Marketing to Millennials: 18 Facts Brands Need To Know

Study on the Mil­len­ni­al gen­er­a­tion yields fas­ci­nat­ing insights for brands.

Pat Hong By Pat Hong from Linkdex. Join the discussion » 0 comments

A com­pelling new report ‘Debunk­ing the Mil­len­ni­al Myth’ pub­lished by media com­mu­ni­ca­tions agency, Ini­tia­tive, has helped to define mood, opin­ions, and out­look of the so-called ‘Mil­len­ni­al’ gen­er­a­tion. It makes for fas­ci­nat­ing read­ing, espe­cial­ly so for brands and mar­keters look­ing to under­stand their audi­ences bet­ter. As the first gen­er­a­tional cohort defined by a dig­i­tal, con­nect­ed world, the mil­lion dol­lar ques­tion for mar­keters has to be: how can mil­len­ni­al insights inform us about the future of dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing?


Introducing Millennials

As the only gen­er­a­tion to have grown up in an age of rapid dig­i­tal trans­for­ma­tion, mil­len­ni­als, or those born in the 1980s and ‘90s, are a unique prospect for brands and mar­keters. A gen­er­a­tion defined by val­ues that are con­stant­ly chal­lenged, Ini­tia­tive terms them “reset gen­er­a­tion,” or more specif­i­cal­ly, “a group who had to con­tin­u­al­ly reset their expec­ta­tions and refo­cus their lives, acknowl­edg­ing that their oppor­tu­ni­ties dif­fered to those of pre­vi­ous gen­er­a­tions.” In a sense, it has required mar­keters to reset too, in order to con­nect with them.

Amongst Initiative’s find­ings, which sur­veyed 10,000 mil­len­ni­als across 19 coun­tries, were a num­ber of clear, and high­ly dis­cernible trends. Mil­len­ni­als, Ini­tia­tive states, are the most “self-aware, brand-aware gen­er­a­tion to date”, with 30 per­cent “cyn­i­cal about the way brands mar­ket to them.” In the UK and U.S., this fig­ure ris­es to 40 per­cent.

But it isn’t all neg­a­tiv­i­ty. Ini­tia­tive iden­ti­fied three com­mon themes that define mil­len­ni­als:

  1. Adapt­abil­i­ty.
  2. Col­lab­o­ra­tion.
  3. Cre­ativ­i­ty.

A prod­uct of an extreme­ly volatile glob­al econ­o­my, the growth of dig­i­tal star­tups as a result of tech­no­log­i­cal change, and an empow­er­ing sense of free­dom and choice greater than any of the pre­vi­ous gen­er­a­tions, has result­ed in “the most cre­ative gen­er­a­tion yet, defined by its adapt­abil­i­ty and resilience.”

millennials1

(Source: ‘Debunk­ing the Mil­len­ni­al Myth’ Report, ini­tia­tive)

Hard facts about mil­len­ni­als:

  • 30 per­cent are cyn­i­cal about the way brands mar­ket to them.
  • That fig­ure is even high­er in the UK and US at 40 per­cent.
  • 72 per­cent have suf­fered per­son­al­ly as a result of the reces­sion.
  • 65 per­cent are employed full time.
  • 36 per­cent have expe­ri­enced a cut in their income.
  • 28 per­cent have expe­ri­enced job loss.
  • The lev­el of severe or high anx­i­ety about the econ­o­my has increased 64 per­cent.
  • 59 per­cent wor­ry about not hav­ing enough mon­ey to retire.
  • 32 per­cent are sin­gle.
  • 59 per­cent don’t have chil­dren.
  • 35 per­cent are liv­ing with their par­ents.
  • 54 per­cent would be more loy­al to brands that help improve eco­log­i­cal or soci­etal issues.
  • 59 per­cent believe brands should active­ly par­tic­i­pate to improve caus­es.
  • Mil­len­ni­als wor­ry about their finances — price is impor­tant.
  • Mil­len­ni­als val­ue brands that build on emo­tion­al con­nec­tions and that are use­ful to them — they prize hon­esty and authen­tic­i­ty.
  • Mil­len­ni­als love brands that are pre­pared to take risks, make mis­takes and, impor­tant­ly, acknowl­edge when they make mis­takes.
  • Mil­len­ni­als like to be involved in a brand’s cre­ative process.
  • Online reviews are the “most pow­er­ful” source of infor­ma­tion for mil­len­ni­als.

