From the report  American Millennials 

Millennials are not baby boomers. Baby boomers grew up answering the question “Where were you when John Lennon was killed?” Millennials answer the question of where they were on 9/11. Boomers grew up with racial tension and cultural divide, millennials are the most ethnically diverse generation, have advocated gay marriage and helped elect the first african-american president. Boomers went to the library, millennials tap their google apps. Boomers signed years book’s, millennials post a picture to Facebook.

Millennials prefer texting to talking. They join companies for their values not just their cultures. They too graduate from high school, college, get married and have children- but it doesn’t have to be in that order. Millennials want to co-create, and are more happy to share and endorse if they participate in the process. They are constantly connected, multi-tasking, like to try new things, are skilled and educated and have been told that nothing is impossible.

The emergence of the internet and advances in digital and mobile technology has radically changed the way in which marketers communicate to their target audiences. And note- they are no longer marketing to them, but with them. Millennials expect companies to seek their opinion and value them more if they can participate in the development of a product or service.


The participation economy:

Not surprisingly millennials use social media to communicate. Research shows that millennials use technology to connect with a greater number of people, more frequently and in real time. Not only are they using social media platforms more than non millennials, but 46 % reported having more 200 or more Facebook friends compared to 19 % of non millennials. That means that if your brand is able to engage one of these millennials, that message can be spread exponentially at a fast speed pace.

Millennials also report that they gain a psychological boost when engaging with friends online. They feel like they are missing out if they aren't part of the social chatter going on and feel validated when the community likes their posts, especially when they are the first to review a product/service or give advice to friends on a purchase decision. 47% agree that their lives feel richer when they’re connected to more people through social media connections.

For a brand facing a challenge, the best thing can be to reach out. Retailers are struggling to sell products due to the lack of knowledge of what consumers really want. An example of a company that leveraged social media to tap into their consumers needs is Krush, a social shopping site. They offered a brand platform where they can go directly to their key site users with exclusive sneakpeeks or previews of upcoming lines in order to determine their success rate when they reach stores. TopShop did a similar effort in collaboration with Google, allowing users to pre-order clothes from the London Fashion Week show directly online in real time and thus being able to determine the needs and demand for different items and colors.

Consumers are encouraged not to hold back on their critiques but instead be vocal about their opinions, setting the trends rather than following them.

At the end of preveiew season, the krush brands receive a detailed report with customer feedback including demographic preferences and which locations. Using consumers this way is not only a means of effective crowdsourcing, but reduces risk.

 

Key Findings:

  • engage early adopters

  • listen and participate to your brand advocates

  • make them look good

  • incorporate fun and adventure into the brand experience

  • keep their loyalty by not giving a reason to cheat on you

Gender differences:

According to the bureau of Labor Statistics, women earn about 60% of masters degrees, about half of all law and medical degrees, and 42 % of MBAs. They hold 51.4 % of all managerial and professional jobs, up from 26.1% in 1980. Nearly ⅓ of America’s physicians are women, as are 45% of associates in law firms. However, pay equity is a key concern. Even fifty years after the Equity Pay Act, woman are paid on average 77 cents for every dollar paid to men. Only 2.6% of companies in the Fortune 500 are led by a female CEO. 15.2% of board seats are occupied by women. And at the country’s top 100 law firms, only 17% of equity partners are women. However, despite these differing statistics, women hold more power in the household than ever before and will continue to do so as more millennials come of age, so they are an important demographic to target. Marriage is no longer a man and wife household, but a merger in which both partners contribute to the financials and household tasks. Pew Research Center found that women make decisions in more areas than the man in 43% of all couples. Men make more of the decisions in only 26% of all couples, while couples that split the decision making responsibilities comprise the remaining 31 %. What does this mean for marketers? Finding moms through social media and not viewing gender distinctions as set in stone. The NFL is targeting women, and men are having herbal wraps at their local day spa. It makes sense to move away from either/ or in favor of “and”. Spending wise women outo men for apparel and men outdo women for automotive.

 

Key take-findings:

  • multi generational marketing proves vital for brand success with millennials. Ignoring the varying purchase behavior between millennials and non-millennials can be damaging. Understanding this generation is vital as they are very different than other generations.

  • Non-millennials are more likely to stereotype Millennials. There is a high degree of consistency in how non-millennials view millennials as opposed to millennials perceptions of themselves. Using powerful stereotypes to target millennials can be damaging and lead to the investment of resources into campaigns that are ineffective and embarrassing that don’t reach this fragmented generation.
  • Millennials do not have to be enigmas. Spend time with and live like a millennial to understand this generation. Learning by doing is the best way to fully comprehend their needs and lifestyles.

