Advertising has evolved at lightning speed over the past decade. Fed up with cold calls, cheap television ads, and billboards, the savviest marketers have moved past what it used to mean to advertise. But what's really driving these shifts and moving the invisible hand of the market?
The millennial generation, larger than baby boomers and three times the size of Generation X, number roughly 77 million, or about one-fourth of the US population. They are leading the charge against the old platforms and setting a new standard for products that companies must follow or be left behind.
However, the standards and tastes of the millennial generation have often proven challenging, even mystifying, to the marketing world as they try to catch up with trends. This tech submerged, independent generation is somewhat of a puzzle, firmly rejecting the means of advertising that have proven effective for decades.
Why the Shakeup?
Millennials view traditional forms of advertising as dishonest. When they make purchasing decisions, they rely on the opinions of their friends and family, their own research, customer reviews, and use every tool at their disposal before making a buying decision. In their minds, traditional advertising is often a desperate plea from a company who isn't concerned about or even aware of their interests, problems or needs. What millennials want more than anything is factual and trustworthy information about the products and services they are interested in, and to feel connected and excited about a company and its offerings.
The New Marketing Landscape
Agile brands who have pivoted and stepped up their games reach the millennial generation using principles of inbound marketing: a radical strategy that establishes a connection with the consumer using educational, targeted content strategically distributed across the social channels millennials use the most (Twitter, Reddit, YouTube, Instagram, etc.).
In the age of online product reviews and near constant online communication with friends, advertising must appear genuine and honest and provide relevant and factual content. Companies that approach millennials with these goals in mind will bond more easily with this valuable demographic.
Because advertising to millennials is almost as complicated as millennials themselves, here are a few things to keep in mind in order to effectively market to them:
Millennials spend the vast majority of their time on the Internet
Rather than watching TV, reading a newspaper, or even going to physical stores to shop, millennials spend their time researching products on social networks. The average millennial spends 18 hours a day immersed and connected through social networks, and browses a wide variety of sites. Time is spent on Facebook, but other sites such as YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, and Reddit are popular with different subsets of millennials. (Not all millennials are created equal! Those on the older end of the spectrum prefer Facebook. Younger millennials gravitate towards Twitter and Instagram.)
Over the course of the day, millennials spend 85% of their time on mobile devices. As work, shopping, and all forms of media become more and more dependent on the web, it's likely current and future generations will follow their lead.
Factual Information plays well to Millennials
When a millennial wants to make any sort of purchasing decision, they don't rely on traditional advertising or the word of the company spokesperson. Whether they talk to a friend, search for online reviews, or conduct deep research on their own, the last source they want to hear from are the people actually selling the product. In their minds, advertising will never have the honesty of a Facebook friend's recommendation or a TripAdvisor rating. Through the strategic use of relevant blog posts and social media, it's possible to create factual and interesting information millennials trust and want to connect with: but above all, any marketing efforts must be factual, genuine, and honest.
Short and sweet is the most effective strategy
Millennials are on the move, spending 85% of their time on mobile devices like laptops and tablets. Most millennials own a smartphone, and when they're connecting with friends or shopping, it's typically on their phones. If an advertisement is lengthy and detailed, or a website is hard to navigate on smaller screens, it will immediately turn away your millennial demographic. Quick sound bites, short snippets of video, memes, and any convenient, efficient way to consume information appeal to millennials and will allow companies to connect with them more effectively.
Customers are the best spokespeople: Company interaction doesn't (and shouldn't) end when a consumer buys a product or service. The good news for companies is that millennials are more likely than any other demographic to share their information. They want to be kept up to date on promotions, news, and other information about product; this is important because millennials spread information by word of mouth, which carries a lot of value.
Once a millennial buys a product, they become a potential spokesperson for your company. They'll talk about what they like and don't like, stay up-to- date on promotions, and share their opinions with their friends and family. Their word carries weight! Unlike other demographics, millennials willingly keep in touch with companies on social media, will talk about products, and help connect their friends to a product; but only if the company and its goods are deemed trustworthy. Keep the lines of communication open with millennials, and stay honest. They will become some of your most valuable marketers.
"Millennials" can be a broad term
What defines a millennial beyond being born somewhere between 1982 and 2004? This is a surprisingly tough question to answer: millennials include a wide variety of personality types, living situations, and fall across a wide age spectrum. Millennials, unlike previous generations, don't necessarily share many common traits beyond their love for technology and their distrust of current forms of advertising.
Millennials include many types, or personas, including hipsters and trendsetters; the workaholics and tech savvies; young parents and travelers, and many more. Because being the term "millennial" can mean just about anything, it's important to know exactly who you're speaking to in your marketing materials and to your target audiences carefully. Figure out how your product or service relates to a specific subset of millennials, why it appeals to them, and how it solves their problems. Custom tailoring and targeting of advertising is more important with millennials than any other generation.
Moving over 1.3 trillion dollars annually (and growing), advertisers have been tasked with attracting Millennials in radical new ways. Honesty and transparency combined with the importance of trustworthy information is the secret sauce advertisers should use to establish connections with this powerful and growing demographic.
About the Author:
Hayden Cooreman, Inbound Lead Solution's official millenial correspondent, is a 15-year-old high school sophomore attending college part-time. He hopes to one day attend the Air Force Academy and study environmental law. With strong opinions on everything from global warming to Kanye's debt, Hayden is as outspoken as he is kind-hearted. Quite possibly born wearing a tie, Hayden believes in putting his best foot forward and leading by example.
According to his current boss and the owner of Inbound Lead Solutions, Nicole Hudson, (who has known Hayden since he was a baby) Hayden will go on to do great things. As long as he remembers his White House bid will have to wait at least another twenty years.
This post originally appeared David Nour's blog at NourGroup.com