(Source: ‘Debunk­ing the Mil­len­ni­al Myth’ Report, ini­tia­tive)

What Millennials Expect From Brands

As a result, Ini­tia­tive puts forth, mil­len­ni­als “want brands to take risks, under­stand their finan­cial con­cerns and do more to address today’s soci­etal and eco­log­i­cal issues.”

Defined by exter­nal cir­cum­stances, mil­len­ni­als val­ue and relate to brands that are use­ful to them, and with which they can build emo­tion­al con­nec­tions. Above all “they prize truth and authen­tic­i­ty in brands”.

Fur­ther­more, mil­len­ni­als are aware of how much pow­er they have as cus­tomers, and expect brands to val­ue their con­cerns and treat them with respect. As a final key point, pric­ing is very impor­tant for mil­len­ni­als (the result of nigh on a decade of eco­nom­ic uncer­tain­ty).

How Do Millennials Make Their Choices?

Initiative’s study revealed that online research was both the most pow­er­ful, and the most influ­en­tial, source of infor­ma­tion for mil­len­ni­als.

A large major­i­ty, 68 per­cent, of mil­len­ni­als have made prod­uct com­ments online. As one indi­vid­ual (Eliza from Chica­go) sur­veyed by Ini­tia­tive stat­ed:

There’s no way that my neigh­bor knows more than thou­sands of online reviews, so why should I trust them more? Plus, if they had an opin­ion, they should have shared it online.”

millennials2

(Source: ‘Debunk­ing the Mil­len­ni­al Myth’ Report, ini­tia­tive)

How Can Brands Target Millennials?

The val­ue and empha­sis mil­len­ni­als place on online research and col­lab­o­ra­tive opin­ions, has rein­forced the val­ue of social media as a mar­ket­ing instru­ment for brands look­ing to tar­get mil­len­ni­als.

The report includ­ed a list of top take­aways for brands look­ing to tar­get mil­len­ni­als:

  • If you’re tar­get­ing mil­len­ni­als, build your strat­e­gy from the smart­phone out.
  • Be where they are: make your brand more visu­al — take your lead from their social media behav­ior.
  • Remem­ber to view brand reviews through a glob­al lens.
  • Brands can learn a huge amount from the ener­gy and enthu­si­asm with which mil­len­ni­als share opin­ion and advice online for no obvi­ous reward. Tra­di­tion­al­ly, brands and busi­ness­es have seen the shar­ing of infor­ma­tion as a sign of “weak­ness” or com­pet­i­tive risk. Brands that give to receive in the short term run a heavy risk of alien­at­ing a smart mil­len­ni­al audi­ence.
  • No slo­gans or sto­ry­boards are tru­ly new; what makes one brand bet­ter than anoth­er is how rel­e­vant it is to you.

Mil­len­ni­als are a defin­ing gen­er­a­tion of the dig­i­tal age. Brands and mar­keters should right­ly play close atten­tion to their con­cerns as a sig­nal for the future direc­tion of con­sumer-cen­tric brand mar­ket­ing.

You can down­load Initiative’s full report here.


Does your brand tar­get mil­len­ni­als? Will you adjust your mil­len­ni­al mar­ket­ing strate­gies based on these find­ings?

Pat Hong

Written by Pat Hong

Editor at Linkdex/Inked, Linkdex

Pat covers the SEO industry, digital marketing trends, and anything and everything around Linkdex. He also authors Linkdex's data analysis and reports, analysing the state of search in various industries.

Inked is published by Linkdex, the SEO platform of choice for professional marketers.

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