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Life Game-Changers
Marketing to Millennials

October 2016

Millennials are aging into life’s most significant buying years (think cars and houses) with over $200 billion in collective buying power. The onset of this era inspires much curiosity about how this generation’s unique attitude and approach to life will impact the economy. The largest generation in U.S. history, ages 18-34 in 2015, are estimated at 75.4 million. Comparatively, there are 74.9 million Boomers (ages 51-69 in 2015) and 66 million Gen Xers (ages 38-50), according to the 2015 U.S. Census.

Barbara Gassaway is the principal of The Research Group (www.researchgrp.com) and is a Qualitative Market Researcher and Master Moderator with over 15 years of creative market research experience in the consumer and health industries. She is expert in managing client teams, project priorities, and creatively implementing methodologies to discover intimate, underlying feelings from respondents. Among her many honors are a Top 100 MBE, BRAVA! Award winner and one of Maryland’s Top Business Women by SmartCEO magazine. She can be reached at bg@researchgrp.com.

Barbara Gassaway is the principal of The Research Group (www.researchgrp.com) and is a Qualitative Market Researcher and Master Moderator with over 15 years of creative market research experience in the consumer and health industries. She is expert in managing client teams, project priorities, and creatively implementing methodologies to discover intimate, underlying feelings from respondents. Among her many honors are a Top 100 MBE, BRAVA! Award winner and one of Maryland’s Top Business Women by SmartCEO magazine. She can be reached at bg@researchgrp.com.


The Millennial generation is transforming tradition in many ways. Demographers predict this generation will create greater societal harmony, inspire highly innovative products and services, and force digital literacy on older generations.

 

Understanding this unique generation may not be as challenging as one might believe. As digital natives, Millennials witness ills of the world delivered via social media within nanoseconds of an event, and often, as events occur. Socio-economics highly influence behaviors and attitudes, as with all generations. Likewise, educated Millennials are highly engaged, demonstrate social consciousness and feel a personal responsibility to positively contribute to society. Less-educated Millennials are as digitally savvy as their educated peers, albeit tend to be significantly less health-oriented, slightly less civically engaged, and vary more in attitudes of optimism about the future.

 

Engaging Millennials requires the employment of practices that jive with their temperaments. They embrace change, presume any pace will move quickly, and place a high premium on making everything less “boring.” Understanding their unique characteristics will assist in shaping strategies to garner the attention of this generation. Nuances of any generation can seem daunting. Understanding how Millennials’ environments shaped their attitudes and behaviors is intelligence for all who wish to reach these influencers. Following are macro-demographic insights intended to increase millennial appreciation:

 

Authenticity. While no generation gravitates toward an imposter, millennials have a special aversion, if not abhorrence, to inauthenticity. Be sensitive to cliché pop culture references or incorrectly using terms found in the Urban Dictionary. Truth and authenticity are much more likely to arouse Millennial interest and engagement.

 

Respect.

Other impactful generational facts:

  • Boomers: According to the Huffington Post, Baby Boomers born 1946 to 1964, all 50+ now, have the momentous collective buying power of $3.2 Trillion.
  • Gen X: This latchkey generation’s unique upbringing creates behaviors and attitudes that are fascinating to explore. Raised in an error of great transition with the blurring of traditional gender roles, the Gen X generation developed uniquely autonomous attitudes and approaches to life. Definitely as interesting, and a bit more behaviorally complex as compared to Millenniums.
  • In 2015, for the first time in US history, more than 50 percent of children under 5 are minorities, according to a July 2014 report from the U.S. Census.

Typically raised by omnipresent parents, the dynamic of households and family composition is distinct from past generations. Respect is often reciprocal, more democratic – less autocratic. Millennials are accustomed to voicing their opinions and conditioned to expect their point-of-view to be considered. Consequently, respect for others’ opinions, as well as authority, emerge as great.

 

Aware & Suspect. Millennials are aware, but respectfully suspect, of authorities, laws and the media. The most aware generation with facts and statistics at their fingertips, this generation recognizes the flaws of society. They are comfortable navigating choices to customize thoughts and actions that align with their personal values.

 

Optimization. Most marketers are aware (and likely guilty as well) of the Millennials’ smartphone attachment. Accordingly, platforms through which communications are launched need to consider Millennials’ digital lives. Communication cannot merely be mobile-friendly, mobile-accessible or mobile-compatible, but rather mobile-optimized. Optimization, including the speed in which transactions, downloads, ads or engagement occurs, is a differentiator. Use (and update continuously to) current technology or do not bother.

 

Quality over Quantity. Millennials are lifestyle game-changers with diverse motivators. They tend not to be concerned with acquiring material things, and focus more on experiences. Happiness is often a goal over power and wealth. This may be the reason home ownership is delayed, as well as trends including the use of Zipcars and virtual excursions (rock climbing walls and indoor skydiving venues).

 

Modeling. Millennials, especially educated versions, are adept at accommodating a variety of situations. Comfortable in suits or sweats (although casual is the preferred disposition), behaving how you expect them to behave is recommended. Traditional manners may not be default behaviors, but most Millennials will easily follow the appropriate-behavior lead or deliver what is expected without the need for substantial training.

 

Non-Conformist. How helpful would it be to segment the world into target audiences that all behave the same? As with all generations, commonalities emerge with Millennials – thankfully. Millennials, however, reject any classification of people, by ethnicity, social status, gender or otherwise. For example, it is very uncommon for Millennials to describe themselves as Democrat or Republican without a caveat. Millennials prefer to believe they are distinctive, in a preeminent way.

 

Cognizance. Go easy on stereotypes. Do not assume a millennial target is a tech-loving, selfie-addict individual who streams Netflix and values a shared-work place environment. Remember individual differences abound, and even in macro demographics, younger versus older, gender, socioeconomics, and geography are important considerations.

 

Options. Millennials find a plethora of options customary. From entertainment and food, academic pursuits and extracurricular activities, to smartphone covers, choice is an expectation. Customization is appealing, as is the ability to represent one’s self uniquely. For example, social media profiles change often with varying environments and designs. The availability of choice is paramount.

 

Compared to generations past, millennials represent a highly engaged, vocal consumer base, creating much intrigue and enjoyment. As this generation matures, the behavioral history of these digital natives will be captured in more detail than ever before. One will be wise to observe the evolving impact Millennials will generate and adapt accordingly. One constant is guaranteed: embrace change. I95

 

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