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Why Are Marketers So Obsessed with Millennials?

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Arguably one of the most used (probably overused) words in a marketer’s vocabulary has to be “millennial”, a term that represents society’s young adults and is often associated with words like “tech-savvy,” “self-absorbed,” and “free spirited.” And while these adjectives may apply to some members of this group, one could easily argue that other generations possess these same qualities – after all, I’m sure most of us could think of several baby boomers that not only own the latest tech, but are well-versed in its features.

It certainly begs the question of how different Millennials are from their parents and grandparents, and there’s been no shortage of research to try and find out.

From understanding their purchasing habits to how brand loyal they are, many companies have hired consulting firms just to try and figure out this group.

But why are marketers so captivated by the millennial generation? And is this fixation on them worth it?

The Importance of Millennials to Brands

In the U.S. alone there are about 80 million millennials, making them larger than any other demographic in the country. There are also more Millennials in the workforce than other generations, with an expected $1.4 trillion in disposable income by the year 2020.

There hasn’t been such a fixation on marketing to a specific generation since the baby boomers, and so many consumers outside of this demographic are left wondering why they’re being ignored. Older generations are currently in their prime when it comes to spending ability, so why is their money not seen as valuable as Millennials’?

It’s all about the long-term potential.

While many Millennials haven’t hit their peak purchasing power due to student loans and starting a family, they are certainly heading that way, and brands realize the importance of getting in front of them early. But marketers should take care in making sure that they aren’t alienating other groups of consumers in the process.

Focusing too much on a mobile-first mentality, over-appealing to Millennials’ tech-driven nature, and straying completely away from traditional marketing mediums could indicate that you are solely focused on targeting younger generations, which might make perceived outsiders rethink their brand loyalty.

It’s also important to remember that Millennials have grown up surrounded by advertising anywhere and everywhere they go, so they’re not going to be easily fooled by marketing messages. They know how important their demographic is to company sales, and they aren’t going to play into advertising schemes or games unless they have some real substance.

In fact, they’ll likely get a bad taste in their mouth and seek out an alternative option.

Understanding This Diverse Generation

At the surface, it’s easy to think that the Millennial generation can be generalized into simple categories. They don’t go anywhere without their smart phones, they’re obsessed with social platforms like Snapchat and Instagram, and they’re more open-minded when it comes to social issues like climate change. So why are brands spending valuable marketing dollars to study their psychographics and behaviors so meticulously?

It’s because the “Millennial way” of thinking varies quite significantly from traditional corporate views. A Millennial’s mindset is typically considered to be decentralized, meaning they don’t automatically follow societal norms and instead conduct research to develop their own opinions. Corporate structures, on the other hand, generally lend themselves to a more centralized view – one that’s less personalized and focuses on a mass-market approach.

Marketing is certainly beginning to adopt more of a personal, engaging stance, especially with the prominence of social media in most company marketing strategies. But while a brand might do a great job of interacting with its social media followers or email subscribers, do consumers feel that personalization once they get down to purchasing a particular product or service? Generally not.

With the wide range of options available to consumers and a strong awareness of pushy marketing tactics, the challenge is on to cut through the clutter in a non-interruptive way.

This is why mediums like social media and less traditional marketing efforts are now playing such a strong role. You have to find a healthy balance between brand awareness and product promotion to ensure Millennials don’t feel manipulated and are encouraged to take action.

Long-Term Brand Loyalty

The most significant benefit to attracting a Millennial audience is their potential long-term value to a brand. However, a common misconception is that they aren’t brand loyal because there are always new and improved products entering the market.

In reality, 1 in 5 Millennials say that they would willingly choose the same brand as their parents, just for different reasons (e.g. social media, mobile presence). So maybe this group isn’t as disloyal as marketers think.

It’s easy to focus so much on grabbing attention that you forget about the fact that you want these individuals to keep coming back to your brand. Price is certainly an important factor to Millennials, with 56% switching brandsbecause of price or a change in their financial situation.

Another factor that impacts brand loyalty is how modern a brand is perceived to be. Companies that don’t have a mobile-friendly website, don’t utilize social media, or focus too much on product promotion could be perceived as outdated and undesirable to this generation. And Millennials place a strong emphasis on brands that “get them.”

