5 Things Millennials Want - and Don't Want- From Brands

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Your content marketing tactics should revolve around your target demographic. The media often discusses a certain generation as if they are still self-absorbed teenagers, but the fact is Generation Y has grown up, so chances are pretty good that your targeted demographic includes a millennial or two. Or a few million.

Yes, the much discussed and often (unfairly) maligned millennials, that technologically-savvy cohort born at the cusp of the digital age, are not only all grown up, they're BUYING ALL THE THINGS.  These honest-to-goodness adults are purchasing houses, buying cars, adopting pets, traveling, and having babies. They have become the consumers you want to target!

Why Marketing to Millennials is a Bit Different

Older generations tend to view millennials as progressive in both politics and technology, and that may be true, but they are also the same generation that has adopted some rather old-fashioned ideas about the way businesses should be run.  Bestselling author Gary Vaynerchuk explains it best:

We're living in what I like to call the 'Thank You Economy,' because only the companies that can figure out how to mind their manners in a very old-fashioned way - and do it authentically - are going to have a prayer of competing.

This mindset has led to a seismic shift that affects the way we should all be marketing our products and services.  Minding your manners means authentic interaction, prompt and friendly customer service, technology that makes the buying process fast and fun, and providing a personal touch. Content marketing encompasses old-fashioned values in a modern way, and it is rapidly eclipsing outbound marketing efforts. Why? Well, let’s look at 5 things millennials want and don’t want from brands. 

1. Millennials Expect to be Able to Access Brands Through their Smartphones

More than 85% of US Millennials own smartphones.  It's where they consume most of their information and where the majority of brand exposure happens (mainly via social media).  That means you not only MUST have a website, but it needs to be mobile-friendly.  (A smartphone app can only help.) Your brand should be accessible via major social media sites, including Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and Snapchat.

2. They Don’t Want to Wait

Growing up with the Internet means having had access to a vast wealth of information ALL THE TIME.  Millennials did not have to trudge to the library to consult the encyclopedia for their report on Egyptian history. The history of Egypt was literally right at their fingertips, available with a simple click of a mouse. If this group can’t find the information they are looking for on your website or social media page, they will have no qualms about reaching out to you directly for answers.  If you don’t reply ASAP, they will have moved on to someone who will get them the answer they need fast. Marketers: social engagement and fast response time is critical, which leads us to #3...

3. They Want to Build Relationships

They don’t necessarily want to go to dinner with you, but Generation Y consumers DO want to build a connection with your brand, which is the main reason social media engagement is crucial.  Large, faceless corporations are out; friendly, sociable, and approachable companies are in.  Millennials are quick to spot a form e-mail or a generic reply via social media.  They prefer personalized correspondence from a real person.

Video content is BIG right now because the millennial consumer wants to see the face behind the brand. This is the “old-fashioned” mentality: quality customer service is expected.  Think about the doctor who made house calls, milk that arrived fresh every day from a friendly delivery man, or the local grocer who kept a tab for loyal customers. The twist? Millennials don’t actually want to talk on the phone or see you in person; they want to build relationships online, mainly through social media. Marketers need to maintain a consistent online presence.

4. They Don’t Like Outbound Marketing

Younger generations watch Netflix so they don’t have to deal with commercials.  They listen to Pandora or XM radio for the same reason.  They tend to spurn ads they find disruptive.  Marketers need to start making the shift towards inbound marketing if they want to reach millennials.

5.  Millennials Respond to Incentives

Millennials are not as concerned about online privacy as their wary elders. Research shows that 51% of US millennials would exchange their personal information for an incentive. Major companies like Zulily, Wayfair, and Joss and Main require an e-mail address in exchange for a one-time discount before customers can even view their inventory, and millions of people happily comply. Marketers shouldn't be shy about asking for information in order to build that crucial email list. If you offer something valuable in return, that email address is yours.

Does Your Marketing Strategy Cater to Millennials?

If you are a millennial, maybe you recognize yourself in these assessments. If you're not, are keeping this key demographic in mind when you market your brand? Are you contributing to the "Thank You Economy?"  Remember, all ye Generation Xers and ye Baby Boomers, the wise words of eighties icon Ferris Bueller:

Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.

Don't miss out on opportunities for growth because you didn't stop, look around, and notice the changing marketplace. Take a moment, reassess your marketing strategy, and then get moving again.