The Secret to Effectively Market to Millennials

Trying to figure out how to market to millennials is the new "is it the year of mobile?" conundrum marketers are fretting about. How can brands get these seemingly uninterested, disloyal hordes of potential customers to fall in love with their brand? How can brands create messaging and ads that move them from awareness to consideration to intent to become mindless brand loyalists willing to buy whatever breakfast cereal the global conglomerate releases this year?

First, you can’t. Targeting millennials isn’t targeting. With about 75 million people fitting the label "millennial" in the US alone, targeting millennials isn’t targeting. It’s like saying your target audience is France (population of about 65 million) or Germany (about 80 million). A target audience must have more in common than simply living in a country and needing food and water to survive.

Second, and maybe more importantly, if a brand isn’t resonating with millennials it probably has a product problem, not a marketing problem. Many of the brands most desperate to solve the millennial problem are dated and have increasingly irrelevant products. Think sugary, unhealthy breakfast cereals or fast food chains that haven’t evolved their marketing or food quality.

Millennials expect more. But so does everyone else. Millennials are always on their phones. But so is everyone else. Millennials want instant gratification. But so does everyone else.

It’s not that millennials are this weird, non-human mystery to be solved. It’s just that the world changed, and too many brands and marketers didn’t notice.

Advertising alone can’t close the sale on a brand or product. It can build awareness. It can add value throughout the buyer journey. It can inspire, educate, and help unite like-minded people. But in today’s world, consumers expect more. We have access to nearly all the information needed to make a purchase. And millennials, and everyone else, know it.

Stop trying to target millennials. Instead, carve out a real audience. Focus on how your product can make their lives better. Work to understand your audience’s hopes, dreams, motivations, fears, goals, and problems. Then, solve their problems.

Put the customer first instead of your product or ad campaign. Millennials don’t respond to the impression-driven world of the past. But neither does anyone else.

Millennials are people. Period. They’re as different as any generation. Stop assuming they’re this homogenous group that marketers and brands can figure out.

What’s the secret to marketing to millennials? It's simple: find an audience that you want to truly connect with. Build great products. And communicate authentically. You know — the basic tenets of business and marketing.

Written by Brian Easter on July 6, 2015


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