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Our Take on “Millennial Marketing”

I can’t stand marketing catchphrases. It seems like every couple months, there’s a term that every marketer needs to spew out at a happy hour to make them sound smart. One that I’m about done with is “millennial marketing” – the practicing of attracting consumers born between 1977-2000. Although it’s something to pay attention to (after all, I was born in 1977), I’m worried that it’s being blown out of proportion.

True, brands want to secure lifetime revenue, and it stands to reason that the younger the generation, the longer they’re going to be around. But why change everything for a group that only represents 21% of purchasing decisions?

For example, car companies are completely changing their advertising in an attempt to lure millennials, while the average new car buyer is 51.7 years old. Men aged 65 and older spend more on Apple products than any other age group, but are hardly ever shown in Apple’s advertising. And in almost every category, consumers aged 45-54 out-earn – and therefore out-spend – every other group in almost every category, from food to housing.

On the other hand, many millennials have massive student debt, far less disposable income than their parents because they’re just starting their families and careers, so focusing on this generation to be the cash cow for your brand is not a wise strategy. Instead of putting all your marketing eggs in one Gen-Y basket, there needs to be a greater focus on cross-generational marketing. It’s actually far simpler than trying to dig into and understand a generation that many of us are probably not.

It’s quite simple to attract and keep consumers from any age group. Just be sure you’re doing these things well:

  1. Do your homework. Only target by age if your product/service is age-specific. If you’re doing your market segmentation and target persona development well, age will only matter when it needs to, just like geography, income, tech savvy, etc.
  2. Think mobile. Not just in web design, but in content, visuals and ways to engage. Caption videos so viewers can follow them without using their speakers. Keep text short and to-the-point, expecting people to skim instead of read.
  3. Lead with emotion, and justify with logic. Every consumer mind works the same way, no matter how old. We like to think that we carefully evaluate every feature of a product or service before we by, and that the evaluation determines our decision, but the truth is we’ve already made up our mind by the time we’re looking at features. This article does a great job of explaining emotion-based buying.
  4. Empower them socially. Millennials are actually some of the lowest in participation on Facebook, while boomers are, well, booming. That said, the approach is the same. Arm your audience with content that they want to share, no matter the platform. Think of the last ad you shared to others; was it funny? Shocking? Make content that entertains, informs or inspires that level.
  5. Be relevant and honest. You only have seconds, so you have to immediately demonstrate that you can solve a need in a way that consumers can believe and trust. In many cases, you don’t have time for text, so you need to be clever in the way you communicate.
    Also, don’t waste time with anything but the truth. The same Internet that has given marketers their incredible reach has also given consumers of every generation the ability to do their homework within moments. Make sure that your claims, testimonials and messaging are genuine.

With the right approach, and knowing your audience beforehand, you can stay ahead of the “millennial marketing” curve, as well as stay on top of every other generation that came before or will come after.


Patrick King

Patrick is the Founder of Imagine and advisor to places on brand strategy and creative. His insights have been published in Inc. Magazine, SmartCEO, Washington Business Journal, The Washington Post, and Chief Marketer, among other publications, and shared at conferences throughout the US. He also has an amazing sock collection.

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