  • Although fragmented, they do have several specific behaviors and attitudes in common. These characteristics are the ones they are likely to bring with them into their next life-stage.

  • Millennials are not alike. They vary dramatically. Like all populations, they can be segmented into unique and specific subgroups. Brands should seek to optimize their relationship with their key targets.


Enable technology and make it easy for them:

Millennials are all about instant gratification, valuing speed, ease, efficiency and convenience in all transactions. Information is only a Google click away.

Finding from the Mobile Moment of Truth (Sprint, Barkley and Brand Amplitude) note that millennials are more likely to use their phones while shopping to assist in their purchasing decisions.

Due to the fact that brick and mortar stores are losing customers to cheaper online versions, a retailers mobile website can actually be more important than their website. The fact that consumers are already in-store should be leveraged by guiding them to you preferred mobile platform, where you satisfy their desire to get product reviews from your own community (as opposed to amazon). Research actually shows that consumers are more likely to convert in store if they use a native app or website. QR codes or mobile URL and other visual cues should be displayed to navigate them to your mobile app/website.

However, to get to this mobile moment of truth it is important to tap popular apps like shopkick which offers consumers rewards and points for entering a store and making a purchase, and allow for the use of digital wallets, which permits shoppers to pay with mobile devices. They also want the in-store experience to be something different, as it is viewed as an experience more than something that has to be done. They want stores to provide easy, free or discounted delivery and the option for brick and mortar stores to pick up or return their online purchases.

The digital and physical shopping experience should be seamlessly integrated with one another and technology has the ability to facilitate and enhance the real world experience in ways that pleasantly surprize and satisfy the customer.

The decision making process among Millennials may be slower than with other generations, because they want to make sure they are making the right decision. Research from SymphonyIRI reports that Millennials are 262% more likely than the average shopper to be influenced by smart-phone apps, 247% more likely to be influenced by blogs or social networking sites, and 216% more likely to be influenced by in-store touch screen displays.

A variety of high tech solutions are now available to create this experience, specifically augmented reality is one that should be leveraged both in-store and online. Nike, Sephora, TopShop and Apple are examples of retailers that have been able to create rich, technologically enhanced experiences that drive customers back.

Key findings:

  • Millennials are early adopters of technology. They are 2.5 times more likely to try out new technology and will gladly upgrade if given an incentive to do so.

  • Millennials influence the households purchase decisions, a spending amount of about $500 billion per year. Figure out how millennials are conveying your brand message to adults and help these conversations along.

  • Millennials are more likely yo showroom while shopping, using price comparison apps while in store to find better deals. Have a mobile strategy that gets these consumers to spend more time with your brand so that you win the “mobile moment of truth”.

According to a study from the University of Michigan, 80-90% of millennials use social media, three out of four have created a profile on a social networking site, and 80% sleep with their cell phones next to them.

Millennials and non-millennials spend about the same amount of time online per week, about 11-20 hours, not including email handling. They also go online for the same things like shopping, weather updates, news updates and navigation directions.

What are they influenced by?

Companies complain that there is no real money in Millennials. Millennials were raised in a suffering economy, a tight job market and have large student loans which they are trying to cope with. They spend their money on different things than previous generations, but they do spend money on things they value.

A millennials power to influence others is boundless. According to Forrester Research from 2011, 75% of 12-17 years olds use social networks to talk about products with friends and make recommendations. But keep in mind that even though they want to engage with brands online, they do not want to be bombarded online. Only 6% want to be friends with brands on social media, and according to research from Buffer, the perfect amount of Facebook posts is only 5-10 posts per week.

In fact, half of respondents in this report noted that they dont think brands should have a social presence at all. This calls for brands to adapt a listening strategy, and be more reactive than proactive. When brands are invited to join the conversation, it is important that they pounce on the opportunity and communicate in a natural and consistent manner. This way the consumer feels special without feeling intruded on. Brands should blend into the background otherwise. Surprising a customer with a tweet, benefit, product or discount is more likely to gain long-term success than just constantly preaching whatever you want to say. They will ignore you.

There are many stories in which people have tweeted that they crave a particular food/product/service and brands have shown up and provided it to them.

In fact, back in 2011 a business man called Peter Shankman was boarding an airplane and tweeted that he would be back just in time to get one of Morton’s juicy steaks, hoping that they would deliver a porterhouse steak to him at his arrival. When he got off the plane, he was greeted with a steak, and surprised and pleased as he was he thanked the brand thoroughly on Twitter. The story was then picked up by the media and generated even more brand awareness and goodwill for Morton beyond the one very satisfied customer.

