people to find you. Jordan Long http://www.sports-scoop.com/

  2. Amen to this Janet!

    The thing is, many companies and hell, entrepreneurs for that matter, are inherently lazy. They’ll work hard alright, for a while at least, but few do the mental legwork to move into…..consistent effective action. Regularly.

    As a guy who left the millennial set a few years ago – turning 40 in a month – I can say that I do embody many of these traits but drilling down, and asking the right questions and hanging where your market hangs, that’s where the gold is.

    That level of critical thinking is where folks begin to really connect with their audience.

    Excellent post!


  3. We boomers have a lot in common with millennials – and some significant differences. We both grew up doubting older generations and instead sought a path of our own. But we Boomers had inherited the hard working ethics of our parents and grandparents, and that still guides us. The jury is still out on millennials – they are still very young, but we’ll see how they develop. As you say, it’s not helpful to try to judge an entire generation, but in my experience millennials are still searching for a foothold. What will define us, and how will we be remembered? It’s too soon to even contemplate those questions. How will Gen-Y fit into the workplace and begin to exercise its authority? That’s a question that’s being answered every day in the workplace. I don’t think the right question is how will older generations market to millennials, it’s more about how will millennials take their place in the market and shape buying and selling habits. We’re just beginning to see some of those trends emerge.

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