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Marketing to Millennials: Learn how to reach young consumers

Marketing to Millennials: Learn how to reach young consumers

They have about $100 a week in disposable income, and they spend a mind-blowing $150 billion each year. They also influence another $50 billion in family purchases, which makes them the most economically powerful population cohort in our history.

They are the Millennials, otherwise known as the Digital Generation, Generation Y, the Connexity Kids and the Baby Boomlets. They are the 78 million young people born since the early 1980s. And marketers would be wise to learn how to reach them.

This is the first generation to grow up online. Many have never known a world without e-mail, the Internet or portable entertainment. Digital media have given them an unprecedented means of connecting with one another and with the world. They are confident, self-reliant, optimistic and positive. As consumers, they are marketing-savvy and much less brand-loyal.

Think about the older generations—the Baby Boomers and even Generation X. We grew up with big name brands: Westinghouse, GE, Frigidaire, Mattel, Wonder, Chef Boyardee, Ford and Magnavox. When we became adults, we adopted those same brands. It’s hard to move us away from them. We’ve come to trust them.

Millennials do not have that kind of loyalty to brand names or manufacturers. They are unlikely to become loyal to a brand simply because the product was made in the United States. They consider themselves well-educated, intelligent and worldly—definitely capable of making their own buying decisions. Shrewd marketers will play to their intelligence and offer these consumers the opportunity to design their own products, customize their purchases and explore unknown territory.

Millennials do their research. They read online reviews of products, write blogs to make their own recommendations and are not opposed to comparison shopping. Make sure you provide adequate information to allow them to make informed decisions.

Members of this powerful buying generation are interested in causes. They support businesses that support their same interests. They are environmentally conscious and will buy products that are environmentally friendly. They will favor companies and brands that donate part of their proceeds to worthy efforts.

To reach these consumers, marketers have to become more media-savvy. Even if your message is squarely on target, if you are delivering it via the wrong medium, the Millennials will never hear it. Think interactive Web sites, instant messaging, podcasts and blogs.

Millennials are great team players. They are used to collaborative work, team competitions and collective thinking. Visual marketing messages that portray teamwork and collaboration will appeal to this buying group.

They also value their privacy—at least in terms of space and possessions. They grew up having their own bedrooms, their own televisions, their own computers and their own space. But they are very forthcoming on their blogs, on their MySpace pages and in their text messaging. Markets should create the illusion of space and privacy in terms of using their products. But take advantage of these consumers’ tendency to share their thoughts and feelings, and learn more about them.

One of the key characteristics of this group is the fact that they have grown up very close to their parents, and they remain close as they approach adulthood. They are not trying to gain their independence from their parents. In fact, they rely far more on them than previous generations did. The news for marketers is that Millennials have a great deal of influence on their parents’ buying decisions, particularly when it comes to high-technology products. Likewise, parents can be your silent partners in reaching the younger consumers. Influence them, and you influence their kids.

To Millennials, the world is truly flat. Diversity is a given. They have grown up in diverse schools, so messages combining a variety of cultures and ethnic backgrounds are comfortable to them. Many researchers believe they will echo the Baby Boomers in having large families and creating large, comfortable homes for their kids.

Bring your message to places where Millennials congregate, both physically and in cyberspace. Trust in their discernment—not the reputations of celebrities. They are not as easily impressed as their Baby Boomer and Generation X predecessors. They respond to humor, irony and direct messages. They are far less easily manipulated, and they’ll turn off anyone who tries.

This is a great time for marketers. Not since the Baby Boom have marketers been handed such a huge and communicative generation. The possibilities are limitless.

At the same time, if the Millennials give you a cold shoulder, you’ll definitely feel it on the bottom line. With just a slight click, these consumers will turn you off and move on to someone else.

So, a bit of time to understand them will be worth the investment.

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