 

Content strategy:

Content is king, but not all content can kill. Some will be simply to keep the conversation flowing with brand advocates when there is no compelling content to share.

The content 2020 strategy deployed by Coca-Cola suggests a mix of 3 categories:

  • 70% will be low-risk, bread and butter content that supports the brand but can be developed fairly quickly- like responding to social media posts or asking questions on Facebook. This is considered daily conversation.

  • 20% is an expansion of the bread and butter, low-risk content that works.

  • 10% is completely new ideas that likely involve high production costs for video and other compelling content.

 

Some brands have been particularly effective with their use of social media. Old Spice’s engagement campaign in which they created youtube video responses to people’s comments online became a flagship for what is possible when it comes to reshaping an outdated brands image and they garnered huge results in terms of engagement on their social media channels. Coca-Cola also did something similar- they made physical surprise and turned it digitally viral. They introduced “happiness vending machines” that dispensed surprises to unsuspecting students, whose reactions were caught on a hidden camera and spread virally online.

 

New vs. Old models

 

Interaction vs. reaction

 

Interaction marketing has taken the front seat of the older reaction model. Consumers expect brands to interact with them when things go right or wrong. Both are incredibly important for a brand. United Airlines had a very unfortunate incident a few years ago when a musician flying their airline found his Guitar broken in baggage claim. The company refused to pay any damage costs, and after multiple emails the musician uploaded a song to YouTube in which he expressed his grievances with the company. Not surprisingly, the song went viral and did not garner positive  attention towards the company. This is an example of how an unsuccessful customer interaction can result in very damaging media attention.

 

Engaged participants vs. Heavy

 

Companies used to be aware that a certain amount of their customer base were more engaged than others. It would be a challenge determining what caused someone to become heavy users and if the same triggers could be used to turn casual consumers heavy.

Typically 20% of heavy users account for 80% of the profits. Real time interaction today help companies get a better sense of what determines someone to become a heavy user- knowledge that can turn more consumers into heavy and engaged participant in the shortest amount of time.

 

Key findings:

 

  • Millennials spend more time producing and uploading content than non-millennials. Find brand advocates and make them do the work for you!

  • Not everyone wants to be friends with brands. Research on younger millennials found that almost half do not believe brands should have a social presence- which calls for a listening strategy. Engage when invited, but don’t but in when you are not a part of the conversation.

  • They value relationship building. Brands attempt to engage this generation in a one time effort, but long lasting relationships go a long way. Invest in them, and they will invest in you.

  • Millennials are already talking about you. Find out where they are and who is advocating you and leverage their affinity by engaging with these advocates who can later be activated.

  • Well-rounded engagement strategy. Capture interest with thought provoking content. Push this content onto relevant platforms where millennials are voicing their opinions. They should be engaged on several levels through a well defined strategy.

 

Millennials want authentic advertising

They can tell if your brand is being ingenuine. They are heavily influenced by celebrity endorsements, but that doesn’t mean that just anyone should be picked to advocate your brand. Jennifer Aniston for SmartWater and Britney Spears for Pepsi are examples of celebrities that relate to the brand. However, just placing a popular celebrity with a brand can backfire if the celebrity doesn’t actually like the product. An example of this was during the 2014 Oscar’s in which Ellen Degeneres used a Samsung phone to take a world-famous selfie that later became known as “the selfie that broke Twitter”. This was indeed clever product placement, but backfired when the comedian was later photographed using an iPhone.

 

Millennials crave experience and adventure

 

72% of Millennials desire to visit every content in their lifetime compared to others and 75% want to travel abroad as much as possible compared to 52% of non-millennials.

Even when Millennials grow up and have families they hold on to the explorer within. They may not all afford to travel as much as they would like, but they still prefer to explore other cultures, exotic foods, and novel activities that can be enjoyed closer to home.

They want to explore and try new things. A brand can leverage this trait in Millennials by differentiating their offerings. Birchbox is an example of a company testing this fact. They send out boxes with high-end cosmetic samples for just $10 to consumers every month. Customers fill out a profile, answer some questions about skin type, hair color and the types of products they would like to receive. With over 100 000 monthly subscribers it is sure to say that they have been very successful with the Millennial generation and their need for surprise. They integrate fun and adventure into the brand with customized e-commerce delivery models. They also have points in which customers can save money for referring the brand to others, contribute with online reviews or make their own purchases.

 

Disruptive marketing

 

A lot of these sites including Birchbox, ShoeDazzle and BaubleBar, are able to attain success because their disruptive ideas and new ways of thinking and are therefor able to break through the clutter. TOMS shoes and their BOGO model (buy one, give one) have also been succesful with this generation because they are able to tap into the very core characteristics of what defines this generation.

