You probably don’t need to be told that millennials can be frustrating to market to. We’re a strange bunch: wary, sarcastic, cynical, and discerning, yet extraordinarily kind hearted, empathetic, and socially responsible. Despite our deeply ingrained mistrust for most corporate and government initiatives, we’re still willing to do everything we can to leave the world a better place than we found it.
As America’s largest generation, millennials have tremendous purchasing power — which makes getting on our good side incredibly important. Fortunately, it’s not exactly difficult to do so; it just takes a fresh approach to marketing and a genuine effort to understand where we’re coming from. Here are six mistakes not to make when marketing to millennials.
Being Anything Less Than 100% Honest
Millennials don’t trust advertisers, and we can smell lies from a mile away. What’s more, we’re incredibly resistant to hard-sell pitches. Top that all off with the fact that we have the tools to block ads we don’t like, and you have a recipe for failed marketing.
Here’s the thing: we’re highly educated and internet-savvy — we’re not going to buy something just because we see it on a BuzzFeed list. We want to know a brand inside and out before we give them our money, and we keep a very close eye on what they do outside of their advertising efforts. What do they stand for? Are they environmentally conscious? Do they treat their employees well? Are they socially responsible? We expect the companies we do business with not only to have a good product, but to be conscientious members of society as well.
If you want to win us over, you have to be honest and transparent in all that you do. If we get even the slightest whiff of inauthenticity, we’re gone — and we’re likely never coming back. However, if you gain our trust, you’re likely to find millennials to be some of the most loyal customers you’ve ever had.
Using Gender Stereotypes
One of the quickest ways to piss off millennials is to adhere to the ridiculous gender stereotypes that we’ve all been force fed for far too long. Generation Y is over that nonsense — but not many advertisers have gotten the message. Millennials don’t view gender in a traditional, binary sense, and continuing to maintain outdated stereotypes will only cost you customers.
Drop the hyper-macho depictions of products for men, stop characterizing women as domestic madonnas or nagging harpies, recognize that not all couples are heterosexual, and remember that millennial parents share child-rearing duties. If you don’t put an end to these archaic stereotypes, you can seriously damage your brand’s prospects.
Forgetting That We Do Shop at Brick-and-Mortar Stores
Though millennials are digital natives, we don’t rely on the internet for absolutely everything. Believe it or not, we shop in brick-and-mortar stores a lot more than you’d think. We still like to touch or demo products before we buy, save money by avoiding delivery fees, and hell, sometimes we just don’t want to wait on shipping. Considering consumers spend six times more in-store than online, failing to lure us into a real-world location is a mistake you can’t afford to make.
Being “Creepy” With Targeted Ads
If you employ targeted advertising based on consumers’ browsing history and personal information, you may want to reevaluate the effectiveness of that particular marketing tactic.
Generally speaking, the majority of consumers don’t like to reveal personal information to advertisers. When millennials feel an ad is too personal (because it uses data we didn’t agree to provide), we’re not only creeped out, we’re turned off completely. We don’t know how and where that information will be used, and we really don’t like the feeling that we’re being watched. Furthermore, when personal information is collected and stored, it becomes a target for cybercriminals.
We don’t expect the world to be ad-free by any means, but we don’t like being stalked by tracking software, nor do we want to put in a position where our information can be stolen. Because of this, when we see a highly targeted ad (or two, or three, or four), we end up losing all trust in the companies being advertised. Instead of targeted ads, consider aggregating data — this keeps data impersonal and protects individual identities while still allowing you to see patterns in consumer behavior.
Avoiding Social Media
It’s no secret that most of social media is populated by millennials. We like the instant connection to our friends, family members, news, and yes, even brands. Although we often turn to social media to discover new products or services, we’re usually looking to hear from the people we know or the influencers we trust — not the brands themselves. That said, people need to be able to tag a brand in reviews and mentions so potential customers can find them. If you’re not there, they can’t point people your way. Furthermore, millennials expect brands to be on social media for customer service purposes.
If you were to ask members of other generations to describe millennials, chances are you’d hear the words “lazy,” “entitled,” and “selfish” thrown around with startling regularity. As a millennial, I’ve found these hackneyed stereotypes to be based on either miscommunication or faulty information. Rarely are they actually true.
Though the millennial generation has its own uniques qualities, we can’t be overly generalized — our enormous size simply won’t allow it. Marketers need to recognize that we don’t have one specific set of beliefs, values, or habits because we’re exceptionally diverse. There are millennials of every race, ethnicity, religion, political affiliation, social class, sexual orientation, gender identity, and physical ability. Attempting to market to Generation Y as a whole won’t do much good. You need to refine your marketing campaign, focusing on a specific subgroup.
Millennials aren’t really as complicated as everyone makes us out to be. If you take the time to get to know us, to understand who we really are and what matters to us, we’ll listen to what you have to say. However, if you approach us with tone-deaf advertising, then call us entitled when we don’t respond to it, you’ll only end up turning us from your brand forever.