There is a huge amount of debate in the marketing industry regarding millennials, our value, affect and the way in which we are shaping the future of the industry as we know it. However who better to ask than a millennial themselves? As a 26-year-old working in the marketing industry I decided to take a closer look at why we’re a generation to be taken seriously.
When looking at the importance of the millennial generation to advertisers I could simply say we’re important because we’re shaping the future of the world. However that in itself is a huge statement so to break that down…millennials today account for nearly 50% of the world’s population. This makes us the dominant workforce and the generation holding the majority of the globe’s spending power. A recent study by Accenture found we spend on average $600 billion each year, and therefore based on this staggering figure alone, I’d say at the very least we’re worth advertisers’ consideration! With millennials spanning an age range of 16-34, 1 in 4 of us are now parents, holding not only the spending power and purchasing decisions for ourselves, but for our families. However it’s not just about sheer numbers, although these are impressive and would make a compelling argument by themselves. For me it’s the way in which we behave that makes us such an important and interesting target audience.
As a generation of digital natives we live in a hyper-connected world that provides endless opportunities at our fingertips, fuelling a hunger to discover more. This means that our expectations have permanently changed and are constantly changing: we want more in life, to discover more and go further, and in turn we demand not only more from our lives and ourselves but also from the brands we love. By demanding more we’re challenging brands, pushing them to be more innovative and creative in order to catch our attention and create noise. If advertisers weren’t striving to break the mould would Virgin Holidays have created a campaign using Virtual Reality to sell holidays? If we weren’t a generation pushing brands to be more innovative we could still be booking our holidays on the telephone. Likewise, if Carlsberg wasn’t interested in capturing our imaginations, they would dedicate their entire media budget to TV instead of making a bar (of the booze variety!) made entirely out of chocolate!
Not only are we a generation whose demand is fuelling continuous innovation but we’re the harshest critics, and therefore the best generation for a brand to learn from in order to gain a share of voice and see real business growth. Yet it is not just about our being opinionated that is important to advertisers, but the fact that we share our views on blogs, social media, with our friends, family and colleagues. We can make or break a brand in a few keystrokes, and brands know it. With 67% of consumers using a company’s social media channel for customer service, hundreds of brands including Nike, Starbucks and Walmart have customer service teams dedicated to their social channels, ready to handle negative comments and promote praise.
By challenging brands to be continually dynamic, millennials have subsequently become a force that has changed the way advertisers use media. The way in which brands interact with a 16-year-old on Snapchat vs. how they engage with a 34-year browsing Instagram or through Stylist magazine on a Tuesday commute home is very different. There is therefore no ‘one size fits all’ strategy when looking at the channels through with to engage millennials and this again has led advertisers to view their marketing strategies through a different lens.
Whilst we cannot group millennials into a single channel or platform, I think there are inherent themes that apply to all millennials which advertisers can apply to any media channel. For example, I believe authenticity is incredibly important – and by authenticity I mean approachable authenticity: we want to see and hear from real people who we can relate to, or aspire to be like. This theme comes to life through blogs, vlogging and social media; Zoella’s YouTube channel has over seven million subscribers whilst the Kardashian sisters have a combined Instagram following of 275 million. With 50% of millennials researching products on social media, we can see what a powerful and credible tool it can be. By building their brand through social media and reality TV the Kardashians’ empire is now worth $300 million.
With millennials spending an estimated 22 hours on their phone each week it would seem an easy solution to simply target us through digital channels; however, I believe we can still be reached through traditional channels by being authentic. Notably, Dove’s Beauty Sketches campaign used real, normal women to shine a light on the differences in beauty perceptions. This campaign resonated with millennial women around the world and resulted in becoming the most viral video of all time, with over 135 million views.
Another theme that I believe can transgress all media channels is the evolution of the brand ambassador. I have already mentioned how important it is for millennials to feel like they can connect with real people and I think this is becoming particularly apparent in who advertisers now pick to front campaigns. The most successful supermodels today are no longer just visible on the catwalk and billboards, but let us into their lives. The likes of Kendall Jenner and Gigi Hadid (millennials themselves) now take us backstage at the Victoria Secret Show and on their Saturday night out with the Taylor Swift squad, opening their world to us via social media. Their influence cannot be ignored and many brands such as H&M and Balmain have chosen to embrace it.
To promote their new partnership and collection with H&M, Balmain chose Kendall, Gigi and Jourdan Dunn to front their campaign which launched exclusively on Instagram. Using their influence with the millennial audience H&M and Balmain’s collaboration went on to be their most successful, with an Instagram reach larger than the UK population and the range selling out online and in-store in a matter of hours. This demonstrates the power of brand ambassadors when attributed to the right brand.
Likewise the role of the brand ambassador can be just as influential when used on traditional media channels, if advertisers use the right person to fit their purpose. For instance, Burberry’s use of Emma Watson, a millennial we have grown up with watching Harry Potter and whose passions for issues such as gender equality we now share, led to a 23% increase in sales for the brand.
I could go on about the themes that I think are important to millennials that can be used on any media channel, but the key point I am trying to address is that millennials are changing the way advertisers address their marketing strategies. It’s not just about our sheer numbers and spending power that makes us an important audience but our behaviour and what advertisers can learn from us. By being a demanding generation and challenging brands to always be more innovative than the previous day, we are pushing them to find new ways to create noise, which means looking at how channels can be used in new ways. You just have to look at Carlsberg’s billboard including a beer tap to see how traditional channels can be using in a unique way to catch our attention. By taking note of millennials’ demands, criticism and behaviour we offer advertisers the opportunity to learn, challenge themselves and in turn become the most innovative, creative and powerful brands in the world.