 

Using Humor to Relate

Millennials rank humorous content among the content they would be most likely to share. This is particularly true among the male demographic. In addition to the flux of successful advertising campaigns using humor as the primary message, including the Old Spice commercial, Poo-Pourri and The Dollar Shave Club, the prostate-cancer awareness campaign “Movember” in which men grow their facial hair to show their support for cancer is another example of how the use of humor has achieved the viral effect among Millennials. Gillette piggy backed off of this campaign and created an app that enabled men to upload photos of their beards growing each day. At the end of the month they received a video featuring their facial hair growth process. For every picture uploaded, the shaving company donated $1 dollar to support the cause and the Prostate Cancer Foundation. The pictures were subsequently uploaded to a billboard in Times Square and displayed in rotation. Campaigns like this is a terrific example of building on a social cause, an already established trend and adding a humorous and personalized touch to maximize engagement.

 

MTV conducted a study in 2012 called the “Generation Innovation”, which explored the millennials creative ethos. They found that 72% of Millennials expressed a desire to create things people love. Millennials are the most educated generation, but due to tough competition and a weak economy, they are not able to find work and tend to seek entrepreneurial ideas in order to have an outlet for their creativity and resourcefulness. A company that is able to tap into Millennials need to create and build may be successful in doing so- the efforts can be as simple as just asking them for feedback and future ideas and then listening and implementing according to the input.

Interestingly, the need for adventure, impulsiveness and fun does not diminish with age. Millennial parents actually make a point out of preventing that from happening, and brands that are able to help them maintain their focus by offering different experiences adapted for their new lifestyles are doing well.

 

Key findings:

  • Millennials seek adventure in different ways. From traveling around the world, within the country or simply tasting new foods- they are generally hungry for the unknown and seek anything that is “out of the box”.

  • Even brands with older demographics should start engaging the Millennials. The sooner the established brands start engaging in conversation and dialogue, the better chance they will have at succeeding with them as they age into adulthood.

  • Millennials seek risk as a form of adventure. Despite their lazy rumor, this generation is filled with entrepreneurs and risk-takers. Older generation used to find adventure in the midst of risk. Companies can tap into this notion to increase their appeal.

  • Global travel decreases when Millennials have children, but that still seek adventure and value brands that adapt and facilitate their on-the-go lifestyles.

  • Millennials love a good deal- more than any other previous generation. Due to the economy and large student loans, they need to watch their spending. More than half of Millennials are influenced by shopper loyalty discounts and traditional coupons. In fact, almost half will go out of their way to shop at stores offering rewards programs, and are willing to switch from their favorite brands to those that save them money (according to a report from SymphonyIRI).

  • Millennials need a reason to choose your brand. You need to prove why they should choose your brand over someone else and differentiate.

  • Customer service is important. Brands that show them how much they value their business are finding increasing success. Their loyalty may be difficult to maintain, and this is why brands should make loyalty part of their brand identity.

  • Millennials want to make positive change in the world, and brands that are able to facilitate their positive efforts go far. Amazon recently launched a program called smile which allows shopper to pick a charity in which amazon will donate a percentage of their purchases too when shopping. Incentives like this keep Millennials coming back because it resonated with their aspiration for making an impact on the world. However, remember that the cause must either be relevant to the brand or consumers as Millennials will easily see past your efforts if their choice of cause is irrelevant or not aligned with their business.

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This is the age of the consumer and Millennials expect brands to engage with them. When planning content management, a brand should address and identify the processes, tools and resources required to launch and maintain quality and consistency of the brands message. How are the decisions made and who has the ownership of those decisions? These are important questions to answer.

For any brand, old or new, it is important to start embracing this new generation. Even if they are not part of your core audience at the time being, with time they will eventually transition into your pool of prospective consumer. According to Jeff From from the book Marketing to Millennials, 75% of your funds should be focused on your core consumers of today with strategies adapted for their needs. 20% should be invested on emerging opportunities and the remaining 5% should be saved for opportunities that exist in an unknown market.

Larry Page of Google always plans ahead 10-15 years when making strategic decisions and keeps his focus on what the future will look like and how his company will help shape and adapt to it.

 

Focus on the core of your business, but do not ignore what is next.

 

These recommendations are based on the book Marketing to Millennials by Christie Garton and Jeff Fromm. Their findings are based on a significant report called “American Millennials: deciphering the enigma generation” conducted by a joint staff of experts including Jeff Fromm, Barkley, The Boston Consulting Group (BCG) and Service Management Group.