Marketing to Millennials: How to Reach the Digital Native

Marketers these days are in a frenzy trying to figure out how to reach the Millennials, or Generation Y as they’re also sometimes called.  These young people are expected to spend about $10 trillion dollars in their lifetimes, so understanding them and knowing how to get their attention is becoming rather important. They’re a wily bunch for sure, but there are some really great things about them that make marketing to them an adventure.  Let’s take a look!

Millennials are folks aged about 17-34 who are often referred to as “digital natives.” This means that they were born immersed in digital media and never knew the dark days before the Internet, when we picked up the phone to share information with our friends, and we had to actually look things up in books or remember facts instead of depending on Google.

Of course, not everyone between the ages of 17-34 fit the same stereotype. Not all Millenials are exactly the same. They’re a diverse group of individuals just like any other generation, but there are some general things they share in common that we need to keep in mind when trying to reach them.

Millennials and traditional marketing

It makes sense that since this generation tends to be superconnected through social media that it would be the best way to get through to them. While it’s certainly crucial to have a presence in the social sphere, a better way to reach them is through direct mail.

This seems like surprising information, but direct mail actually does influence Millennials to buy things.  In fact, according to a study done by Nielsen, it’s among the biggest influencers! Combine that knowledge with a little data mining and you’ve got yourself a winning combination. However, this generation is not easily impressed, so it’s important to make sure your direct marketing is personalized and that you’re actually offering them things they want.  They don’t want a free carpet cleaning, so don’t even bother.

Email marketing

Reports of the death of email have been largely exaggerated. It turns out that email is also an effective way to reach Generation Y.  According to a Nielsen study, more than 70% of Millennials said they enjoy getting emails from retailers as long as those emails are specific to their interests. They’re also likely to click on paid search ads and follow a brand on Twitter and Facebook.

Millennials and social media

Even though social media is a great way to get the attention of your average Millennial, there are some pitfalls to that. Generation Y-ers have scads of Facebook friends and Twitter followers, so their feeds are clogged with updates from all of those contacts. They’re only going to see your messages a small percentage of the time, and they are likely to ignore advertisements. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t bother with social media, but you need to diversify your methods of engagement.  Generation Y is also active on YouTube and Tumblr.

Short Attention Spans

Even the largest and most successful brands on social media with tons of engagement, quality products and loyal fans have to work awfully hard in many ways to get the Millennial’s attention.

A study by Time Inc. reveals that Millennials switch attention between devices (TV, tablets, cell phones, computers, magazines, etc.) every two minutes. That’s 27 times per hour! It’s hard to be truly engaged in anything for two minutes!

That sounds like bad news in terms of trying to keep their attention, and it is, but it’s also good news because it means that you have many, many ways to get to them.  That said, any old thing won’t do for the Generation Y-er. They’re hard to impress, obviously, and since they move so quickly from thing to thing, whatever you do must really grab them.

Loyalty, thy name is Millennial

This group is also pretty loyal according to a whitepaper called The 8095 Exchange: Millennials, Their Actions Surrounding Brands, and the Dynamics of Reverberation by Edelman.  70% of the Millennials surveyed say they always come back to the brands they love.

So, they may be hard to impress and have short attention spans, but if you diversify your marketing efforts and put yourself in front of them in all the places where they hang out, you’ll have a solid strategy for marketing to Millennials. Being omnipresent is always a good thing anyway, whether you’re marketing to this group or any other.


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