Marketing to Millenials
By Kelli Korducki
Every generation shares the distinction of being stereotyped to pieces, but often those labels reflect real tendencies that carry over into the realm of consumption patterns. When developing marketing strategies, it pays to consider generational pattern. Baby Boomers, for instance, are goal-oriented and status-driven, willing to dispense of their disposable resources to show off their hard-earned worth. Generation X-ers are individualistic and constantly skeptical, less likely to buy into any hype foisted their direction (the money-back guarantee may as well have been invented with them in mind). Generation Y, or Millennials, are now in their 20s and very early 30s and characterized as tech-dependent and hyper-social; they’re also the largest consumer demographic, which makes understanding them a must.
Joe Pulizzi, founder of Cleveland consulting firm Content Marketing Institute, says that the fundamental difference between Gen Y and older generations is the simultaneous development of smartphone-based communication habits with young adult consumer patterns.
“The biggest question to ask is: can your current content be accessed on mobile? That’s number one,” says Pulizzi. “Before you take the next step and try to figure out what’s the next big app, figure out how what you already have renders on a smartphone.”
The second thing Pulizzi points out is that, while Gen Y often gets pegged as a self-centered “Generation Me,” the same can be said for any generation of consumers. Customers, simply put, are selfish—they want to feel as though their interests are being served. One example Pulizzi cites as a clever example of brand-building utility is toilet paper brand Charmin’s “Sit or Squat” mobile app, which lets users find nearby public bathrooms.
“That’s the kind of thinking we want to talk to marketers about,” he says. “It’s not about thinking about how to sell more products on mobile, but about figuring out ways to be helpful. The more helpful you can be, the more Gen Y—or anybody—will be thinking about your brand.”
The key difference between Gen Y and the generations preceding it is the technological connection, which is why “Sit or Squat” is such a great example of Millennial-friendly marketing.
“Gen X grew up in print, and you never grow out of that,” he says. “But Gen Y grew up with, usually, some sort of visual screen. They learned differently.”
It’s why responsive mobile design is the number one absolute must for businesses trying to reach out to Millennial clients (“there’s no excuse for pinch zoom anymore”). Another suggestion Pulizzi has for reaching out to Gen Y is to structure in-person meetups.
“Social media’s given them a chance to talk to a lot of people, but how do you make that happen face-to-face?” he poses. “I think there’s an opportunity to market from a face-to-face standpoint because they haven’t had as much of a chance to do that.”
He adds: “Don’t overlook the in-person channel of marketing. It ties into the idea of being helpful. Try and get people together to do something they wouldn’t be able to do as effectively by themselves.”