When it comes to reasons why they might switch brands, the availability of something new and peer recommendations are the biggest influencers. So while it’s true that Millennials are always looking to check out the latest and greatest, they’re still influenced by more traditional marketing, like recommendations and word of mouth. To best capitalize on this group both now and down the line, it’s important to listen and respond to them like you would any other generation. Listening to customer questions, feedback, and complaints is essential to creating and maintaining a positive reputation with consumers.

At the end of the day, the authentic brand will be the successful one.

Not Everyone is Convinced

Even though it seems like most brands have jumped on the Millennial bandwagon, some are holding out – there’s still some skepticism as to why marketers are focusing so heavily on this group and seemingly forgetting about the others. And rightfully so.

The baby boomer generation currently possesses 80% of the developed world’s wealth, so why would you want to ignore them? Even if they don’t have as much long-term value as Millennials, there’s money in their pockets right now that they are looking to spend. Brands should never focus their marketing on just one generation unless their products and services are only applicable to that group.

For instance, while a selfie stick manufacturer probably won’t be making a lot of sales to baby boomers, Apple is selling iPads to a wide range of consumers.

It’s also hard to figure out the best way to target the Millennial generation because there is so much diversityamong them. Millennials pushing 30 years old don’t typically have the same purchasing power or interests as those who are just entering college, even though they fall into the same generation. On one hand, recent graduates might have more disposable income because they’re entering full-time jobs for the first time in their lives, while others may be paying back loans and starting a family.

You can’t make simple generalizations for this group – or any demographic for that matter.

How Should Marketers Manage Millennials?

There’s no arguing that the Millennial generation possesses a lot of potential purchasing power and brand loyalty, so it’s important to develop a marketing strategy to cater to their highly digital nature. However, it’s also important to never alienate customers to target a specific demographic, so campaigns should include a variety of elements to appeal to all of these groups.

No matter what, there will always be brands trying to capitalize on the “it” generation of the moment. Right now, it’s Millennials as they enter adulthood and their peak spending years. In a decade, Generation Z will likely become the focal point as Millennials become older and more established. It’s a cycle that will repeat itself over and over again.

And, ultimately, it’s the brands that can find a way to cater to each of these groups simultaneously that will see the most brand loyalty and long-term success.

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About the Author

This article was written by Kim Speier of Social Media Today. Social Media Today is an online community and resource for professionals in marketing, social business, communication, customer experience, content marketing and digital strategy, or any other discipline where a thorough understanding of social media is mission-critical.Kim is currently an Inbound Marketing Specialist at Mainstreethost, a digital marketing agency in Buffalo, NY. As a regular contributor to the Mainstreethost blog, she enjoys writing about social media, SEO, content marketing, web design, and mobile technology. In her free time she enjoys watching the Bills and Sabres, skiing during the long Buffalo winters, and keeping up with the latest trends on Twitter.

Callum Connects

Malcolm Tan, Founder of Gravitas Holdings

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Malcolm Tan is an ICO/ITO and Cryptocurrency advisor. He sees this new era as similar to when the internet launched.

What’s your story?
I’m a lawyer entrepreneur who owns multiple businesses, and who is now stepping into the Initial Coin Offering/Initial Token Offering/Cryptocurrency space to be a thought leader, writer (How to ICO/ITO in Singapore – A Regulatory and Compliance Viewpoint on Initial Coin Offering and Initial Token Offering in Singapore), and advisor through Gravitas Holdings – an ICO Advisory company. We are also running our own ICO campaign called AEXON, and advising 2 other ICO’s on their projects.

