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3 Things Millennials Can Teach You About Marketing

Liz Greene  |  May 30, 2017

Articles about working with, marketing to, and just plain understanding Millennials are a dime a dozen these days. Not only does this giant generation currently make up the bulk of the population, but they also hold the most consumer purchasing power. Consequently, they have become the target demographic for nearly every major corporation in the world.

From a business standpoint, it’s obvious why understanding the Millennial mindset is so important. After all, knowing where their passions lie is helpful in appealing to them as both an employer and a brand. But how exactly does one go about cracking this enigmatic generation?

As a Millennial, a.k.a. Generation Y, I can tell you that there’s no real mystery to our behavior. We’re not fantastical, mythical creatures who speak in riddles, nor are we the indecisive, entitled, self-absorbed brats that the media makes us out to be. Like the generations that came before us, we’re just a group of people shaped by the political, economic, and social environment we came of age in. And when it comes to selling us products or services, much of what engages us as employees also attracts us as customers.

1. Honesty & Transparency

Millennials have deeply held beliefs concerning what they should know about the company they work for — they want everything put on the table. In order to retain Millennial talent, companies have to be transparent with organizational information and regularly communicate how valuable employees are. This level of honesty is vital; a recent study found that 81 percent of Millennials would choose a workplace with open communication channels over one that offered perks such as gym memberships or free food.

What is organizational transparency? It’s regular meetings, divulging the financial state of the company, offering routine feedback on employee performance and encouraging open communication between departments. It’s collective decision making where employees are allowed to help shape the policies that affect their day-to-day work. It’s consistent updates from leadership when top-down decisions have been made, so employees know the reasoning behind said decisions and can understand and accept them before moving forward.

Companies that fail in transparency often alienate their Millennial employees. When Millennials feel the information is being withheld, or they are being manipulated, trust is lost, and they start looking for greener pastures.

Using Honesty & Transparency in Marketing

Millennials grew up in a world where they were constantly bombarded by multiple forms of advertising and product placement. As a result, they know when they’re being sold to, and they hate it. Instead of simply rolling with the punches, Millennials are demanding transparency and honesty from brands in a way consumers never have before.

Millennials want to know everything about your product. They want to know what’s in it, where your materials were sourced, how the product was made, who it was made by, what values your company holds, and so on. If you can offer that, and do so honestly, you’re sure to find success. A 2016 study from Label Insight found that 73 percent of consumers are willing to pay more for a product that guarantees total transparency. Furthermore, 56 percent of those surveyed said they would be loyal to a company for life if it provided complete transparency.

If you fail to offer this information, Millennials will turn to Google to determine these details for themselves. Considering this is the age of the internet, and consumers have more access to information online than they can get at a brick-and-mortar store, it’s incredibly easy for third-party sources to shape the narrative around a brand’s products. If you don’t want to lose control of information, being completely transparent up front is the only way to go.

2. Technology

When it comes to technology, Millennials are masters. Even the oldest Gen Yers came of age surrounded by more new tech than any other generation before them. Millennials don’t view technology as optional; to them, technology is an essential tool used to improve life, make better choices and contribute to society.

Millennials expect their workplaces to offer sufficient technology, not out of a sense of entitlement, but because they need certain tools to do their job efficiently. Social media, in particular, is one of the most widely used methods of communication among Generation Y. Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are so ingrained in their life that most would turn down a job offer if the company denied access to social media.

Using Technology in Marketing

Technology has also opened up a whole new world to advertisers, but using it in such a way as to appeal to Millennials is easier said than done. To do so, brands must have a robust social media presence, a user-friendly website, and continually offer fresh and relevant content.

Since Millennials spend a great deal of time on social media, your company must do the same. Not only do Gen Yers use social media to connect with brands on a lighthearted, superficial level, they also consider it to be the most effective channel for customer service. Ensuring your company has an active social media presence, as well as swift and polite customer service, will not only increase Millennial loyalty, it will also encourage word-of-mouth marketing.

Despite a natural tendency toward cynicism when it comes to being sold to, Millennials aren’t adverse to native advertising. As long as sponsored content is interesting (and not overly promotional), they’re open to giving it a chance. Furthermore, collaborations with influencers are yet another way to use technology to engage Millennials. Though loyalty can’t be bought, brands can still find success with the right partners.

3. Social Activism

Contradictory to the widely held view of Millennials as self-centered narcissists, most members of Generation Y aim to make a difference in the world. They care about the environment, are incredibly tolerant and accepting of others, and seek a future where all people are treated equally, regardless of their differences.

Since volunteering and giving back to the community comes second nature to Millennials, they often seek employment with companies that offer opportunities to do so. They want to work for organizations that have a reputation for caring about important social causes. A company that offers time off to participate in charity events, sponsors their charities, or matches employee donations are incredibly attractive to Millennial talent.

Using Social Activism in Marketing

Millennials aren’t just passionate about their causes; they’re also loyal to companies that align with causes they believe in. They tend to favor brands that are cause-based or brands that spend a portion of their proceeds on charitable undertakings. In fact, nearly 40 percent of Millennials will pay more for a product if it means spending money on a good cause.

Millennial consumers seek out brands that say something about their ethics. They understand that they can use their money as a tool, buying from companies that take a stand on social issues. Though most brands have been understandably hesitant about taking any political stance, it’s more important than ever that they start doing so. These movements show customers that they’re paying attention and care about what really matters.

Marketing to Millennials is a lot like managing them. At heart, they’re well-educated, technologically savvy, and socially responsible — and success comes to brands that work with those things in mind.

Liz Green of Three Broke Bunnies

Liz Greene

Liz Greene is a writer, marketing professional, and full blown pop culture geek from the beautiful City of Trees, Boise, ID. When not stalking the aisles of her local Ulta, she can be found shoveling down sushi while discussing the merits of the latest Game of Thrones fan theories. You can follow her on Twitter @LizVGreene, or check out her latest post on Three Broke Bunnies.

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