I was born in the spring of 1990, which makes me a Millennial.
Now, I’ve been keeping up with the news for years, and I’ve heard the furor and the puzzlement that older generations are experiencing now that Millennials are all grown up and joining the workforce.
I’ve heard people gripe and groan a lot about my generation. But I’m not here to combat stereotypes. That’s another blog article for another day. (Or maybe not; the mere thought of getting into an argument on the Internet makes me want to curl up and take a nap.)
No; I’m not going to address the “Millennials are ruining everything/ No they’re not, Boomers are just getting old and grumpy” debate. Instead, I want to talk about something that is going to start seriously impacting businesses all around the world very soon:
Get this: Collectively, the world’s Millennials control $1.3 trillion in disposable money. And as time goes on, that number will only grow.
If having money to spend on things is the way you measure whether someone has entered adulthood, then clearly, Millennials are all grow’d up.
And that means it’s time to stop ignoring them and start convincing them to buy your stuff. There are over 75 million Millennials in the United States alone. A demographic of that size is too big to ignore.
Now, Millennials bear a lot of similarities to past generations, but also some key differences – and understanding these differences will be critical if you want your business to last.
First of all, Millennials are SIGNIFICANTLY more tech-savvy than any generation to have ever come before them in all of history.
We were raised on personal computers. We cut our teeth on the Internet. We didn’t learn typing on a typewriter – we learned it on a PC. And at night, we didn’t listen to the sounds of the wind chimes or the birds – we listened to the sounds of 56K dial-up modems establishing connections. (In case you’ve forgotten: It sounds like this.)
The fact that we grew up with technology as a core feature of our lives means we’re much more likely to readily adopt new technologies as they arise – and we have an easier time learning how to use those new technologies – than older generations. In fact, we love it. We love using new technologies because new technologies make our lives easier. We don’t want to do things the old way because the new way is faster and better.
This also means we prefer to do business with tech-savvy organizations. As an example, most Millennials feel more comfortable using instant messaging, email, or social media than talking on the phone. So if I have a choice between two businesses – one that I have to call on the phone in order to contact a sales rep and one that allows instant messaging with sales reps – which one am I going to go with? That’s right – the one that lets me communicate in the way I feel most comfortable with.
We also form stronger emotional attachments to brands than previous generations did.
That’s according to a BCG Perspectives study about Millennial marketing. Of all Americans aged 18 to 24, HALF say that their choice of a brand says something about their identity and their values.
These people aren’t just looking for the best product on the market. They’re looking for the best product for them.
This is why, if you walk onto a university campus, you’ll see Apple computers LITERALLY EVERYWHERE. (Seriously, if scientists ever develop a self-aware AI like Skynet from the Terminator films, the Rise of the Macs is going to wipe us all out.)
When I was a student, the MacBook was the most coveted laptop there was.
Now, Apple does make good products. Apple laptops are easy to use, offer great battery life, and have awesome built-in software for creative types like moi. But, see, those are the features that Apple built into its laptops. The benefit that Apple sold us all is that buying a Mac makes a statement about who you are.
And Apple knows that’s what we’re looking for. That’s why Apple has worked so hard to inject personality into its brand. Because you can’t form an attachment to a bland, faceless company.
That’s why Apple created Siri with a bunch of built-in jokes. For instance, if you ask Siri for the meaning of life, you’ll get the response “42” – a reference to Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. If you ask Siri to “open the pod bay doors” (a reference to 2001: A Space Odyssey), Siri will reply with HAL’s famous quote: “I’m sorry, Dave, I’m afraid I can’t do that.”
(Which may or may not be an omen and warning to ensure we don’t accidentally create Skynet. After all, Siri did once try to help someone hide a dead body. Maybe we should be putting more consideration into how much power we give our technology. But that’s another post for another day.)
In fact, Siri is almost like a real person in a lot of ways. If you ask Siri to sing you a song, it will – and it’ll be a different song depending on which language you ask in.