What excites you most about your industry?
It is the start of a whole new paradigm, and it is like being at the start of the internet era all over again. We have a chance to influence and shape the industry over the next decade and beyond and lead the paradigm shift.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I’m Singaporean and most of my business revolves around the ASEAN region. Our new ICO advisory company specialises in Singaporean ICO’s and we are now building partnerships around the region as well. One of the core business offerings of our AEXON ICO/ITO is to open up co-working spaces around the region, with a target to open 25 outlets, and perhaps more thereafter.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Singapore, since it is my hometown and most of my business contacts originate from or are located in Singapore. It is also a very open and easy place to do business.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
Be careful of your clients – sometimes they can be your worst enemies. This is very true and you have to always be careful about whom you deal with. The closest people are the ones that you trust and sometimes they have other agendas or simply don’t tell you the truth or whole story and that can easily put one in a very disadvantageous position.

Who inspires you?
Leonardo Da Vinci as a polymath and genius and leader in many fields, and in today’s world, Elon Musk for being a polymath and risk taker and energetic business leader.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
Early stage bitcoin investors would have made 1,000,000 times profit if they had held onto their bitcoins from the start to today – in the short space of 7 years.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
Seek out good partnerships and networks from day one, and use the power of the group to grow and do things together, instead of being bogged down by operations and going it alone from start.

How do you unwind?
I hardly have any time for relaxation right now. I used to have very intense hobbies, chess when I was younger, bridge, bowling, some online real time strategy games and poker. All mentally stimulating games and requiring focus – I did all these at competitive levels and participated in national and international tournaments, winning multiple trophies, medals and awards in most of these fields.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Phuket – nature, resort life, beaches, good food and a vibrant crowd.

Everyone in business should read this book:
Rich Dad Poor Dad by Richard Kiyosaki

Shameless plug for your business:
Gravitas Holdings (Pte) Limited is the premier ICO Advisory company and we can do a full service for entrepreneurs, including legal and compliance, smart contracts and token creation, marketing and PR, and business advisory and white paper writing/planning.

How can people connect with you?
Write emails to [email protected], or [email protected]

Twitter handle?
@malcolmABM

This interview is part of the ‘Callum Connect’ series of more than 500 interviews

Callum Laing is an entrepreneur and investor based in Singapore. He has previously started, built and sold half a dozen businesses and is now a Partner at Unity-Group Private Equity and Co-Founder of The Marketing Group PLC. He is the author two best selling books ‘Progressive Partnerships’ and ‘Agglomerate’.

Connect with Callum here:
twitter.com/laingcallum
linkedin.com/in/callumlaing
Download free copies of his books here: www.callumlaing.com

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Entrepreneurship

Women on Top in Tech – Pam Weber, Chief Marketing Officer at 99Designs

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(Women on Top in Tech is a series about Women Founders, CEOs, and Leaders in technology. It aims to amplify and bring to the fore diversity in leadership in technology.)

Pam Webber is Chief Marketing Officer at 99designs, where she heads up the global marketing team responsible for acquisition, through growth marketing and traditional marketing levers, and increasing lifetime value of customers. She is passionate about using data to derive customer insights and finding “aha moments” that impact strategic direction. Pam brings a host of first-hand startup marketing experiences as an e-commerce entrepreneur herself and as the first marketing leader for many fast-growing startups. Prior to joining 99designs, she founded weeDECOR, an e-commerce company selling custom wall decals for kids’ rooms. She also worked as an executive marketing consultant at notable startups including True&Co, an e-commerce startup specializing in women’s lingerie. Earlier in her career, Pam served in various business and marketing positions with eBay and its subsidiary, PayPal, Inc. A resident of San Francisco, Pam received her BA from the University of Pennsylvania and MBA from Harvard Business School. Pam is a notable guest speaker for Venture Beat, The Next Web, Lean Startup, and Growth Hacking Forum, as well as an industry expert regularly quoted in Inc., CIO, Business News Daily, CMSwire, Smart Hustle, DIY Marketer, and various podcast and radio shows. You can follow her on Twitter at @pamwebber_sf.

What makes you do what you do?
My dad always told me make sure you choose a job you like because you’ll be doing it for a long time. I took that advice to heart and as I explored various roles over my career, I always stopped to check whether I was happy going to work every day – or at least most days :). That has guided me to the career I have in marketing today. I’m genuinely excited to go to work every day. I get to create, to analyze, to see the impact of my work. It’s very fulfilling.

