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Marketing to millennials: What every marketer needs to know

Millennials are an increasingly hot topic with marketers – and for good reason. At 25 percent of the population, millennials hold the key to your brand’s success. If you’re a marketer in today’s age, you can’t afford to overlook them.

Last week, I joined a group of the nation’s most preeminent researchers and marketers for a candid conversation about marketing to millennials. We reviewed surveys, interpreted stats and analyzed case studies in our efforts to understand how millennials are changing the marketing industry.
Who are they?

How do we engage them?

For those who couldn’t be at this year’s Share. Like. Buy. conference, here are the top five takeaways every marketer needs to know.

1. It’s time to rethink the outdated perspective that millennials don’t have any money

With the influence millennials have on older generations, their purchasing power is $1.3 trillion.1 Yes, trillion. It’s true that 36 percent of millennials rely on financial support from their families,2 but there are plenty that are earning their own wage. Of the 80 million millennials in the U.S., 42 percent have an annual household income over $50K, with 11 percent exceeding $100K.3

2. Millennials are turning standard marketing practices on their head

Everything you learned about purchase paths, funnels, and brand value is out. As Jeff Fromm from Futurecast notes, the new definition of brand value is based on a participation economy that places importance on a person’s ability to involve themselves with a brand.

Older generations determine the value of a brand based on the functional and emotional benefits it provides. But millennials also factor in their ability to participate.4 According to Fromm and a panel of millennials, this generation wants to be engaged and interacted with, not communicated or sold to.

3. Customer is a dirty word

This is where the participation economy comes to bear. From product development and marketing strategy to content creation, millennials prefer to be treated as co-creators. Invite them to be a part of what you’re doing. Better yet – ask them what you should be doing, and you’ll have brand ambassadors for life.

Easier said than done? Not so, says Erin Lezvow, Director of Digital Marketing at Wingstop. She shared an impressive example of how Wingstop became the #3 fastest-growing chain in the country. They listened to their best customers, brought back a menu item by their request, and then let those customers announce it to the world through their own social channels.

4. Millennials love to share, and so should you

In the millennials’ world, sharing is more than a two-way street. It’s an intertwined highway with traffic circles, on-ramps and plenty of opportunities to connect. Just as they do with their extensive friend networks, millennials are happy to engage with a brand socially – so long as the brand engages back and provides share-worthy content that is useful or meaningful to their network. So what does a millennial deem sharable?

  • Coupons
  • Photos
  • Things they helped create
  • Unique products and experiences
  • Brands that are socially responsible
  • Humorous or emotional videos

5. Millennials support social causes

According to Christie Garton, co-author of Marketing to Millennials, this generation is drawn to socially responsible brands and is supporting them in droves. You don’t need to look much further than TOMS to see this practice in action, but in case you like stats: Garton’s survey found that 85 percent of millennials make purchasing decisions to align themselves with socially responsible brands.5 In fact, a majority of millennials are willing to pay more for products that support a social cause.6 Sort of gives you a new perspective on the “selfie” generation.

Get to know them

There are a lot of misconceptions about millennials and there’s a lot to learn in order to understand them. While reading articles and digging deep into data is helpful, my best suggestion is to get to know them. The next time you find yourself in a room with a millennial, reach out and ask them what they think. They’ll be more than happy to share.