And here’s a highly practical feature that shows the intense personalization of Siri that Millennials love: If you tell Siri that you’re drunk, it will actually offer to call you a freaking cab.
With Siri, Apple has taken brand personalization to a totally new level. (I know I already referenced The Big Bang Theory in a recent article about having fun in business, but let’s not forget this particular gem where Raj dates Siri.)
Speaking of personalization – Millennials value experiences over transactions.
In the past, I’ve written about how the experience IS the product. This is especially true when marketing to Millennials. We’d rather spend money on a concert ticket than on a piece of furniture. We also have an intense fear of missing out, which drives us to have these experiences.
So if you want to convince us to buy from you, you need to show us how your product or service is actually an experience.
And finally, we’re very resistant – even hostile – to traditional advertising.
Millennials don’t buy the same way that other generations buy. So you can’t sell to us the same way. In fact, 84% of Millennials neither like nor trust traditional advertising.
In days gone by, you could put out a television ad, a publish press release, or run a radio contest and get all the business you could ever need. But when you’re targeting Millennials, you need to take a different approach. The old tactics don’t work on us – we’ve seen it all and we don’t like it.
So what do we want instead, if not to be sold to?
We want to be informed and entertained. We want to be part of a community of peers. We want to be part of a discussion instead of being talked at.
(We’ve had people talking at us, and telling us to sit down and listen, our entire lives. We’re adults now, and we have important things to contribute to the discussion. So get our attention, invite us in, and then shut up & listen to what we have to say. You’ll be much more impressive that way than telling us that we’re the ones who need to listen.)
We want to have experiences. We want to feel a connection. We want the things we buy to be reflections of who we are. We want to deal with companies that actually care about us as people. And we want the buying process to be easy – because we’re busy, and we don’t have time to screw around.
So how do you meet those wants and needs?
One great place to start is with content marketing.
Again, Millennials want to be informed and entertained. Ever since we were young, we’ve been fed a steady, hearty diet of information. School curriculum is more intense and immersive than ever before. We’ve got entire encyclopaedias in our laptops. And if we get bored of reading, we can go on YouTube and learn any number of things, or check out great podcasts by brilliant people talking about fascinating things. We can even create powerful information resources ourselves.
If you want to have even a chance at attracting Millennials to you, then you need to start feeding our information addiction (and it IS an addiction.)
Experiential marketing is another great tool for marketing to Millennials.
I’ve probably used the word “experience” about half a dozen times in this article alone, and there’s good reason for that. Millennial buyers don’t just want to buy products and services – we want to buy experiences.
Example: Let’s say you’re a travel agent, and you’re trying to sell me a ski vacation in Quebec.
I don’t want to buy a ski vacation in Quebec – I want to buy the feeling of the crisp air burning my lungs, the beautiful sight of the snow falling on the forested mountains, the exhilaration of winding down the mountainside with my best friends in tow.
I want to buy the soothing warmth of the hot tub down in the chalet and the crackle of the roaring fireplace. I want to buy the 20 minutes when I got stuck on that chairlift and exchanged stories with a complete stranger to pass the time. I want to buy the night my friends and I stayed up until 3 AM playing card games at the old wooden table, quoting dumb movie lines back and forth.
I want to buy the moment in the restaurant when I convinced my non-French-speaking best bro to order a fried cow’s tongue for dinner by telling him it was a beef brisket, and couldn’t stop laughing when he found out what he actually ate.
Don’t sell me a ski vacation in Quebec – sell me the experience of having a ski vacation in Quebec.
We Millennials may seem an inscrutable bunch, but when you get right down to it, we’re really just looking for a few simple things: We want information. We want experiences. And we want to feel a connection.
And if you can deliver us those things, we’ll love you forever.
What struggles have you had in trying to market to Millennials? What can you do to create better experiences with your business and sell Millennials what they want to buy?