Targeting Young Adults (aka “Millennials”)

Adults ages 18-34 represent a huge and important section of the consumer market. They spend over a trillion dollars annually, and by 2030, they’ll outnumber baby boomers by close to 20 million people. But aside from sheer numbers, they are highly active on internet communities and social media, and not shy about their preferences for products, brands, fashions and products on these platforms, and they are frequently way ahead of the masses, constantly setting new trends that will eventually become mainstream.

But, this age-group is also notoriously difficult to market to. They are savvy, sophisticated, and can sniff out traditional advertising a mile away. And they don’t like it. So, here are some tips on how to market to Millennials the right way.

The “M” Word

First things first, don’t use the “M” word. Millennials don’t like being called Millennials (they also don’t like generalizations, but you’ve got to start somewhere). Especially when marketing to young adults aged 18-34 (much more palatable), there is no quicker way to turn them away than by using the “M” word. While we’re at it, try and recognize which generalizations out there about Millennials are probably nonsense. Some people like to write about Millennials seemingly from the perspective of a stuffy British nature documentary about brain-damaged kittens, saying things like “they are fickle beasts” and “they are attracted to bright colors and cool animations.” Don’t’ fall into that trap.

Raised on Tech

Millennials were raised with and surrounded by technology. They are comfortable with it, quick to embrace it, and quick to look to it for solutions to life’s everyday problems. So, use technology wherever possible to reach Millennials. But beware. Comfort with technology also means high expectations from it. There’s a statistic floating around that claims Millennials have an attention span as short as 2.8 seconds, which has lead some to the belief that Millennials are basically ADHD goldfish. But this “attention span” isn’t the result of getting bored quickly or distracted easily, it’s about high expectations. If you have an app, Millennials are likely to try it. But it better be fast, functional, and look great. Because if your app, website, or mobile website is slower, ugly or difficult to navigate, Millennials will be quickly disappointed, and bounce out to some greener internet pasture.

Value Appreciated

There’s a reason why Google’s search algorithm now tries to prioritize content that is providing value – because that’s what Millennials are looking for. This is the same reason why inbound marketing strategies have trended toward creating content of value. Along with Millennial tech-savviness comes internet-savviness, which means they can sniff out bad content in a heartbeat, and immediately bounce from it. This includes content that is not useful, not original, or not well-written. But by creating useful original content, you are adding value to your site, improving your Google search ranking, and giving your Millennial audience something to stick around for.

Start a Conversation

Millennials don’t like to be advertised to. They see advertisements as obstructions to the content they crave. Don’t appear to be asking them for something (like their money), be offering them something. And no, this isn’t because Millennials are all entitled brats, it’s because they were raised in a culture of advertising over-saturation. They know the drill. They’ve been lied to too many times. So now, they can just tune it out. So, don’t advertise to them (or at them), start a conversation. Millennials expect the world to be interactive, because to them, it is interactive. Big corporations and Mom-and-Pop shops alike all have a Facebook page to like and Twitter handle to tweet at. Everything is reviewed, everything is price-compared. And communication is expected to happen quickly. Creating advertising campaigns that are interactive fits into this world and gives them a reason to engage, then helps to create a sense of community around your company or product.

And Look Good Doing It

The bright-colored-shiny-object fallacy (patent pending) didn’t come from nowhere. It’s because Millennials really do care what their apps, ads, products and websites look like. This isn’t because they are the most superficial generation to ever walk this Earth. It’s because they know there is really no excuse for a poor design or user interface. To them, it’s a sign of laziness and disrespect. If you can’t be bothered to make a newsletter that looks good or a site that displays properly on mobile, then why should you be trusted as a business?

Millennials aren’t a group you can easily write off, and they certainly aren’t “elusive beasts. They are people. People who just happen to be incredibly comfortable with technology. The internet, social media, their smartphones – are all an extension of themselves. So, when advertising is carelessly thrown in their face it feels affronting. So try to interact with them like people, and make sure your advertising does the same.