Ah, millennials... a raging topic of the day. Who are these tech savvy twenty to mid thirty year olds, and what makes them tick? Or perhaps “buy” is the better word here.

Coming from a millennial, sometimes it’s quite entertaining to read about and realize that there’s so much buzz and research being done on, well, you. Being in a marketing position as well as pursing a college degree in business exposes one to quite a bit of this “buzz and research”, and it's quite intriguing.

As of late, I’ve been more cognitive of marketing strategies aimed at myself and my generation and have done some reflection and research. Please don’t take my words as doctrine, in no way shape or form am I a professional- just merely wanting to share a raw and reflective millennial perspective on marketing to millennials.

Millennials, being in their young 20s to mid 30s, are in vast stages of life. This is that chunk of 10 or 15 years of life that many big decisions are — or aren’t — made (education, careers, buying a house, relationships and family, etc.)

Some of us have moved out and have independence, but some live at home or in some way are still dependent on our parents for financial stability and advice. As Marketing Profs puts it, this generation contains "everything from students still in university to homeowners entering middle age".

The bottom-line is: you’re dealing with a group that has many variables within it. That being said, I think it’s only fair to emphasize that though there are some general guidelines that work and don’t work for us, there will be many ways to find, converse with and persuade different sections and groups of millennials.

Millennials and Money

Marketing is intended to drive revenue which means that customers have to choose to spend their money on your products and services. Well, you’re marketing to a group with a wide range of income. Think about it, big careers or minimum wage jobs (or even no job).

Though there is a group of us that has proven to be savvy and hardworking and have a savings account to show for it, most of us have $1,000 or less in savings.

With a large number of that being $0 in savings, another related survey discovered that about half of millennials are living paycheck to paycheck.

Alex Whitehouse, CEO of Whitehouse Wealth Management in Vancouver, Washington explains why this is likely the case: “Young adults tend to have low starting salaries and a heavy student loan debt, which might be making it hard for them to build savings”.

Even if there isn't heavy student loan debt, rent, utilities, car payment, gas and groceries start to add up. This being said, I think it's safe to say that a good chunk of us live paycheck to paycheck because we don't know how to budget or we have other priorities that take precedence to saving. We are at that stage where we are growing up but still wanting to be young. We keep young through our social life which involves meeting up with friends, going out and attending events. Experiences and remaining young seem to be worth the cost. Especially when there's deals and rewards involved.

The Millennial generation has proved time and time again to be brand loyal, especially to those that offer discounts and rewards. Win over poor college students with loyalty programs and get them hooked on your brand. Gaining our loyalty now will pay off in the long run.

An Informal Case Study

I wanted to get some feedback from my fellow peers, so I conducted a survey via Instagram stories. Granted, I live in a specific demographic, all these people know me and possibly tend to think like myself and or have similar interests and what not. I understand that it’s not a very well rounded case study- but nonetheless has some valuable feedback from the millennial demographic.

Roughly 240 millennials participated in the survey. Not all participants answered every question.

Do you participate in rewards programs for companies you shop often?

54% Yes; 46% No

If yes, which companies?

Some of the popular answers included: Chick-fil-A, Chipotle, Canes, Café Rio, Papa John’s, grocery/ pharmacy stores, gas stations, movie theatres, Nordstrom Rack, Old Navy, Sephora, Ulta, REI, Patagonia, Dicks/ Sportsman’s Warehouse, Madewell, American Eagle, Vans, Hollister, Bath and Body Works, Victoria’s Secret.

Side note: many mentioned that they participate in punch card systems at ice cream places or wherever they have them. Many of us will only participate in rewards systems for places we go OFTEN, but to a great many of us, the benefits don't outweigh the spammed inbox.

How do you feel about marketing emails?

70% Dislike and unsubscribe; 30% keep them due to coupon offers.

This connects with the statements from above; the benefits don't outweigh the spammed inbox.

Do you read or open things that are sent to you in the mail?

38% will open it; 62% won’t.

This ties in with all of the studies that I’ve read about that say that millennials like mail and feel that it’s more personal. Let us help you set up and send out your next direct mail campaign!

What guides a good majority of your purchases?

58% said deal/good price, while 42% said quality/I’ll pay if it’s worth it.

Though we are frugal and don’t have a lot of buying power as mentioned before, we are building our life. We have realized that since we are paying our OWN money into things, sometimes it’s worth it to spend more for something that will last longer. For example, why pay $15 for shoes that are worn out before the year is over, when you could pay $50 for shoes that will last for years as long as you take care of them?

