They’re the most tech savvy and digitally engrossed generation in the history of the world, and marketing to them the same way you would their parents is a surefire way to gut your ROI and render your efforts fruitless. Millennials, or Generation Y, are the generation born after 1980. They’re quickly becoming the most important demographic from a marketing perspective, particularly when it comes to the Web, where they’ve been the biggest game in town for years. However, these young consumers, with their high levels of disposable income, require a new approach if you expect them to buy into your marketing and, ultimately, your products or services. The following rules sum up three of the most important aspects of that new approach, and will provide you with a guide for how to engage this incredibly picky and demanding new type of consumer.
Rule One: Give Them What They Want
Gen Y consumers shop in a very different manner than consumers of their parents’ and grandparents’ generations. Long gone are the days in which marketers could easily tell consumers what they wanted, or depend on a certain level of consumer apathy or ignorance to cover holes in their campaigns, products, or service offerings. Millennials live on the Web, and they have it available at their fingertips essentially twenty four hours a day. They are expert researchers, and they don’t need to be told what they want, because they already know exactly what they want. If a millennial is considering your product or service, they aren’t doing it passively. They’re doing it actively – researching, comparing alternatives, seeking out reviews, and price shopping. If you aren’t providing them with exactly the information they’re looking for, in exactly the format they want it, they’re simply going to go somewhere else to find it, or bypass you altogether and send their dollars to a competitor.
So what does this mean for marketers? First, it means you need to know where to engage Millennials. There are a number of online marketing methods that simply don’t connect with Gen Y. Email marketing, for instance, is very effective on their parents, but will not catch the attention of the average Millennial. Social media is their go-to, and that is where you need to be, but social media doesn’t just mean Facebook or Twitter. The landscape changes rapidly, and you need to be on a constant lookout to ensure you’re delivering your message to this generation where they want to receive it, not just where it is most convenient or most cost effective for you. You also need to make sure that the message you send to them is polished. It’s absolutely incredible how quickly young consumers will write off a company based on seemingly shallow criteria like a slow website or an unpolished social media presence. This generation has grown up with the Web, and if your web presence doesn’t cut it, you will lose them, plain and simple.
Rule Two: Give It to Them When They Want It
Millennials entire lives are built around speed. They are less accustomed to waiting – and maybe less capable of it – than any other generation preceding them. This generation grew up in an essentially entirely digital world, and they are used to things being fast. Many of them have never had to mail a letter and wait weeks for a response. Many have never had to dig through a card catalogue at a library, or wait for a book or video to be returned, because they’ve always had all the media and information they’ve needed right at their fingertips. As a marketer, it is absolutely essential that you recognize and understand this need. Don’t mistake it for a pure need for speed, because it isn’t. Instead, it’s more about the need to have access to what they want, exactly when they want it.
From a marketing perspective, this means you need to make sure that your Gen Y targets have fast, easy access to the information they’re seeking about your product or service, but without pushing it on them in a way, place, or time, that they aren’t interested in receiving it. For instance, if a Millennial visits your website looking for information on your product or service, and finds that the page loading time is not to their satisfaction, they will absolutely not stick around and put up with it. They will not hesitate to leave your website and head to someone else’s to find the information they seek, and you don’t control the message on someone else’s website. Likewise, if they decide they want to browse reviews of what you have to offer, they had better be able to find them quickly and easily, or they’re going to become skeptical at best, and potentially weary or downright mistrusting at worst. If you invade their space by pushing advertising on them when or where they don’t want to see it, for instance by clogging a page with ads or delaying a video they want to watch, it could negatively impact your brand or offering in their eyes.
Rule Three: Give It to Them for Free
Millennials are the freebie generation, at least online. In the brick and mortar world, they’re just as willing to part with their money as older generations are, but online, it’s a totally different story. This generation doesn’t just want to be provided with solid value for free, they expect it. If your marketing efforts don’t deliver on this expectation, you’re going to be at a significant disadvantage. Millennials remember getting America Online disks in their parents’ mailboxes as kids advertising “free internet”. They’ve spent their lives having totally free access to almost any information they could possibly dream of through the Web. They are the generation that balks at things like pay walls on media websites, and happily download music and video without concern. Many older people consider Gen Y to have an air of entitlement about them, and when it comes to media consumption, it couldn’t be truer.
You simply can’t just sell to Millennials the way you did to their parents. They’ve become so good at blocking out unwanted marketing and advertising noise, both figuratively and literally, that pushing this type of content at them will not work. Instead, you have to ensure that you are always giving something to them when selling to them. Your product can not be the only part of the equation providing value. Your marketing has to as well, and if it doesn’t, it will go ignored. There are plenty of ways to provide that value in your marketing at the zero price point Gen Y expects. Free information, a free place to converse online, free draws and giveaways, or even just giving them the freedom to have a meaningful say about the development of your products are all proven ways to engage Millennials in such a way that will ensure they feel like they’re being compensated properly for allowing you to market to them.
There was once a time when marketers could come up with a catchy slogan or jingle, or a slick spokesman or symbol, and push their products directly into the homes of consumers at their own discretion through television, radio, and print. Those methods still work on older generations like Generation X, and the Baby Boomers – albeit at a constantly decreasing level of effectiveness. Generation Y, on the other hand, balks at those types of tactics, to the point that in some cases the old ways can actually damage a brand or sink a marketing campaign. The key for marketers is to recognize and acknowledge the fact that Millennials are an entirely new type of media and information consumer, unlike any to ever come before, and that they are the first generation to demand a high level of control over the marketing messages they allow themselves to be exposed to. By following the three rules outlined here – giving them exactly what they want, when they want it, and providing value at no cost – marketers can ensure that their messages don’t get lost in the sea of advertising clutter that swarms Millennial consumers on a daily basis.