Market Research has been fascinated by millennials for the last few years. This now still young and progressively more economically powerful generation has been a puzzle for marketers and market researchers alike. Millennials have pushed a radical shift in how marketing is done and thought about, and heralded in a more personal approach: aiming to be more honest and realistic, ultimately less disingenuous, than past forms of marketing. From the power of influencers to the casual tone of copy, the current marketing environment is defined by what companies think millennials want. So if you’re not trying to understand how your brand is coming across to millennials, we can guarantee you should be doing so: they’ll be shaping the market in the next few years. Want to keep this in mind for later?
Don’t discredit the hype
The generation is coming of age professionally, starting to climb in their careers and “settling down”. According to Pew Research, in the US, millennials are the largest generation in the labor force. This means that your next consumer target is most probably born between 1981 and 1996, and you’ll want to impress them if you want to stay in the market: the projection is that they will make up 75% of the workforce. Their marked indifference to advertising has made it very hard for brands to reach them through traditional marketing channels. For example, a recent study made by McCarthy Group finds that 84% of millennials don’t like advertising while Dan Schawbel points out that only 1% are moved by it. The age of social media means the expectations are high, and your audience will want valuable and factual information to accompany and construct your brand image. If there is a desire or condition for communication between companies and their target millennial, it is that you bring authenticity to the conversation.
There have also been marked differences in work and how the workplace is understood. The start-up world and a new understanding of life vs work balance have made flexible work times and digital nomadism common among younger workers. These types of work contracts or agreements are often flexible, freelance or internet (and not location) based, and mean the worker isn’t limited to an office. As Deloitte accurately predicted in 2013: Flexibility, Autonomy, Transparency and Sustainability are some of the main ideals of the generation. On top of that, according to a recent article by them, the workplace is set to change in the near future too, with “41% of companies having fully implemented or made significant progress in adopting cognitive and AI technology within their workforce”, automatisation will further cull our environments of traditional work positions and the labour force is set to continue radically shifting, making it hard to predict what future career progression could look like.
Ignite Visibility refers to millennials as thinking in a de-centralised way, and fitting awkwardly with the centralised approach of corporate structures. Bazaarvoice expresses a similar idea in highlighting that trust is transmitted through conversations with people, rather than brands, and that 84% of millennials make consumption choices according to user-generated content. It’s important to understand how influential the digital environment that millennials are engaged in is to their opinions, and this digital literacy determines the type of trends that older generations will follow. Their access to a multitude of points of view, even anonymous ones, makes them critical and ambitious of things they will be consuming, and according to Sarah Landrum, a digital marketing specialist and frequent contributor to Forbes, “their intuitive understanding of Web 2.0 and social media makes them more informed (“data-driven”) consumers”.
The conjunction of a society that is quickly evolving with the growth of a generation that’s seen this evolution start to unfold in their youth, means millennials will shape the way your company will be doing business in the next few years. You should already have said goodbye to mass marketing, and you should be trying to understand how value is being created and monetised in the generation that inherited a dysfunctional economy.
We’ve noticed people are also asking about older generations: “What about middle-aged, non-computer savvy people? They’re still powerful consumers and have a strong influence in the market.”
Interestingly, multiple research institutes understand millennials as being ambassadors to older generations (Pew Research, Sway Group), who do not have the know-how or familiarity to be comfortable with new tech. In fact, early tech adopters tend to be within the millennial age range, and they later popularise and bring new products or services to older generations, teaching them and clarifying the different uses they might have. Although over 45s are less accessible digitally and by mobile, they are not only still present but they are also in large part very much influenced and guided by the younger generation in their adoption of mobile and digital services and products.
A digital information environment that’s increasingly fragmented and personalised means the stakes are higher in getting your brand message across. What questions should you be asking yourself and your target, especially when your target is “young and hip”? Here’s some principles we’ve gathered that could help you out:
- Trying to be cool will make you uncool. Don’t try to apply formulaic versions of what you think is cool for “fellow kids”. Sincerity and openness go a long way, rather than obfuscating a message by trying to infuse it with your potentially skewed view of what’s trending.
- Tone deafness. According to The Millennial Impact Report, coming of age seeing the collapse of an economy means they are socially aware and conscious of corporate and social responsibilities, and will have a cynical approach to your brand if it comes across as capitalising on their activism.
- Mobile technology opens new opportunities for research. We obviously have already caught up with this, and you should too. You can easily gather insights on the go, with short and sweet surveys aimed at profiled targets.
- There is a place for qualitative research. Using open-ended questions to ask for personal opinions or experiences has been frowned on as not having scalability and being too time-consuming in the past. But with algorithms that will find patterns and analyse the unstructured data for you, it can give you insights you hadn’t had available before. Younger generations are actually said to be more interactive with brands, so they respond positively to personal approaches regarding their opinion. They want to be heard.
- Social Media is all about community. Do you understand the communities formed around your product or industry, and have you identified the key players within it? You should be identifying the voices and influences that are defining your sector, and engaging with them directly.
A lot is being said about millennials, but if there is one thing that can be generalised is that a stereotyped and impersonal approach won’t get you far. Get to know your target consumer, do your research, and re-adapt should you need to.
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