Born in the age of talking ninja turtles and never-ending pop ballads, Millennials are generating quite the buzz in the advertising world. Brands have begun to realize that their future success is dependent upon their ability to attract those in this generation. Ranging from the ages of 18 to 34, Millennials are now reaching their peak earning and spending age. By 2020, they are expected to have a staggering $1.4 trillion in spending power. This means that the time has come for brands to shift their attention away from Baby Boomers (now the second largest age cohort). Brands, meet the Millennials.

In order to market more effectively to Millennials, you must first understand how they think and what they value. Millennials are digital natives; they were born in a world with an established technology network. Therefore, they love technology (especially mobile) and have high expectations for what it can accomplish. For instance, they expect to receive a swift response when engaging with brands on social platforms and expect websites to load quickly and run responsively. Millennials primarily use the digital space to connect with brands, making them the first age cohort to do so. They do not only care about how content is presented, they care about the content itself. They expect content to be immersive, yet to the point, informative, resourceful and creative. Millennials don’t like fluff and filler – they like things to be presented straight and to the point.

By looking at what Millennials value, we can draw parallels with brand characteristics. Millennials value quality and craftsmanship (you can thank them for the term “foodie”), independence and uniqueness, social responsibility and sustainability, and convenience. By looking at what a brand values, it is quite easy to derive with what audience they’re attempting to connect.

Take Starbucks for instance. Starbucks has taken several steps to attract Millennials and has seen unmatched success. To show a commitment to quality, Starbucks has drawn focus to the sourcing of their coffee beans and now performs pour overs (a highly-lauded steeping process) at all of its locations. Appealing to an appreciation for social responsibility and sustainability, Starbucks launched its own youth foundation, participates in community service efforts, donates millions to non-profits, ethically sources its products, and has made a commitment to minimize its carbon footprint (e.g. recycling coffee beans, reducing use of disposable cups, etc.). Perhaps most importantly, Starbucks recently launched a Loyalty program appealing to the cohort’s appreciation for convenience. It is important that brands of all scopes take a deeper look at what they value and how it aligns with the values of their customers.

Aside from taking a look at what Millennials value, it’s also important to understand how they communicate and interact. The average Millennial has access to seven devices, spending a majority of their time with their laptop and television. With a heavy reliance on digital tools, it is no surprise they utilize the digital space for a majority of their communications. Through social media, Millennials are able to engage directly with brands – meaning they can be a brand’s best friend or worst nightmare. This has led many larger brands to set up 24/7 social media control centers to accommodate swift responses. Through brand loyalty programs driven by digital technology, Millennials can receive numerous benefits, including convenience, while advocating for brands. A communications plan that neglects social media tactics and appeals to loyalty will likely fail to please Millennials.

By following the guidelines below, your brand will be able to more effectively communicate with Millennials.

  • Be engaging and responsive
  • Value simplicity and be concise
  • Recognize the importance of quality
  • Value social responsibility
  • Embrace creativity
  • Establish a strong presence on social media
  • Value the mobile experience
  • Create brand advocates and loyalists
  • Be youthful, yet authentic