By population, they’re one of the largest generations in America — and a huge audience for brands. However, many companies have struggled with marketing to millennials. 2020 is a fresh start in a new decade — and for businesses, a chance to target millennials more effectively than ever.
Millennials are no longer in college. Definitions vary, but the most popular defines millennials as those born between 1981 and 1996. The youngest millennial is 23 years old, while some of the oldest are nearly in their forties.
While they have lagged in hitting milestones traditionally associated with adulthood — like homeownership — they’re no longer the up-and-comers. Gen Z has taken over that role. Instead, millennials are at a point where they should be either hitting their stride or settling down into their careers.
Millennials are a high-tech, socially minded generation that’s always looking for the next new thing — and they don’t respond well to traditional advertising. It will take some work, but it is very much possible for marketers to capture this generation. Here are seven marketing strategies you can use to target millennials in 2020.
1. Focus on Mobile
Virtually all millennials own smartphones, and they use them to browse the web. You’re more likely to catch millennials with mobile ads than desktop, simply due to how much time they spend on their phones.
Also, one out of every three millennials uses an ad-blocker. Mobile ad-blocking is much more involved than the desktop method and is generally less common. Your ads are more likely to make it to your target audience if you focus on mobile advertising.
2. Build Your Social Media Presence
The vast majority of millennials are on some form of social media.
Social media marketing is a well-developed craft by this point. A good marketing strategy will require a presence that spans multiple platforms, including Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. Familiarity with the powerful ad targeting tools these platforms offer will give you fine-grain control that can be used to target millennials and other generations.
3. Know Your Influencers
The pivot to video was widely seen as a bust — and may have even sunk a few newsroom video programs.
Video content remains king, though — some of the most widely viewed and shared pieces of content are video. Length doesn’t seem to necessarily be a barrier to views, either. Online media like Condé Nast outlet Bon Appétit regularly produces 30-minute videos that rank among the top trending offerings on YouTube. They have been so successful, they’ve even encouraged the publication to try launching its own streaming service.
At the same time, marketing studies show attention spans are decreasing — so what’s going on?
Younger generations may be better at identifying and tuning out advertisements. At the same time, they also respond better to big, authentic personalities. This means video content can be effective in targeting millennials.
It also means influencers — homegrown content creators with sway over huge audiences — will be extremely important to the future of advertising.
Pushes by big players in online marketing — like Amazon’s new influencer program — suggest influencers will become a standard fixture of online marketing in the next decade. If companies want to stay ahead of the curve, they’ll start building contacts with people who are relevant to their audience.
4. Provide Authenticity
“Millennials are discerning not disloyal,” says Jeff Fromm, an expert in millennial marketing, four-time published author and a partner at Barkley.
“The myth around them being disloyal is slowing brands down,” he says. “Millennials are processing a lot of content and information on brands then they trade up for strong brands and trade down for weak brands. They are the ultimate day traders.”
Millennials want authenticity from brands and prefer down-to-earth marketing. Marketing that provides a sense of family or community or displays a commitment to broader society will do better with millennials than more cynical options.
Bold claims and flashy marketing-speak probably won’t earn you as many points with millennials as it does with other generations.
5. Let Them Support a Cause
In everything they do, millennials want to feel like they’re helping build a better world. This holds true across most patterns of millennial behavior — they want to make a difference at work, at home and when they buy things.
“In a world where competitive differences are often very small one way brands compete to win the hearts and wallets of Millennials is to have a true Brand Purpose,” says Fromm. “Look at Seventh Generation winning in a lower interest category — detergent. They are beating a strong brand called Tide and charging an extra $1 per bottle.”
“Seventh Generation has roughly similar cleaning power and without writing a check to an environmental charity the consumer can stand for a brand they believe in,” Fromm says. “The key part is the purpose must be real and the brand needs to metaphorically use purpose as a VERB which means they take brand action to support their purpose before they try to get credit through advertising and communications.”
Restaurants and major companies like Starbucks were quick to ban plastic straws partly because they realized it was an opportunity to demonstrate a commitment to sustainability and environmental stewardship. These are big positives for younger consumers, including millennials.
Provide an opportunity that will let millennials feel like they’re changing the world for the better, and they’ll be more likely to support your brand.
6. Use Context-Based Advertising
Millennials don’t respond well to traditional advertising — in fact, 84% say they don’t like advertising at all. Instead, they respond best to nontraditional ads.
Influencer marketing is one way you can target millennials. There are also other methods. For example, content marketing is a popular internet advertising strategy that works well across demographics, but should also be effective at targeting millennials.
Other strategies, like context-based advertising, allow your content to blend in with organically shared content on social media feeds.
7. Employ CRMs to Reach Your Audience
Marketing campaigns are only as good as the data they’re built on. This is why customer relationship management (CRM) has proven so successful. CRM software helps marketers collect, organize and act on audience and demographic data.
The result is pinpoint accuracy and greater success in your targeting, upselling and customer retention strategies. How does this technology apply to marketing to millennials? Here’s what you should know:
- Around 62% of social media users search for news and product information on social sites, and 60% actively use these channels to communicate with brands. Social websites are a huge opportunity to collect user “handles” and tailor your messages specifically to these internet-savvy, motivated buyers.
- Social channels plus CRMs can help improve your customer service and turn it into a selling point. Customers want to see their favorite brands active online, whether they’re troubleshooting user problems or chiming in with pithy thoughts or funny photos. CRMs can help organize user impressions and tease out actionable trends, such as repeated product problems or requests for new services.
- CRM systems help brands triangulate user behavior and build conclusions about their lifestyles. For instance, your CRM could help you better understand which devices your audience uses most often and then improve your responsiveness, technology, services and features accordingly.
These kinds of real-time insights into user locations, characteristics and browsing behavior are essential for creating frictionless commerce. Brands can use the tools and channels at their disposal to seamlessly merge products into consumers’ lifestyles. A CRM helps assemble the data that makes that possible.
Marketing to Millennials in 2020
Millennials respond best to authentic, content-heavy marketing and to appeals from influencers and personalities they already listen to. Mobile and online advertising will be key for marketers who want to capture the attention of millennials.
Marketing to millennials can also act as a form of future-proofing for brands. The generation has a lot in common with Gen Z, who you will begin to target more often as they graduate from college and enter the workforce. The two generations share many of the same habits, especially regarding internet use and opinions about advertising.
Connect with them on their terms, and you should have a successful campaign.