It's a complicated time to be in marketing today. Everyone knows that millennials are the jackpot, but they're not a cohesive group and there's no obvious way to connect to them all. “Some brands think, once they have more money will they act just like Gen X or the Boomers?" asked Susie Kang, a design researcher and strategist at Salesforce Ignite, speaking at Dreamforce 2018. “The mind-blowing answer was in some ways yes, but mostly no." Fundamentally, the world has technologically changed, and millennials are a category to themselves. They're good for business; they spend billions a year on products and many companies have thrived because of them.
To attract a millennial audience, you need to carefully craft your messaging and be aware of the specific needs they have. Kang conducted an intensive research study with millennials across all life stages and incomes and came up with several best practices. Here are the dos and don'ts of millennial marketing.
DO: Know Your Stuff
DON'T: Throw It In My Face
Millennials are aware they don't know everything, but they don't want to be babied, Kang emphasized. They want to be sure that when they get advice, it's from somebody who knows what they're talking about. Expect them to Google you in advance, and come prepared with a checklist of questions. Answer what they're asking, not what you think they want answered, and this will help create loyalty.
—Susie Kang, design researcher and strategist, Salesforce Ignite
DO: Own the First Impression
DON'T: Try Too Hard
With so much material demanding eyeballs, the first impression is probably the only one you have with millennials. That means everything from presentation to stock to customer service needs to be spot-on, or you'll be ignored. However, they don't like a “try-hard,” so companies need to tread a delicate balance between being helpful and being pushy. “Millennials have instantaneous knowledge and information access," Kang said. “This explosion of choice spans across functional and emotional purchases." Here, getting rid of pain points, like the struggle to transport a mattress home, will help win you customers.
DO: Stand for Something
DON'T: Tack on Meaning
This might be the generation of fast fashion, but it's also the generation that cares and likes to give back. Being genuine about your brand and how you help others, whether it's through charity, being ecologically friendly or in other ways, is a winning point—but don't try and pretend to be meaningful when you're not. “They want to connect to things that matter to them," Kang said. “Trust must be earned and be a source of inspiration and curation." Here, being niche can really help a brand grow. “We've seen the rise of the micro-brands," she said. “If you search for ethical vegan high heels you can probably find five places to purchase them. There's no such thing as too absurd. When millennials figure out what they want to stand for, what they want to buy will probably exist."
DO: Craft Experiences
DON'T: Just Sell Stuff
“Time and attention are a scarce resource," Kang said. “But at the same time, millennials are spending twice as much on self-care as Boomers.” What makes them pick one company over another is how they're expressing this. For example, fitness brands don't just sell gear, they sell an aspirational lifestyle. “Some even have partnerships with beauty brands and give book recommendations," Kang said. “Their whole mantra is ‘We want to help you achieve your goals and relax.’"
DO: Involve Me
DON'T: Require My Involvement
Paradoxically, millennials require brands to reach out, while resenting them for it. A helpful way to look at this is how to include millennials without asking them to do any of the legwork. Personalizing services can be key to making them feel engaged. Here, spearheading social movements or being involved with specific celebrities can help users feel connected to a brand. “People want to be part of a movement and find belonging but they also want to feel unique and individual," Kang said. Being able to choose who and how to support an ethos without effort—whether a controversial cover star or through a Facebook filter—provides the interaction users are looking for.