An advertiser’s guide to millennials: Sell them a story, not a product

Millennials are the 21st century’s biggest mystery … or are they? Whether you target to or are a millennial yourself, you just cannot escape this never ending debate. So, what are millennials? “Gen Y”, “Gen Me”, “millennials”, all these names cater to the same demographic, that is to say the people born between 1980 and 2000. This is an arbitrary definition based on numbers, and said numbers are even contested by quite a chunk of people. So we would like to introduce a more psychographic approach.

This way, millennials set themselves apart from the rest of the world by a few characteristic traits. We would dare to say that millennials are at worst self-obsessed, entitled, and glued to their mobile phone. At best, they are educated, collaborative, independent, and value the improvement of their own being, and those of others.

Gif of Kanye West saying I am the best

Now that we’ve got that down, let’s discuss how this applies to social media and how you can relate your marketing campaigns to suit their trends and behaviours.

Less thrifty, more social

The main thing to keep in mind is that millennials have a different way to consume. Indeed, they do not make price their priority anymore, and are ready to spend a few more bucks if the company justifies it with better quality, or in aim of supporting an ethical cause. Millennials want to make their lives more efficient as instantly as possible. As said by youtuber Dan Howell, “If you look at brands and relationships, the social consciousness aspect of it is incredibly important to young people these days. Any brand or service that gets a bad reputation for doing something wrong can just get completely shunned by the whole younger generation that really care about appearing to be as ethical as possible.”

gif of youtuber Daniel Howell talking at a panel

Memes aside, we share this mindset. Millennials have shown numerous times that they are ready to overlook financial sparings if it meant acting for a good cause. As information has never been easier to access, millennials stay informed about current events and learn to build a complex opinion on their own about the current world. This is what will then shape their social behaviour, and that also means their purchasing behaviour.

They are everywhere

gif of minions waving hi

Millennials were introduced to a certain kind of technology, such as Facebook or Youtube when they were young. But nowadays, with the plethora of social networks popping out every other day they took automations similar to Gen Z’s. They are tech- and social media-mavens. This brings new ways to process things and consume media and content. Millennials do not need as much time as people before them to analyse what is relevant for them. They can scroll through content that doesn’t interest them before finding the needle in the hay. Once they have it, they are ready to invest time and resources to follow their passions and interests.

There is another distinction to make between older millennials and younger millennials. Though the difference is subtle, it still holds importance as for instance, younger millennials (18-24) are more present on image-led social media such as Instagram and Snapchat, while older millennials (25-29) are more text-based, for example Facebook and Twitter.

As a result, companies should keep in mind a few guidelines in order to successfully get their message across when targeting millennials. First of all, millennials expect brands to entertain them, by presenting unusual and interactive ways to consume content. The core of a brand is more important than its features. We have said it before, but emphasize it again : do not think you can target millennials solely through a price argument. Sell them a story. That is why millennials will be more inclined to support and purchase from a brand that shows a story behind their existence and behind their products.

“How can I sell to millennials, then?”

If there was a ready made, cookie cutter,  solution to advertise for everyone and to everyone, it would be known by now. Unfortunately, this is not the case so here are a few things to keep in mind when advertising to millennials.

Be brave and original

One thing millennials hate, amongst many others, are cliches. Social media takes down geographical barriers and millennials are becoming more open minded and accepting. This is why relying on clumsy stereotypes will not work. Instead, be creative. Whether it means that your content, or your platform is one of its kind, having something that stands out will make you remembered amongst the sea of content millennials drown in everyday. For instance, use IGTV, Instagram’s new tool, to promote your products via vertically formatted videos, tailor made for smartphones.

Instagrammable design

500 million users go on Instagram daily. They spend hours looking at curated and carefully thought out content. This why presenting them something aesthetically-pleasing products is also something you should care about. As a result, take a look at your packaging but also at your logo and corporate identity and design to see if things can be improved.

Let’s use makeup brand Glossier as an example. The company sells beauty products that aim at enhancing the natural beauty of one’s being. They advertise through a cohesive and consistent instagram page, full of soft pinks and peach colours. Their body lotion “Body Hero” even adorns the colour “millennial pink”. If that doesn’t send people a message, we don’t know what will.

Picture of the Body Hero body lotion by Glossier

Another good way to go is to actually involve millennials in the creative process of your brand. Another beauty brand, M.A.C, launched a lipstick line where each product was made by a specific beauty influencer. This serves two purposes: the first one is, who better than millennials can create a product that they want to see on the market? The other advantage is that these influencers will actively promote the brand on their own social media platforms to their audience, which mostly consists of, you guessed it, millennials.

Do not get on their nerves

Advertisement on the internet goes with little to no regulations. As a result, people are submerged in adds on every website they go on. As a result, millennials have a lot of trouble trusting brands that engage in these kinds of advertising methods. Instead, they tend to privilege reviews from people they trust. It has been said that influencers are the second most trusted source when it comes to gathering reviews, right after family and friends. It is no surprise as influencers create organic content and do not hesitate to share their opinions with the public.

The best way to get millennials to know your brand deeper, and as a result trust you more, is by putting a face to the review. For example, rather than just using numbers, you can also show results that are more man-made. Millennials also like to see the inner workings of the world. This is why they appreciate when a brand takes them behind the scenes, and shows them the thought process that goes behind the product.

Do not try to force them in a relationship driven only by profit

If this hasn’t been clear already, you should make welfare the core of your brand. Millennials are environmentally aware of their actions and those of others. Therefore, they pay attention to a company’s wrong doings, and decide to continue to support the brand or not. Now, thanks to the internet, everything can spread out really quickly. This is why when companies pride themselves in having a conscious way of producing and handling their business it is important that it is actually the case. If millennials learn that a company tricked them, they will immediately stop all relationship with it. Worse, they can also give the company bad press on their social networks and personal relations.

gif of a comedian saying you've fooled me to another comedian

 

Millennials are the majority of the workforce, and of the population overall. Stereotypes might be true, but it’s important to remember that for a generation who has come of age during a global recession and are now increasingly forming their adult life in an increasingly polarised world, they are actually surprisingly optimistic and civic minded. Companies should keep this in mind when wanting to authentically reach millennials and talk to them on grounds they understand and want to support.  

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