As a millennial working in advertising I spend a lot of time fielding questions about my generation. Why we’re so entitled…why we’re so poor…why we don’t buy anything anymore. My answer to almost every question is the same: don’t ask me. Ask them!
Millennials are the largest and most diverse generation in American history. So I certainly can’t speak for all of us, or even most of us. Instead, to figure out what Millennials want and how to sell it to them, market research is more important than ever. Luckily, there is no shortage of market research on Millennials. Before you start digging into it, here are the top five things you need to know:
- We’re richer than you think.
There seems to be a common misconception about Millennials that we are perpetually poor – saddled by student loan debt and high levels of unemployment. Happily, the research does not support this sentiment in it’s entirety. In fact, Millennials as a whole represent $600 billion of purchasing power, expected to increase to over $1.4 trillion by 2020. That’s a lot of moola, and a lot of opportunity for businesses. However, despite our socialist leaning political tendencies, we’re actually just as financially divided (if not more) than previous generations. The median net worth of the top 20% of Millennials is more than 8x the median net worth of the bottom 80%. So, not only do businesses need to market to Millennials – they need to market to the RIGHT Millennials to tap into that cash flow. Hint: research says the millennial income gap is largely driven by access to post-secondary education.
- We’re all about sharing.
Even though our generation is financially divided, we can still agree on one thing – that sharing is caring. Or maybe it’s more accurate to say sharing is saving? Despite our robust purchasing power, as a whole we tend to be somewhat frugal, and value savings over ownership. In fact, Millennials are twice as likely as previous generations to participate in the “sharing economy” – things like ridesharing, apartment rentals and public transportation. What does this mean for marketers? It means not even the best ad campaign can win over a millennial who doesn’t like what you have to offer. Consider changing or adding products/services to your line up that align with Millennials’ “shared” values.
- We’re into the Internet.
There are a lot of misconceptions about Millennials out there – but the fact that we’re kind of obsessed with technology isn’t one of them. Millennials want access to all things online – and on-the-go. And we’re not just talking about online shopping. Millennials are also more likely to invest in technology (start ups, etc.) than traditional financial products and purchase technologically innovative and “connected” products – things like smart thermostats and security systems. We’re early adopters and we crave innovation – so companies that were previously able to rest on their laurels risk becoming irrelevant without an investment in new technology.
- We are fiercely loyal.
Despite being portrayed as unabashedly cheap (thrifty, we like to call it), research shows that Millennials are actually fiercely loyal – to both brands and employers – once you win us over, that is. Millennials demand a customer-centric shopping experience, and brands that value their patronage. Ninety-five percent of Millennials surveyed said they actually wanted brands to “court” them with personalized and targeted emails (emphasis on personalized and targeted), promotions, loyalty programs, and coupons. The same holds true for Millennials and their employers – although instead of coupons they’re after flexibility and work-life balance. In spite of our job-hopping reputation, we actually stay with employers for longer than our Gen-X counterparts did, at any given age.
- We care about who you are more than what you sell.
Remember how I said Millennials were fiercely loyal? Well, that’s only true once you’ve won us over. The tricky part is, we’re harder to win over than our generational predecessors. Millennials are an incredibly values-driven bunch, placing a premium on social issues such as education, poverty, and the environment. While we’re definitely looking at the price tag when we shop, we’re more concerned about the quality of the item, and the values that the brand stands for. As much as eighty-four percent of Millennials say they consider a brand’s values before making a purchase, and 60% are willing to pay more for environmentally friendly goods.
So what can brands do to win over Millennials? Stand for something, and stand by it. In addition to being strongly influenced by brand values, Millennials are also excellent detectives (we’re twice as likely as Baby Boomers to check if a company’s corporate social responsibility claims are true and supported by specific action), and we’ll call you out ASAP if we discover you’re not truly living your brand promise. Claiming to be environmentally friendly when you’re not, or saying you’re all about equality without the chops to back it up can do waaaaaay more harm than good. So stand for something real, and something you can stick to. The Millennials will follow.
Ethos is a multiplatform branding agency that develops and executes integrated marketing campaigns across multiple channels for companies inside and outside Maine.
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