Are you loyal to brands? For example, do you usually only buy one type of shoes? Only get coffee at one place? Go to one restaurant frequently/religiously?”

64% said yes or for certain things, while 36% said maybe one brand, but not really.

Some brands the survey participants are loyal to: Nike, Adidas, Canes, Chick-fil-A, Madewell, Chaco, Vans, Apple, Old Navy, Patagonia, Osprey, American Eagle, Sephora, Levi Jeans, Hurley, Stance, ASICS, Target, Kendra Scott, Hollister, Birkenstock, Nordstrom, Coca Cola.

Millennials are a pretty dang brand loyal group.

Tying it All Together

Here is where you're getting a piece of the reflective millennial perspective, some things that have worked on me and my peers and common or personal complaints regarding marketing.

Repetition works.

I’ve gotten many mailers from the credit card company Discover. Every time, the mailer has said something about how they are the best credit card for students. At least four mailers have been thrown away without me opening them, but curiosity got the best of me and I actually opened one about two months ago.

I realize now that I finally opened the Discover mailer because the information was more pertinent to me at that moment. I already have a credit card, but lately I'd been considering opening another one for specific purchases to track and keep them separate. Even though I’ve thrown away multiple before, they keep sending me them. (And since working in the printing industry, I know that kind of advertising doesn’t come cheap! Reasonable, but far more expensive than an email.) Anyways, their repetition made me become familiar with their message — being the best credit card for students — and I agreed to open their mailer and am considering opening a credit card through them.

Market to our future.

If you notice from the small informal survey above, there aren't any car brands mentioned under the question about which brands they're loyal to. I’d say many of the participants in this survey haven’t had to buy their first car yet, so I think we are probably not “loyal” to a brand yet. However, continuing on that thought, I bet we have a few in our minds due to what we’ve grown up with and things we’ve seen, heard and witnessed.

Recently I was reading an article (that I no longer can find or else I'd connect it for you, my apologies) that mentioned on average, consumer will remember 5 brands per category, sometimes more, sometimes less. Your services or products might not be pertinent to our situation at the time being, but in the future when it is, where will we go? So, while we are in this molding stage, you’re fighting to be at the top of our memories.

Word of Mouth Marketing/Informal Reviews.

Millennials rely heavily on word of mouth marketing. If we see something we liked, we have no problem asking our friend where they got it from, and then going to search from there. So lesson here, be a brand that someone would own up to talking about. Personally, I do tons of reviews, mainly informal. But certainly, formal reviews for something that’s a “bigger purchase” (which really is anything over $50 😉).

For more on this, check out this white paper that lists top purchases that millennials won't make without user generated content (reviews).

Deals/Rewards/Loyalty.

Who doesn’t love a deal? But can you think of someone who loves a deal more than a poor college student working a job at minimum wage and scraping by to make all of our big dreams come true? Deals and rewards are a good way to get us to start coming and eventually become loyal to your brand.

A good point that was brought up to me, is that our generation might also be brand loyal out of convenience. For example, what stores are in the closet mall? What brand did your high school order their jersey's through. If their parents are Apple users and that is the first type phone they receive, then they are likely to remain Apple users.

Let us go when we want too.

Many of us loath spammed inboxes and refuse to join your rewards programs because of it. Let us truly unsubscribe, entirely and easily. Nothing will make us say sayonara faster than continuing to hear from your company when we already told you we didn’t want to. (It's also part of the CAN-SPAM Act).

Give us the option to tell you which kinds of emails we enjoy or don’t enjoy. Just recently a friend of mine mentioned a company, and she goes, “I’d love it if I got about half as many emails as they send out. And focus my email on x, y, and z. Those are the only ones I open anyways. All the other ones in-between are far too many.”

Social Media Marketing

I feel like this one is almost as obvious as night and day, and I almost shouldn't even put it down. Having grown up with technology, we really don't know life without it. It's a part of our everyday lives, for some of us more than others. There's many aspects of social media marketing including ads, brand influencers, brand presence on social media, content marketing, etc. But as many of you are already aware, online shopping is a huge trend among our tech savvy generation that will not be going away anytime soon. I'd say that's your target. I find myself and friends shopping online much more than before- the convenience is so appealing.

There you have it. Hopefully you found aspects insightful and have new ideas on things you can try or improve with marketing to the daunting millennial generation.

Thanks for reading!