Millennials. Next to the oft-misunderstood Generation Z, Millennials just might be the hardest demographic for marketers to figure out.

There's a good reason for that. After Generation Z, Millennials are the most diverse generation today. According to research by the Brookings Institution, Millennials - those between the ages of 18 and 34 - are 55.8% white, and almost 30% percent "new minority," which includes Asian, Hispanic, and those of two or more races.

So while the image of Millennials as trendy, hip urbanites texting away on their smartphones is popular, it's also an oversimplification. Unfortunately, it's an oversimplification that many marketers have bought into - and it's having a negative effect on your marketing efforts.

If you're not seeing the results you want, take a look at this list of reasons why your Millennial marketing efforts might be failing.

You still think of Millennials as 22-year-olds who work in the gig economy.

Pop culture has fed us such a specific image of Millennials that it can be difficult to break that stereotype.

In reality, however, Millennials are a hugely diverse group - and not just in terms of race. 80% of new moms are Millennials, for example, reports BabyCenter.

That means that if you're not including parents of young children, traditional salaried workers, or married couples in your marketing, you could be missing out on some key audiences.

You're not being authentic to your brand.

If there's one stereotype about Millennials that is quite true, it's their need for authenticity.

While older Millennials do remember a time without the internet, they've still been bombarded with digital advertising since they were in high school. They're old pros at spotting false or superficial attempts at pulling them in.

So instead of trying to turn your brand into whatever you think Millennials want, do a deep dive into what your brand's values are. What does your brand represent? Who is your audience? What makes your brand unique or different?

Once you've gotten great at articulating what your brand is about, the other pieces of "Millennial-friendly" marketing will fall into place.

You'll know which social media platform fits your brand the best.

You'll know whether or not humor has a place in your brand persona.

You'll know how to incorporate a social mission or corporate responsibility element into your business (or, if you already have one, you'll know how better to articulate it).

You haven't embraced video.

At Marketing Zen, we love helping our clients find ways to use video in their digital marketing strategies.

Video, and more recently live streaming, are becoming staples of every brand's digital marketing efforts because - to put it simply - they work. According to data from Wordstream, marketers who use video grow revenue 49% faster than non-video users.

Millennials are huge consumers of video. A 2015 study by the digital video creation app, Animoto, found that:

  • 76% of Millennials follow brands on YouTube
  • 86% follow brands on Facebook
  • 60% of Millennials would rather watch a branded video than read a company newsletter

Marketing is all about reaching your customers where they are. Today, for Millennials but increasingly for people of every generation, that's through video.

You haven't invested in creating original, valuable content.

Quality video content is important, but it's not enough on its own.

Millennials are huge consumers of online content - 74% of them spend at least 5 hours per week engaged with online content, according to the Content Science Review, with 32% spending at least 15 hours per week.

But all content is not created equal. The best content is original and valuable. It does something more than just serve as a vehicle to promote your brand. It offers interesting or useful information, provides entertainment, helps develop a skill, or shares an expert opinion.

You're not sharing your company's story, culture, or values effectively.

Millennials don't want to buy from a faceless company. And with the power of social media at your fingertips, there's no reason you need to be a faceless company.

Sharing what makes your brand tick is part of being authentic. Plenty of companies have powerful origin stories that they never bother to tell people, even though that's precisely what consumers - Millennials especially - want to hear.

The same goes with your culture and values. Your Millennial customers want to know that your company is preserving X percent of its headquarters' acreage as green space, or that your brand's name came from a nickname your grandfather called you when you were young.

It's these kinds of personal, intimate details that differentiate your brand from the crowd. You can share them in all kinds of ways, from an "Our Story" tab on your website, to weekly tweets on social responsibility, to Instagram posts of your employees relaxing on the grass during their lunch break.

Try a few different platforms and look at the data. You'll see what's working and what's not, and from there, you can continue to craft your message.


Millennials are a complicated demographic, but marketers who cultivate an authentic approach and meet these customers where they are can find success.

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Shama Hyder is founder and CEO of The Marketing Zen Group, a best-selling author, and an internationally renowned keynote speaker. Her most recent book is Momentum (May 2016).

Published on: May 5, 2017