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Marketing to Millennials: A Generation Balancing Nostalgia and Digital Transformation

Marketing to Millennials: A Generation Balancing Nostalgia and Digital Transformation

Tuesday, July 31, 2018
Winnie Tran

Exploring behavioural insights and marketing trends within North America and Europe.

Millennials are a demographic age group born between 1981 and 2000. In North America, they represent about 20-25% of the population; in France, Germany, and the UK, they represent about 15-20% of the population. Millennials have been called the entitled generation for being spoon-fed all the opportunities that come with an increasingly digital world, privileged with tools and applications that our predecessors could only dream of.

However, all is not what it seems—traditional media is not dead and there is a method to the madness.

Millennials are more than just a generation of digital delinquents; in fact, they are the only generation able to differentiate between a world with and without digital technology advances. Although traditional media is experiencing a general decline, millennials haven’t completely abandoned live TV, paperbacks, printed newspapers, or magazines.

For marketers, this presents an opportunity to implement a multichannel strategy that leverages the nostalgia associated with traditional forms of media and the convenience and accessibility associated with digital media. To execute this strategy effectively, marketers must consider the following:

1. The constant stream of digital content has created an environment characterized by attention fragmentation and sensory overload

In other words, millennials are being bombarded with a great number of advertisements, social media notifications, music, and video content. To stand out, brands must adapt quickly and engage with their audience in meaningful ways, or risk being ignored amidst the noise.

2. We are living in a smartphone-centric world where there is a desire for accessibility, mobility, and real-time delivery of information; brands must be willing to go mobile or go home

The rate of Millennial Smartphone User Penetration is extremely high, with Canada, the US, France, Germany, and the UK reporting rates of over 90%. A lot of these smartphone users also reported that their phones have become the default device for accessing the internet, and smartphones have become powerful enough for users to complete just about any task quickly and efficiently—including banking, shopping, calling a cab, navigation, and even dating. This means that many initial touchpoints between consumers and brands will come from mobile devices. Therefore, first impressions in this realm can make or break brand perception—a bad user interface could easily deter customers from ever interacting with your brand.

3. Millennials respond positively to applications and experiences that are visual, interactive, and on-demand

This trend is especially notable when considering the impact that apps such as Snapchat and Instagram have had on brand engagement. Both apps boast a worldwide user base of 300+ million and 800+ million, respectively. Focusing on visual elements and living in the moment, Snapchat and Instagram allow users to showcase different aspects of themselves, which can manifest through small ephemeral snippets, or the creation of multiple finstagram (fake Instagram) accounts that separate their real life from the life that they would like to show off.

In addition, applications such as Spotify, YouTube, and Netflix have given users access to a wide selection of music, movies, and TV shows with the added advantage of being able to watch and listen when you want and how you want. This on-demand nature of applications empowers users with a perception of control, offloading the burden of indecisiveness—users don’t have to own physical copies or think about the commitment associated with purchasing specific digital content. Users can easily add, delete, stop, or play whatever they desire without guilt.

4. Millennials expect transparency and accountability; they are loyal to brands that are aligned with their values and beliefs

The proliferation of social media has created an environment where posts to the web can live on forever. No one is safe from the wrath of screenshots and timestamps—so brands must be mindful before posting sensitive material. In addition, social media platforms have also become a goldmine for data and insights into consumer behaviour. This allows brands to tailor their company profiles and target their ads to reach specific audiences.

However, with power comes responsibility. As of May 2018, the EU started to impose the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) to all personal data and online identifiers collected by companies. It requires that individuals within the EU be given the right to be informed of all personal data collected and allow them to modify, access, or erase any of this data at their discretion. Therefore, the public will expect companies be transparent, ethical, and held accountable for all the data they collect. Consequently, Millennials will also not be afraid of broadcasting any transgressions and breaches of trust for all the world to see.

If done right, brand engagement through social media allows brands to integrate themselves into a community of fans, enthusiasts, and evangelists. Millennials have been shown to have more brand loyalty compared to their predecessors, and are more willing to share their personal data in exchange for a reward or benefit. Evergage reported that personalization of a user’s overall experience had a strong (56%) or extreme (18%) impact on advancing customer relationships. Additionally, Accenture found that on average, 95% of surveyed individuals from France, Germany, and the UK have said that brands with the most influence on them are those that offered tailored promotions and coupons.

5. Finally, millennials are living in a climate of economic uncertainty; their future is more unstable than that of their parents

This means that consumer behavior that once applied to past generations is not as applicable to their millennial counterparts. Millennials are dealing with longer study periods, lower wages, and little job security, and view their current employment situation as a sacrifice rather than a livelihood. With their financial situation constantly held in limbo, millennials have started to gravitate towards modest and affordable options for having fun, such as eating out and impromptu travel plans. For millennials, it doesn’t matter how you get there; what matters are the memories associated with the destination and experience. This means that marketers must empathize with the millennial struggle while tailoring their products, services, and experiences to fit their needs, desires, and constraints.

In conclusion, millennials are a group that has often been the target of broad generalizations characterizing them as lazy, entitled, and unappreciative. However, they are a generation that has had to grow up during a tumultuous digital paradigm shift—all within a span of 20 years. They are the generation stuck in the middle of a fast-paced technological world with social, political, and economic conditions struggling to keep up. Thus, marketers must always be ready to deploy a multichannel strategy to reconcile these changes and leverage the power of a digitally native generation to their advantage.

It may be the only time in history where marketers can hone in on a combination of traditional and digital methods before the next generation—who knows nothing but a world of technology—takes hold. The millennial generation represents an opportune time for marketers to test the playing field. Marketers, like millennials, are trying to cope with technological change while hanging on to threads of the childhood and traditions they once knew.

Winnie Tran is a Strategic Insights Coordinator and is based out of Toronto. To learn more about demographic statistics, please do not hesitate to contact DAC

Winnie Tran
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