How did you rise in the industry you are in?
I had a penchant for numbers and it helped me stand out in my field. This penchant became even more powerful when the Internet and digital marketing started to explode. There was a great need for marketers whose skills could span both the creative and the analytic aspects of marketing. I capitalized on that growth by bringing unique insight to the companies I worked with, well-supported with thoughtful analysis.

Why did you take on this role/start this startup?
I’m not sure this is relevant to my situation as I had been a marketing leader in various start-ups and companies. I took on the role at 99designs because I was excited by the global reach of the brand and the opportunity the company had to own the online design space. I especially liked the team as I felt they were good at heart.

The challenge I’ve faced in my time at 99designs is how do I evolve the team quickly and nimbly to address new challenges. The work we do now, is very different than the work we did a year ago and even the year before that. There is a fine line between staying focused on the goal ahead and being able to move quickly should that goal shift.

Do you have a mentor that you look up to in your industry or did you look for one or how did that work?
There is no one I’ve sought out or worked with over my entire career as my “mentee” needs have changed so much over the years. There are many people who have helped me along the way. For example, one of my peers at eBay, who was quite experienced and skilled in marketing strategy and creative execution, taught me what was in a marketing plan and how to evaluate marketing assets. As I have risen to leadership positions over the years, I often reach out to similarly experienced colleagues for advice on how they handle situations.

How did you make a match if you and how did you end up being mentored by him?
I learned early in my career that it rarely hurts to ask for advice. So that is what I have done. Additionally, there are people that are known to be quite helpful and build a reputation for giving back to others in advisory work. Michael Dearing, of Harrison Metal and ex-eBay, is one of those people. I, as well as countless others, have asked him for advice and guidance through the years and he does his best to oblige. Finding mentorship is about intuiting who in your universe might be willing and whether you are up for asking for help.

That being said, generally, I have found, if you are eager to learn and be guided, people will respond to the outreach.

Now as a leader how do you spot, develop, keep, grow and support your talent?
I generally look for a good attitude and inherent “smarts”. A good attitude can encompass anything from being willing to take on many different types of challenges to working well amongst differing personalities and perspectives. Smarts can be seen through how well someone’s done in their “passion areas” (i.e. areas where they have a keen interest in pursuing).

I try to hire those types of people because in smaller, fast-growing companies like many of the ones I’ve worked in, it’s more often than not about hiring flexible people as things move and change fast.

Once those people are on my team, I try to keep them challenged and engaged by making sure they have varying responsibilities. If I can’t give them growth in their current job or in the current company, I encourage them to seek growth opportunities elsewhere. I’d rather have one of my stars leave for a better growth opportunity than keep them in a role where they might grow stale.

Do you consciously or unconsciously support diversity and why?
I consciously support diversity. When I am hiring, I am constantly thinking about how to balance the team with as broad a range as possible of skill sets, perspectives, etc. to ensure we can take on whatever is thrown at us, or whatever we want to go after.

What is your take on what it takes to be a great leader in your industry and as a general rule of thumb?
I’m going to assume a great leader in my industry to mean a marketing leader in a technology company. I think a great leader in this industry is not afraid to learn new tricks no matter their age – it’s the growth mindset you may have heard about. I have a friend who inspires me to do this – she purchased the Apple Watch as soon as it was available, and was one of the first people I knew to use the Nest heating/cooling system. She’s not an early adopter by most definitions, but she adopts the growth mindset. This is the mindset I, too, have sought to adopt. In my field of marketing, it most recently has meant learning about Growth Marketing and how to apply this methodology to enhance growth. Independent of your industry, I think a growth mindset serves you well.

Advice for others?
I have been at 99designs for 3.5 years. During that time we’ve invested in elevating the skills and quality of our designer community, we’ve rebranded to reflect this higher level of quality, and have improved the satisfaction of our customers. Our next phase of growth will come from better matching clients to the right designer and expanding the ability to work with a designer one-on-one. We have the best platform to find, collaborate, and pay professional designers who deliver high quality design at an affordable price, and it’s only going to get better. I’m excited to deliver on that vision.

Pam Webber
Chief Marketing Officer of 99designs
Twitter: @pamwebber_sf

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