In April, the Pew Research Center released a study which uncovered that at 75.4 million people, the millennial population has finally surpassed the baby boomer generation in terms of population size — a number that’s charted to continue growing for the next two decades until it peaks in 2036.
Currently, millennials hold a staggering buying power of $200 billion, and Forbes predicts that number is only going to get bigger. So, what’s different about millennials? What separates this quarter of America’s population from the older generations?
To start with, millennials interact differently with advertising. I’m even a testament to this stereotype. I grew up with Tivo in the house and streaming services at my fingertips, and I always frown upon commercials. To me, commercials don’t have the Madison Avenue “swag” that they had in previous generations — I see them as tacky and unnecessary in a world where consumers are already surrounded by an abundance of media.
In my opinion, this has blatantly carried over to e-commerce. Shoppers skip pages due to banner ads or use adblocker software to skip video advertisements on YouTube. Some friends of mine even resent ads that are retargeted to them on Facebook, their argument being that by tracking browsing behavior, the brand is overstepping its boundaries.
Things Millennials Like: Snacking (On Bite-Sized Content)
Here’s some food for thought: According to Forbes, 33% of millennials consult blogs before purchasing a product. Compare that to the 3% of millennials who make purchasing decisions from TV, magazines and books combined and you start to see the value that blogs [and social media!] add to a marketing strategy.
Blogs and social also happen to be the perfect channels to deliver that engaging, bite-sized content that us millennials (and consumers in general) love so much. While older consumers will still look to traditional mediums for media consumption, millennials will seek content that is crowd-sourced, from their peers and offers an authentic look at the world around them.
Consider this: 62% of millennials say that if a brand engages with them on social media they’re more likely to become a loyal customer. This is incredibly valuable due to the fact that millennial shoppers themselves are extremely trusting once they’re won over, and, as a result, are brand loyal (60% of millennials say they consistently purchase the brands that they use regularly). Use social to your advantage to help create the right image for your brand.
Things Millennials Like: Corporate Social Responsibility
So, what’s your brand doing to set itself apart in this highly competitive, highly visual space? Gone is the time when only the product mattered — brand image (by way of quality content) reign supreme in capturing the attention of the modern consumer. 75% of millennials believe brands should be doing more than just making a profit, ergo, brands need to be socially aware and take social action.
Google has Google Grants, Apple has been working hard to remedy its image, Coca-Cola has a water stewardship program and recently has increasingly become involved in local communities. Yes, these are some Herculean examples, but there are plenty of examples in smaller brands as well (Toms, LuminAID, Serengetee, etc.) that own this image for their consumers very well.
Things Millennials Like: Entrepreneurship
Millennials are also increasingly entrepreneurial in an age where it’s becoming easier to do so. This will be invaluable for brands in the future. Even now, 42% of millennials are interested in co-creating and developing products and services with the brands they use ( Avon is tapping into that exact resource). Not only are millennials heading to social channels to consume content, they’re going there to create it themselves and this is something that absolutely must be recognized in your brand’s strategy.
The moral of this story is evident: advertising in the digital age must be creative, impactful, and carefully tailored to the modern consumer who is socially aware, hesitant, and educated. Most importantly, it must be short and sweet. The age of minute, minute and a half commercials are over.
Millennials are an undoubtedly large group of consumers with a considerable amount of economic influence. Like it or not, they’re the ones setting the precedent for how future generations will consume and engage with media. Instead of more of the same, it’s time that brands evolve, bridge the gap, and meet this growing population of socially conscious, hyperconnected and innovative consumers on their level.