Ugh, Millennials [insert exaggerated eye roll here]. As someone who has the pleasure of working with – and constantly learning from – a respectable group of ‘em, I can attest that they’re even more sick of the stats and generalizations heaped upon them than the rest of us are.

They’re considered the most analyzed, ranked and categorized generation in history. But the reality is, this group actually represents a highly varied group of people — from early adult types just getting established, to mid-thirties breadwinners. Some are married, some not. Some are parents and some are the caregivers of parents.

Though sources vary somewhat in terms of exact definitions and figures, there’s no doubt you’re probably paying attention to them. Or should be. They now comprise roughly 25% of the U.S. population with a projected $200 billion in buying power by 2017, soon eclipsing the Baby Boomers and with very different mindsets when it comes to brand marketing.

So how do brand strategists cut through the clutter to synthesize actionable insights from all those stats (like this collection from Dan Schawbel) and effectively integrate Millennials into the marketing plan? We’ve been conducting our own research and, to elaborate on what Millennial expert Jeff Fromm, President of FutureCast, calls a “Millennial-inspired participation economy,” hereby provide you with five key takeaways to point you in the right direction:

  • Technology is in their DNA. Thoroughly understand the implications around the fact that they are the first “digital-native” generation. They have been immersed in technology from infancy and are comfortable with its role in their lives. Technology is a means of access and brands must be as versed as Millennials are with the changing toolsets and learn how to use them to their advantage.
  • Look, listen and learn. Remember that social media is a channel and not a strategy in and of itself. It’s a platform for engagement that delivers, among other things, a conversational and participatory brand relationship. Enable them to exploit this on their own terms. 
  • It’s no longer about you, it’s about them. Realize that Millennials are less interested in your brand story than they are in how it ultimately helps them to share and validate their own. And, provided you deliver them perceived value for it, they’re not only willing to trade you powerful information about themselves, they’re willing to produce and distribute the actual content around this for you to like-minded audiences.
  • Embrace the State of Beta. If you’re not constantly in an innovation mindset when it comes to product, service or delivery, you’re lagging. And it’s only a matter of time until the next similar offering takes your place.
  • Brand your values. Invest in developing — and then delivering — brand experiences that aren’t just life-enhancing, but life-enriching. Repeatedly. It’s no longer about the product or service you’re offering so much as it is about how engaging with your brand actually makes them feel. Extol your brand personality and what it represents; the more unique, meaningful and authentic, the better. Especially if it supports a cause they feel aligned with.

So there you have it. Everything your brand needs to know about marketing to Millennials. Well, OK, it may not adequately define a generation, but it’s at least a primer in learning how to better understand and engage them.


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