Millennials and How Marketers are Trying to Capture Them

Periodically at Postconsumers, you’ll see us devote time to talking about marketers and marketing tactics. Usually, we do this on a broad scope. But since we’re dedicating time this month to exploring the very specific relationship between millennials and consumerism, we decided to narrow the focus of this article to be particularly about how marketers are trying to capture the millennial dollar. In some cases, it’s for purchases within a shared economy, which we’ve previously talked about and determined had both good and bad points. But in some cases, the goal is the same as always. That goal is to convince millennials to buy more, more and more. How are marketers manipulating and making progress with what, at least at present, is the least consumer-focused generation in a long time? Here’s an overview for any millennial (or anybody who loves a millennial) who wants to have the power of knowledge.

Marketing to Millennials is Hot Business Right Now

Head on over to Google and do a search on the term “millennial marketers.” That’s right, almost all of the paid ad inventory is taken up and the search results below that reveal agency after agency pitching themselves as experts in millennial marketing. While the millennial generation is said to not have much money and to not buy things frequently, the reality is that they’re the future sustainability of every company out there. That means every company out there needs to learn how to market to millennials. Don’t kid yourself, marketing focused on millennials is a business all in itself. Think about that the next time you’re watching an advertisement (whether it’s overt or not).

Millennials — Marketers Know Who You Are!

An enormous amount of research (and research dollars) has gone into figuring out how the millennial brain operates. And at the end of all of those dollars, according to this report, are some conclusions that we probably could have given you for free. The first revelation is that millennials are on technology and networked more than any other generation, and they’re doing this mostly on portable devices (which is marketing speak for mobile devices). The second revelation is that, largely because millennials are networked at virtually (and literally) every moment of their lives, their purchases are much more influenced by what other people say. They have access to opinions and research at a second’s notice.

It’s the second point, though, that has marketers stumped. The report that we cited above concluded that, “Traditionally, companies have used testimonials from “experts,” such as doctors or financial advisors, to convince consumers of the merits of a brand. But less than half of Millennials said that they trust expert advisors, compared with 61 percent of non-Millennials.” That’s bad news for marketing companies looking for a way in and even worse news for marginally successful doctors and retired athletes looking to make money from celebrity endorsements! Millennials said, unequivocally, that they were most influenced by their friends and family.

So How Are Marketers Getting to Millennials? Through Their Friends and Family.

The answer is obviously the internet. Did you know that on Facebook, if somebody wants to advertise to a person who “likes” their page, they can select to advertise to that person and everybody who is Facebook friends with that person? So if your friend likes a cosmetic brand, you’ll see ads for that cosmetic brand. And because millennials tend to be influenced by their friends, you’re more likely to purchase. In some ways, this type of marketing is more insidious than celebrity endorsements. You can look at a celebrity endorsement and know that the celebrity is being paid to say things about the product. But in the quasi-organic ecosystem of social media, it’s much more difficult to sort out what’s a personal recommendation and what’s a marketer leveraging your relationships.

Everything is a Cause. At Least That’s What Marketers Are Telling Millennials.

Later on this month, we’ll talk about the concept of the “ethical consumer.” For now, suffice it to say that marketers have figured out that millennials want to believe that any choice they make (or at least the vast majority of them) is done with the idea of a more just and fair world. We know that many people doubt that millennials truly believe that, and some people even believe that millennials will “grow out” of that phase. We choose to believe the best and hope that this is truly a generation of change. But with all of that said, even the most dedicated believer in a cause can still be susceptible to marketing ploys. So what are marketers doing with this information? They’re using a tactic called “cause marketing.” Overtly, this ties your purchase to a cause. But most marketing companies use a more subtle approach for this. Instead of overtly tying a brand or purchase to a cause, they work on building up the brand reputation as one that is responsible and does good in the world. Why is that? Because millennials are on record as feeling more personally connected to brands. This is likely because they can “interact” with a brand on social media. When you combine a millennials’ predisposition to feel connected to a brand with the higher value of a brand advocate, versus a one-time purchaser, a marketing strategy of making your brand a friend to millennials has a lot of sense. And companies are spending big dollars doing this.

Millennials seem to be more resistant to consumerism, but they’re not immune to it. That means that they’re on the target list for marketers. But armed with the knowledge that their personal relationships and their willingness to feel passionately about causes are being used to compel them to purchase, we believe that millennials can (and are) making smart and good decisions.

Did we miss an important point on millennials and how marketers are trying to capture them? Tell us about it on the social media channels below.

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Photo Credit: debaird™ via Flickr

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